I get a little thrill when I can match up Jessie’s photos with her diary entries. Here is another example from Jessie’s diary written Saturday, March 22, 1913: “Winnie, Cooper and I were some sports in our silk kimonos and boudoir caps at breakfast this morning. We took more cute pictures. I hope they are good…”
In Jessie’s photo album she titled the following two pictures – “As they look in the morning.”
Glued into Jessie’s album right next to those two pictures are a photo of Dorothy Jane Kerr, who is either a cousin or a close family friend, and a photo of Jessie’s mother, also named Jessie.
On August 19, 1912, Jessie wrote in her diary, “This afternoon we left on the Kate Adams for our boat trip to Arkansas City. I realize fully that I cannot begin to write what a perfectly wonderful time we did have. There are 31 in our party – Marie Louise, Winnie, Cooper MacFarland, Elizabeth Roston, Sara C., Carolyn H., Emma R., Mary Carr, & myself, Glenn, Mitch, Jack Burch, Joe T., Herbert H., Billy, Bernard, Perry, Milton, Monty, Julius, Shep, Hurley, Lee, Cecil, Canuck, Paul, Everette, Swayne & Lucious, Mother & Mrs. Buck are our chaperones.” Who’s counting? But there are 9 girls, 20 boys – all teenagers – and 2 chaperones, Mrs. Latham and Mrs. Buck. Those two women must have had their hands full! Family stories about my great-grandmother, Mrs. Latham, also named Jessie, were that she was hilarious and a lot of fun to be around. All the kids enjoyed having her as chaperone on their river boat cruises or house parties.
For much of the summer Jessie had a crush on Glenn. This understandably made her long-time boyfriend Richard quite jealous and they had a few arguments on this topic. Glenn went on the River Boat Cruise but Richard did not.
During the second day of the cruise the boys and at least one of the girls put on a circus.
Wednesday, August 21, 1912, Jessie wrote, “We reached Memphis late to-night. A bunch came home with us and we had a house party. Glenn, Monty, Perry, Lucious and Elizabeth P. spent the night here.”
Without a doubt, the main event occurring in April of 1912 in Memphis was the Flood (see my previous post, The Flood of 1912). Luckily, Jessie and her family lived on the bluff on which much of Memphis was built and were protected from the ravages of the flood. Life went on, even though parts of the city remained under water.
Early in the morning on April 15, 1912, the R.M.S. Titanic, on its maiden voyage, hit an iceberg and sank. The news went out over the wires and Jessie and her family read about the disaster later that morning in the newspaper, probably while they were eating breakfast and getting ready for the day. Jessie wrote in her diary: “Monday, April 15, 1912: We read in this morning’s paper about such a terrible thing. The sinking of the Titanic, the world’s greatest ship on which 1,595 persons lost their lives. Oh! it’s terrible to think of it. Most of the women and children were saved. John Jacob Astor the great millionaire was lost. How awful it is to think of the homes this has filled with sorrow.”
And finally, here is another cultural tidbit. On April 30th, 1912, Jessie wrote in her diary: “After my music [lesson] I went all over town looking at aigrettes. They sure are pretty but mighty expensive.” An aigrette is an ornamental head piece, often made of feathers, usually egret feathers.
The Flood of 1912 was one of the worst floods ever documented on the Mississippi River. It was also the first major flood on the Mississippi River to be photographed. Throughout March and especially at the end of the month, Jessie wrote several times in her diary of the rain. On Thursday, March 28, 1912 she wrote: Rain! Rain! Rain! Will it ever stop? Seems as though we have been swimming around for the last month. The River is awful high, highest it’s been in years. In fact, the Mississippi had reached flood stage (35 feet) several days before on March 24th and would not go below that mark for 60 days. There had been a lot of snow that winter in the northern U.S. It suddenly melted, flooding the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Levees all along the River failed. On April 1 a huge chunk of the levee failed at Greenfields Landing, just across the River from Cairo, Illinois. The water from that break covered most of Mississippi County in Missouri. I read that at one point during this flood, the Mississippi River was 60 miles wide in one section. Perhaps this was the area.
