An Imperfect Politician – The Election and Career of a Pa. Legislator and How Things Haven’t Changed From 1894-2008

Politics and Our Ancestors: Finally, it’s a COG topic I really know. After all, the man at the center of my non-genealogical historical research was a politician–specifically a United States Representative–from turn-of-the-century slightly rural Pennsylvania. Though he was primarily a private businessman, his two-term Washington career ultimately became his best-known and most-hyped accomplishment. However, being a persistent researcher such as I am, I soon discovered there was a lot to his Congressional doings that the mainstream local histories and county biographies, well–just forgot to mention. And, at the same time, I found that I was uncovering an interestingly familiar story, one that in this turbulent political season may just prove that some things don’t entirely change with time.

Continue reading

Census Takers Get Slant on Human Nature: April 4, 1930

[This blog entry is written for the 55th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, to be posted at CreativeGene.blogspot.com next month.]

Since the topic for this next edition of the COG is “Show and Tell,” I thought I would present a newspaper article I located by chance today; not connected with my own research, but, I think, a thought-provoking read for genealogists and historical researchers everywhere. Those 1930 census records can be pretty useful whether you’re just starting in genealogy or are a seasoned researcher, but what’s the real story behind those microfilmed old pages? Here’s a Pennsylvania journalist’s take on the matter, written just about when the 15th U.S. Census first got underway–April 4th, 1930:

Census Takers Get Slant on Human Nature

Humor, Courage, Pathos, Tragedy–All These and More Encountered by Enumerators in Day’s Work

By Paul Glynn
Special INS Leased Wire

PITTSBURGH, Pa. April 4–To the earnest seeker after truth, or to the student of human nature, is unhesitatingly recommended a day in the company of the 1930 diogenes, a census taker engaged in the compilation of Uncle Sam’s fifteenth decennial census.

Humor–courage–pathos–tragedy. All these and more are met with as the gigantic job of finding the answers to “who, what, when, where and why” and countless other questions goes on.

For instance, the first question, “who is the head of the house,” brings forth a flood of variegated answers, some unconsciously and some consciously humorous.

“My husband thinks he is,” replied one young housewife with a smile. And another not so young, declared with finality, “I am!”

And then there is the question relating to the ownership of property. One answer to the query, “do you own your home,” was:

“We do, that is, we and the people who hold the mortage.”

And at what price would the owner sell?

“Why, as much as we could get, of course.”

Eager interest and an almost total absence of resentment is noted as the enumerator questions each resident. The queries are put in an impersonal, efficient manner, thus adding to the rapidity of the compilation.

Unemployment proved to be about the biggest obstacle in the way of the census takers to date. Several persons were reluctant to tell of the length of time they had been jobless; some refused outright to answer in the latter case the enumerator reported to his chief.

If all efforts by the chief, and then by the census supervisor, fail to bring an answer the case is referred to the United States marshal. Incidentally, the penalty for failure to answer is $100 or 60 days in jail. A fine of $500 or one year in jail or both may be imposed for making false statements to the enumerator. These penalties are prescribed by section nine of the census act and apply to all persons over 18 years old.

Two totally unrelated articles play a large part in the enumeration–Bibles and gas bills!

A great many wives have recourse to family Bibles, some in foreign text, when the question of their husband’s age comes up. In almost all cases the information wanted was noted in the thumbed pages of the worn testaments years ago–and then forgotten.

Last month’s gas bills are aiding uncle Sam in completing the census, especially in foreign colonies in the cities. Spelling of foreign names proved a problem until one resourceful enumerator called for the gas bill.

And there was the name, neatly typed and ready for copying.

_______________________________________________________________________

[Shamokin, Pennsylvania, Shamokin Dispatch, 4 Apr 1930, p. 1, col. 2, and p. 11, col. 1]

I always knew there’d be music…

I happen to be very passionate about music–I absolutely love it. I can relate to most any type (with obvious exceptions), as long as it’s not too classical or too recent, although generally I lean toward classical. Most specifically I prefer instrumental and orchestra–and, of course, popular 19th and early 20th century songs. What else? For me, the essence of an era is deeply reflected in its music.

Well, apparently someone connected with my research had a love for music as well. According to very interesting files on Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music 1870-1885, several songs were written around 1877 and 1880 by one Eunice Parke Detweiler. As I’ve learned in my (mostly around the internet) research travels, Eunice Parke married John S. Detweiler, and was the mother of William Champlin Detweiler, first husband of Sarah W. Kulp.

The website lists her under three different names, E.P., Eunice P., and Eunice Parke Detweiler, at this page. She also had a daughter by the same name (and to make matters more confusing, the younger Eunice Parke Detweiler married somebody else by the name of Parke!), but from what I can find in census records this time period would have been too early for her daughter to have been the author.

Apparently, except in one or two cases, Eunice Detweiler wrote only the music–some of the works credit the lyrics to one Jean Ingelow, and another to F.A. Parke. Not sure who he/she was; a finding aid to the Parke family papers at the Emory University in Atlanta, GA (wish I could go there, but alas, it’s not possible), mentions a Frederick Huntington Parke, but no F.A. Frederick was also probably rather young at the time anyway.

A sample of the sheet music by Eunice Parke Detweiler.

If I had a piano, I would try to render these lovely old songs myself, but I don’t–and I probably wouldn’t be able to do justice to the music anyway! But isn’t this something? I believe I’d seen the site some time ago, but hadn’t really explored it in detail.

There’s not a lot of person-specific information here, of course, and it would have been better if the name of the city were mentioned to confirm the author’s identity, but who else could it be? Sounds like Eunice, too–I get the impression she was one of those classic Victorian ladies. Most of what I know about her I learned from that finding aid–yes, there’s a lot to learn, just in the finding aid! It mentions that she was very active in the affairs of the Episcopal church at Harrisburg, and seemed to have a lot of connections. There were clergymen, lawyers, and diplomats in her family. Very, very interesting.