Sunday, August 23, 2015

The "Good Old Days"?

I found this interesting article on the Internet today.  I always wondered what life was like in the “good old days”, but after reading this, was it really the “good old days”?  You have to wonder.  I hope enjoy this article, it can found here:

Missouri Listory: 10 Reasons the Gilded Age Wasn’t So Gilded

19, June 2015
We are introducing a new column called "Missouri Listory," which explores our vast historical collections and features them in lists of wide-ranging topics. Our first post in this column was inspired by our current exhibit, A Walk in 1875 St. Louis. Although the era was known as the Gilded Age, we bring you 10 reasons why living in 1875 wasn't so wonderful.

1. 72-hour work weeks
Not only was it common to have such a demanding schedule, but also you would have been grateful to have it! The average work week for a laborer in 1875 consisted of six 12-hour days, with Sundays off. Most unskilled or semi-skilled workers toiled for about 20 cents an hour (about $4.45 today), and 9 out of 10 Americans died without any substantial property to pass on to family.

meat vendors in the early 1900s
Meat for sale on a counter in St. Louis, early 1900s. Missouri History Museum.

2. “Fresh” was a loose term.
In 1875, St. Louis police seized more than 57,000 pounds of meat that was moldy, diseased, or rotting from market vendors who were still trying to sell it. One in 20 pieces of meat for sale in St. Louis markets had a living parasitic worm infestation. Without refrigeration, meat rotted just hours after an animal was butchered. St. Louis Ladies Magazine recommended immediately searing the outside of any purchased meat to make it last a day or so longer.

photo of 3-level outhouse used by 12 familiesThree-story outhouse shared by 12 families. Missouri History Museum.

3. Fewer than 1 in 5 homes had indoor toilets.
When nature called for the other unfortunate folks, they trudged out to their rickety backyard outhouse, which was sometimes shared with other families. These outhouses were often mere feet away from the family’s backyard well, which served as their source of drinking water. St. Louis health officer Arthur Barrett referred to backyard outhouses as “temples of indecency.”

4. In the late 1800s it was estimated that 10% to 15% of the American population had syphilis.
Need we say more?

5. The wafting aromas of Schaeffer’s Soap and Candle Works…
If you’re thinking of the pleasant scents wafting from a cozy candle store, think again. Schaeffer’s Soap and Candle Works at Washington Avenue and 20th Street was such a powerful punch in the nose that 1875-ers refused to build their homes within blocks of the company. The plant took in dead animals, bones, leftover food from hotels, and spoiled meat from butcher shops, then boiled it all together to extract tallow—hardened fat that is solid at room temperature—for candle making. Schaeffer’s was just one of many factories contributing to the unfathomable stench drifting over 1875 St. Louis.

6. Hurt on the job? Tough noogies, pal.
1875 St. Louis was a world with no Social Security, Medicare, health insurance, workers’ comp, or retirement plans. Dangerous low-wage labor jobs came and went daily and getting injured likely meant you were out of a job with nothing more than a kick out the door. Many a family fallen on hard luck wound up in a single-room tenement.  It may have been the most terrifying time in their lives.

Men standing in front of a saloon in St. Louis in 1897Men standing in front of a saloon at Gravois Avenue and Kingshighway. Photograph in 1897. Missouri History Museum.

7. Walking into the wrong saloon could quickly cost you more than a drink.
The 1875 St. Louis City Directory lists nearly 1,200 saloons (one per 100 drinking-age men), and some were certainly not for the faint of heart. They attracted a rough cast of characters that included thieves, gamblers, prostitutes, fortune tellers, and drunkards, and they were known to be a great place to go if you wanted to get in a fight or have your pockets lightened. An 1875 contemporary said of the riverfront saloons on Almond Street: “The luckless stranger that falls into these social pits may consider himself quite fortunate if he gets out without broken bones.”

8. Tricksters prowled the city looking for na├»ve “greenies.”
1875 St. Louis had no shortage of swindlers trying to fool “greenies,” as rural folks new to the big city were known. In May 1875 a trickster made more than $5,500 by selling fake property in an imaginary town called Vineland, Illinois. He claimed the town needed residents and if St. Louisans just paid a $2.25 notary fee, a lot in Vineland would be theirs. He sold 2,500 phony lots over three days and then vanished, never to be seen again.

a dental extraction kit from the 19th centuryDr. Hezekiah E. Depp's dental extraction kit containing picks and pliers. Missouri History Museum.

9. Dr. Hezekiah E. Depp’s Dental Kit
If a trip to the dentist strikes fear in your heart today, be glad you were not alive in 1875. Without electric tools, sterilization, numbing agents, or anesthesia, the dentist’s office was the definition of dread. Preventative dentistry was almost nonexistent, and the cure-all for any tooth problem was extraction. This dental kit displays 145 picks, pokers, and pliers used by St. Louis dentist Hezekiah E. Depp. Many of the tools feature exotic materials like ivory and mother of pearl, which would have been much harder to sterilize than metal and may have led to further infections.

10. Committed a crime? Say hello to the County Workhouse.
Besides the city jail, criminals in 1875 were also sent to the St. Louis Workhouse at Broadway and Meramec streets. The workhouse’s main function was supplying crushed limestone for city streets. All day long, inmates toiled “making little stones out of big ones.” Women were sentenced to the workhouse right beside men, and in 1875 alone more than 1,100 women picked up their hammers and headed to the rock yards.

2015 isn’t looking so bad now, is it?

A Walk in 1875 St. Louis is open through February 14, 2016.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Internet Does Not Have Everything (Yet)!

Genealogists are told that the Internet does not have all the information we may need for our family history.  I had always thought it had more to do with specific records and not just general information.  I was so wrong!

I have read lots of information on how to get the most out of my searches, how to conduct search parameters to locate information I may need, and how to use wild cards to expand my search.  I tried hundreds of searches over the last two (2) weeks to try and find some information.  I have had absolutely no luck at all.  Let me explain what I was looking for.

Leona Frances Scott (my mother) graduated from Tunas High School in Tunas, Missouri on April 30, 1953.  I wanted to find out more about the High School, see an image of it, and learn the history of the school so I could provide information in this blog post, and not just an image of the diploma my mother received.  Unfortunately, since I found nothing about the school, I have no information of any value to add.

The 1940 U.S. Federal Census is the last one available to the public.  It shows Leona’s family located in Howard County, Missouri (which later became Bates County), which includes the town of Hume, which is where they lived.  I always wondered why she went to Tunas High School in Tunas, Missouri since it is located about 20 miles northeast of Butler, Missouri which is 31 miles northeast of Hume.  Seems like a long way to go just to get to school.  I called a living uncle last weekend to see if he remembered why she went to a school that was almost 60 miles away from home, and I learned some enlightening information.

At some point after the 1940 U.S. Federal Census was taken, they moved to Brighton, Colorado.  Then, at some point prior to her graduation in 1953, they moved to Butler, Missouri (he thought they lived there a couple of years prior to her graduation).  This makes a lot more sense since Tunas is only about 20 miles away!  I just assumed (and we all know what that means), that they still lived in Hume!

Since there was no information on the school to be found on the World Wide Web, I will need to go to the local library or historical society to see if they have any information that can be gleaned from local records.  When I find additional information, I will be sure to pass on the information, which will hopefully also include a photo of the school, in a later post that will link back to this one.  Below is a photo of the diploma she received.

Leona Frances Scott
High School Diploma
April 30, 1953