The River crested for 3 days (April 6-9) in Memphis at 45.3 feet. Levees on both sides of the River at Memphis failed. Because most of downtown Memphis is built on a bluff overlooking the River, much of the city was spared. But in the lower lying areas as many as 1200 people were driven from their homes, primarily from the flooding of the tributaries. In the northern part of Memphis near the Bayou Gayoso and Wolf River, homes were flooded by as much as 6 feet of water. People were camping out on the tops of levees. African Americans were disproportionately affected by the flood since many of their homes and farms were in these lower lying areas.
Here are a few cultural tidbits from December 1911.
On December 9, Jessie went to hear the Spanish child prodigy pianist Pepito Arriola. He was 13 at the time. Follow this link to a story about Pepito in the February 1910 issue of Etude magazine.
Jessie turned 17 on December 18, and was very busy going out on dates — to dances, card parties, dinners, movies, the theatre, etc., etc. In the 19th century courtship was done at home, in the parlor or on the porch, and under the watchful eyes of parents and siblings. But things changed in the early 20th century, and probably because of the spread of automobiles. Though some courtship took place in the home, for the most part everyone went out for dates.
A couple of days before her birthday, Jessie went to Gray’s photography shop and had pictures made. This photograph of Jessie, which I posted previously on her birthday, was taken at Gray’s and may be one of those photos. She looks about the right age, I think.
I took note of two small gifts Jessie mentioned in her diary. One was a hand painted hat pin holder given to her for Christmas by her good friend Willie Swift. The other gift, a cut glass nappe (or lemon slice plate), Jessie gave as a prize at her ‘Chanticleer’ party on December 29, 1911. The pictures below are examples and not the actual items that Jessie had.
October of 1911 was very pleasant in Memphis. Jessie and her mother spent some time shopping for clothes for the new season, looking especially for a suit, some new boots and a hat. Her brother “Bud” continued to recover from typhoid fever. His temperature seemed to come and go, and for the most part, he stayed at home in bed. Mid-way through the month, however, he was able to get up, dress, and even drive Jessie to school and downtown a couple of times.
Jessie seemed to be enjoying school, maybe a little too much! On Wednesday, October 25th she wrote in her diary, “They have moved all our seats in the study hall, it’s fierce. I have to sit right under the teacher’s nose *all the* time. Makes me bad.” Knowing Jessie as I did as her granddaughter, I’m sure it was because she talked too much! ‘Fierce’ seems to be one of Jessie’s new expressions since she used it a couple of times in her diary around this time.
The last couple of days in October were spent packing and making preparations to move to the Latham’s new home on Overton Park Avenue.
Enjoy these Hallowe’en postcards and photographs from 1911.
In 1911 the Business Men’s Club of Memphis created the first Fall Festival, a 3-day event, September 26-28. On Monday night, September 25th, Jessie and friends “went to town in the machine to see Main Street. It was beautiful, a regular fairyland.” The next day was the opening of the Tri-State Fair, coinciding with the first day of the Fall Festival. Because it was the first day of the fair, children got off school early. Most of them probably went to the afternoon parade celebrating Arts & Industries. On Wednesday there was a parade of the Blue and the Gray, a reunion of old Civil War veterans from both sides who marched together down Main Street. Swayne was a drummer boy in the parade. That was followed by a barbecue in East End Park. Jessie wrote, “Never have I seen so many people down town on one night. The parade was worth it though.” And finally, the last day of the Festival culminated in the grand DeSoto celebration, a historical pageant and parade celebrating the life of the explorer Hernando DeSoto. “It was the most beautiful I ever saw. The floats were all about DeSoto with torches burning on all sides, with fireworks too.”
On September 10, 1911, Jessie mentions that her good friend Sara C. “gave me such a pretty little gold maple leaf, the emblem of Canada.” Sara, whom Jessie often calls Taby or Tab, had recently returned from a trip to Canada.
Egg Creams. Did you know there are no eggs in an egg cream? In the September 30, 1911 entry in her diary, Jessie talks about giving her brother Bud, who is recovering from typhoid fever, an egg cream. This piqued my curiosity. The recipe is actually very simple. Follow this link to watch Martha Stewart preparing a Vanilla Egg Cream.
This posting is a bit of odds and ends — some cultural tidbits of 1911.
