Vaudeville, Hats & the River

Here is another collection of cultural tidbits taken from Jessie’s diary. ~

Vaudeville sister act, Madeline & Dorothy Cameron
Vaudeville sister act, Madeline & Dorothy Cameron

Vaudeville was the biggest form of live entertainment in 1912. All kinds of acts were included in the traveling shows — magicians, dramatic sketches, opera singers, comedians, barbershop quartets, etc. etc.   I think Jessie and her friends saw most of the shows that came to town. The Orpheum was one of the theaters she frequented, and it was there on February 6, 1912, that Jessie saw 1,000 Pounds of Harmony – the hefty men of the Primrose Quartette and thought they were “grand.” These gentlemen were quite popular for some years on the vaudeville circuit, and they got their name, as you might guess, because each of them weighed about 250 pounds.

Vaudeville c.1910, You Naughty boy!
Vaudeville c.1910, You Naughty boy!

On March 30th Jessie took her friend Willie Swift to the Orpheum to see the show. She especially enjoyed  a sketch called The Woman Who Knew. Not everybody enjoyed that act though. A review in Variety (22:6, 4/15/1911) about a performance at the Keith Theatre in Philadelphia had this to say:  “The bill at Keith’s was running smoothly and at a good speed until The Woman Who Knew came on stage. Mme. Besson is featured in the Victor H. Smalley piece. According to the program she is a famous portrayer of Zaza and Camille. If this is true, she might be able to get away with a similar role on vaudeville, but as The Woman Who Knew she is hopeless. The sketch has no merit and is badly played.”

Also on March 30th Jessie writes: “Enjoyed being with Willie so much. After the show we bumbed around and saw every-body sporting their new lids. I wore mine of course. It’s real mannish – English shape.” I would love to know exactly what that hat looked like, but instead here are some 1912 advertisements for women’s hats.

fr. Sears Catalog 1912
fr. Sears Catalog 1912

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the end of March Memphis was soggy with rain and the Mississippi River was higher than it had been in years. After church on Sunday, March 31st, Jessie and her family drove over to see how the River had risen. “It’s awful,” said Jessie.  The Great Flood of 1912 was beginning, and I’ll look at that in my next posting.

A train in Memphis finds the tracks are submerged. Flood of 1912.
A train in Memphis finds the tracks are submerged. Dated April 2, 1912.

 

December 1911 in Memphis

Xmas1911
Christmas card, 1911

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.

Silk party dress, c.1912
Silk party dress, c.1912

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.

Jessie Latham
Jessie Latham

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.

Hand painted hat pin holder
Hand painted hat pin holder
Antique cut glass nappe
Antique cut glass nappe

October 1911 in Memphis

John Winsch Halloween postcard, 1911
John Winsch Halloween postcard, 1911

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.

On Saturday, October 21st, Jessie took part in a Liszt Memorial at the Amateur Musical Club. Franz Liszt was born on October 22, 1811. Jessie played the Schubert-Liszt piano arrangement of “Hark! Hark! the Lark.”

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.

Hallow'een in 1911.
Hallowe’en town,  1911.

1911 Halloween catAG_Vintage_Halloween_1911

Hallowe'en Witch, 1911
Hallowe’en Witch, 1911

Fall Festival, Souvenirs & Egg Creams, September 1911

Fall Festival cover, Memphis 1911
Memphis Fall Festival program booklet cover, 1911. George Whitworth Collection, historic-memphis.com

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.”

FallFestivalSchedule1911
A page from the program booklet for the Fall Festival in Memphis, 1911. George Whitworth Collection, historic-memphis.com
Canadian Maple Leaf pin given to Jessie from Sara, September 1911
Maple leaf pin from Canada, given to Jessie from Sara C., September 1911

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.

 

Tri-State Fair grounds, Memphis, 1911.
Tri-State Fair grounds, Memphis, 1911.

September 1911, Memphis

This posting is a bit of odds and ends — some cultural tidbits of 1911.

Baltimore Dairy Lunch, Detroit. restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com
Baltimore Dairy Lunch, Detroit. restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com

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.

Central High School, Memphis
Central High School, Memphis

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 Movement out 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.

Latham's home on Overton Park Avenue, Memphis
Latham’s home on Overton Park Avenue, Memphis

Riverboat Cruise, August 1911

Kate Adams
Kate Adams

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.

"On our way to Arkansas City in 1911 [on the] Kate Adams.
“On our way to Arkansas City in 1911.”
 

"Monty and my green dress."
“Monty and my green dress.”
Jessie, summer 1911
Jessie, a few days before the cruise, August 1911.

A Day in the Life…

Val & Jessie
Val and Jessie

“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.”

Swayne Latham 1911
Swayne Latham 1911

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.

Mil and Jessie
Mil and Jessie
Jessie
Jessie

 

"Four little blackbirds sitting in a row" Jessie Latham, August 6, 1911
Mil, Everette, Jessie, Val
Everette and Jessie
Everette and Jessie
13 year old Swayne at the wheel!
13 year old Swayne at the wheel!
Val, Jessie, Mil and Everette
Val, Jessie, Mil and Everette
"Val and I." 8/6/1911
Jessie and Val
The puncture
The puncture
The joyriders
The joyriders
Grinning Jessie
Grinning Jessie
Jessie
Jessie