On September 7, 1911, Jessie wrote in her journal, “Got some lunch at the Baltimore Dairy. It was grand.” The Baltimore Dairy Lunch was one of the first chain restaurants in the U.S. Founder James A. Whitcomb started the restaurants in the late 1880s in Baltimore and Washington D.C., and within 30 years most big cities had a Baltimore Dairy Lunch. They were quick lunch counters where patrons made their orders and carried their lunch to their seats, one-armed wooden chairs (patented by Whitcomb) that discouraged long, lingering lunches.
Jessie’s older brother Bud (Frank) left Memphis for the University of Tennessee in Knoxville on Monday, September 11, 1911. By the next weekend he was back home with a case of typhoid fever. As the 20th century progressed, cases of typhoid fever became less frequent, thanks to the introduction of vaccines and improvements in public sanitation and hygiene. But in 1911 typhoid outbreaks were still occurring. This was, after all, the decade of Typhoid Mary, a healthy carrier of the pathogen living in New York. She worked as a cook and is thought to have infected 51 people, 3 of whom died. Back in Memphis at the end of September 1911, Bud seems to be recovering.
On September 18, 1911, school starts again in Memphis. Jessie went to Memphis High School. (You can see a picture of Memphis High in my posting of April 20, 2015, Debating Societies, Tally Ho Rides & the Birdmen Return.) This year a new school, the successor to Memphis High, opened and was called Central High School. On September 19, 1911, Jessie notes that “The desks haven’t come yet so we have to sit on the floor in the classrooms. Just like a circus. We cut up to beat the band.”
On September 23, 1911, Jessie, Winnie, Alma and Alta Mai go see the musical or comic opera Madame Sherry at the Lyceum. Jessie can’t get the song Every Little Movementout of her head!
The Lathams bought a new house on Overton Park Avenue and will soon move there. On September 24, 1911 Jessie writes, “Auntie, Swayne & I went out to see our new home on Overton Park Ave. It is beautiful.” The farmhouse where they had been living was Granny Swayne’s house, formerly her father Col. E.H. Porter’s country house. Granny died in early January, so perhaps the Lathams needed or wanted to move so that Granny’s estate could be settled. It is likely that they wanted a smaller and newer home closer to downtown Memphis. Of course I don’t know this since Jessie never wrote about that in her diary. Incidentally, the address written at the top of the photo below is incorrect. Jessie was a very old woman when she went back through many of her old pictures, writing on some of them, and she confused the number with an address from later in her life. The address of the Latham’s soon to be new home was 1759 Overton Park Avenue.
Toward the end of the summer of 1911, Jessie and about 20 friends and relatives went on a riverboat cruise to Arkansas City and back. Jessie’s mother and cousin Mary chaperoned, and for some reason there were only 5 girls on the trip and the rest were boys. The boat was the Kate Adams, a luxury riverboat that ran from Memphis to Arkansas City twice a week. There were three Kate Adams, the last of which burned at dock in Memphis on January 8, 1927. These riverboats were 240 feet long and had staterooms on the upper deck. There was also a large dining/dance hall with electric chandeliers surrounded by a promenade deck. The lower deck was used for storing cotton and other cargo. Memphians called the last Kate Adams, which was built in Pittsburgh in 1898, the “Lovin’ Kate.” According to the diary entries Jessie wrote for August 21-24, 1911, it seems there was a lot of dancing, eating, and merry-making, but not much sleeping.
“Sunday, August 6, 1911: Miss Anna was [not] able to come to S.S. this morning. Was so sorry. Miss Mamie taught us. Went to church. I tried to rest after dinner but in walked Val Williams, then Evan & Billy. I played & they sang. Mil came over and we took lots of Kodak pictures. I declare, Val is so sentimental. As they were leaving in came Everette Holmes — he is so cute. We saw an auto burn up. Everette acted a perfect monkey. E.S. then came. I finally got a little supper. Went to C.E. and church with Evan. He, Mil, Noble B., Billy, L.W. were over. We had a time. More good water-melon and hot tamales. The feast was sure good. It had its effects though.”
A perfectly ordinary day for 16 year old Jessie, but one that she and her friends documented in part with photographs. So we get to see her good friend Mil, a photo of her 13 year old brother Swayne driving the auto, a good look at the Lathams’ automobile, some of Jessie’s other friends and a nice view of their clothing. Most of the photos appear to have been taken outside Jessie’s home. I hope you enjoy this look at a day in the life of Jessie Latham.