Road Trip! July, 1911

The start of the road trip.
The start of the road trip

On July 19, 1911, Jessie, her mom, Swayne, Bud and Jessie’s friend Kathleen left on a road trip to Mississippi. They were going to Tupelo to visit Antoinette, or Aunt Nettie, a dear friend and college roommate of Jessie’s mother, and to tour Mississippi. Incredibly, they did not have a single flat tire on the trip, but they did have a couple of “narrow escapes.” The roads were terrible, sometimes impassable, and of course there were no motels. The first mishap occurred on the first day, way out in the country in Mississippi. The road was so bad that the car ended up stuck in a ditch. They got help from a family that had a farm nearby who gave them a delicious country dinner, put them up for the night and helped them pull the car out of the ditch the next morning. The family had five children, all Vs:  Vera, Vesta, Velma, Victor & Virgil Luke. And finally, on the way back to Memphis near Grand Junction, Tennessee, late at night out in the middle of the woods, the car became hopelessly stuck in the sand. They walked until they found a house. It was a beautiful old colonial home with (as Jessie points out) hand carved woodwork throughout. The very nice people by the name of Pulliam gave them a late dinner, put them up for the night and helped them get the car out of the sand the next morning. Sandwiched in between these events was a lot of family, friends, fun, food and frivolity.

Red banks along the way. Kathleen, Swayne, Jessie (L-R)
“Red banks along the way” L-R Kathleen, Swayne & Jessie
The first accident
“The accident”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jessie & "Black Maria"
Jessie & “Black Maria”
The Luke family
The Luke family

 

 

 

 

 

Jessie on a mule at the Luke's
Jessie on a mule at the Luke’s
On the way again
“On the way again”

 

 

 

House party in Tupelo. Bud has his arm on Swayne. Jessie is 2nd from left.
House party in Tupelo. Bud has his arm on Swayne. Jessie is 2nd from left.
"It's only brother." Bud between Jessie & ?
“It’s only brother.” Bud with Jessie &

 

 

 

 

 

"The coming lawyer." Bud, Swayne to his right.
“The coming lawyer.” Bud with Swayne
House Party in Shannon, Miss. Jessie in middle.
House Party in Shannon, Miss. Jessie in middle

 

Early Summer in Memphis, 1911

Riverside Park c1910, historic-memphis.com
Riverside Park c1910, historic-memphis.com

 

Richard Armistead (?)
Richard Armistead (?)

So far Jessie’s summer has been filled with joy-rides in the “machine,” visits to East End Park, band concerts and picnics. Richard Armistead, Jessie’s first boyfriend, is mentioned more frequently in her diaries. He is a year older than Jessie and goes away to school, returning home on holidays and the summer. On June 18, 1911 Jessie makes this cryptic entry:  “…Richard came. Sure was glad he got here. We fixed things up a trifle better. There were lots of stars out. I wish I had some-body by the neck. I might forget some things but not others.

I thought it was interesting that the vaudeville show that Jessie saw at East End Park on June 27th included opera singers (!) and also an apparent Annette Kellerman knockoff, Lottie Mayer, the Diving Venus. She gave a diving exhibition and seems to have worn a swimming costume very similar to Annette Kellerman’s costume with the black tights. Later in July the Oklahoma City Daily Pointer reported:  Tights of ‘Diving Venus’ Shocking to Chautauqua, “If the management of Piasa Chautauqua had known what and how little Lottie Mayer, the “Diving Venus,” was going to wear when she gave an exhibition there yesterday, the show would have been canceled and the Piasa Chautauqua would have been saved a shock.

July 4th included a picnic at Riverside Park given by C.E. (I don’t know what C.E. is, but I believe it may be connected with her church. Jessie goes to C.E. every Sunday evening.) Many of the kids, including Jessie, went down to the park on a boat. In the bottom picture is Miss Anna (on the left) with Jessie (on the right) and some other girls on the boat. She is their Sunday School teacher and also works at the courthouse. All the girls seem to love her.

"A picnic at Riverside"
“A picnic at Riverside”
'Miss Anna and her girls" (Jessie on R)
“Miss Anna and her girls”

The Latham’s First Car

ad-1911-hudson-33

1911 Hudson Torpedo Touring
1911 Hudson Torpedo Touring

 

 

 

 

 

May 15, 1911:  “Well I think Dad has ordered our machine.”

May 18, 1911:  “Oh! I just simply feel like shouting. Dad has bought a machine. It is a big ‘Hudson Torpedo.’ It sure is a beauty. Just looks as if it could cut the wind.”

The automobile industry was just taking off in the United States. The first production of practical cars with gasoline powered internal combustion engines were built by Karl Benz in Germany in 1888. By the early 1900s mass production of automobiles had begun in the U.S.  More and more of Jessie’s friends and acquaintances were buying cars.  A few of her friends even had electric cars. “Joy-riding” became the thing to do. But it was not all fun and games. Flat tires and blow-outs were common. Headlights burnt out. No fuel gages in the car meant drivers often ran out of gas.  Unpaved roads and no windows often meant a rough and dusty ride. Most states at this time did not require driver’s licenses and driving tests, so practically everyone was learning to drive on the road. Hilariously, Jessie writes on June 6, 1911, “… Went out in the machine right after supper. It was dandy riding. I do believe Dad just got by his special post without running into it [again].” Jessie’s father, F.S. Latham, ended up purchasing a Hudson Torpedo, but they also test-drove an EMF.  Though I don’t think the Lathams test-drove an electric car, those autos were also competing with the gasoline powered machines in the early decades of the 20th century. Since they lacked the gasoline engine, they tended to look more like carriages, as you can see from the picture below.

1911 Hudson Torpedo 33
1911 Hudson Torpedo 33
1911 EMF
1911 EMF
1911 Baker Electric
1911 Baker Electric