On November 1st, Jessie and her mother went to the Bijou to see singer, David Bispham. Mr. Bispham was the first American-born baritone to make an international name for himself. He must have sung at this concert, though Jessie didn’t mention it. But she did remark upon his recitation of Poe’s The Raven, which she thought was “fine.”
Early in November Jessie read The Little Colonel’s House Party (1900) by Annie Fellows Johnston, another offering in The Little Colonel series for children. Jessie and her mother went to the Goodwyn Institute to see the the play Polly of the Circus by Margaret Mayo. Mayo was an actress, a playwright, and later a screenwriter. Polly of the Circus became a silent film in 1917 and was made again in 1932 with Marion Davies and Clark Gable.
Several times in her diaries Jessie mentions that she has gone ‘nutting’ out in the country. Imagine — autumn, the leaves have turned beautiful colors, the sun is warm, and the youngsters are gathering nuts in the the woods — what a lovely scene that must have been!
The last week of October, 1909 was a normal active week for Jessie with school, music lessons, basketball practice, club meetings and parties. MXX (Mystic Twenty) had a Hallowe’en Party at Jessie’s home. The next night the Merry Maids gave a Hallowe’en Party at Mildred Higham’s home. Everyone came as a ghost, but quickly took off their sheets at the party. Too hot, I guess! Trick-or-treating was not yet popular on Halloween, but parties were popular.
The other big event of the week was a visit to Memphis by President William Howard Taft to formally open the new YMCA. Governors of 40 states came to Memphis for the occasion. Taft arrived via the Mississippi River aboard the steamer Oleander. Of course, Jessie was there to see the boats come in and the big parade which followed with the governors and over 200 autos taking part.
One final interesting thing to report for October — Jessie got her permit (October 6, 1909). She is 14 years old, will turn 15 in December, so I am guessing that it is her driving permit.
In 1909 Memphis, going to see a fire was big entertainment, and there seemed to be quite a few of them. It wasn’t until around 1912 that Memphis got its first motorized fire engine, so the horse-drawn steam pumper wagons and ladder wagons were still in use. Large hoses for fire-fighting had been developed in the late 19th century, and fire departments also used chemicals and large extension ladders to help douse fires.
The week of October 18, 1909, seems to have been ‘Shakespeare Week’ in Memphis. Jessie went to two lectures by Shakespearean actor, Frederick Warde. He spoke on “Hamlet” and on “The Wit and Wisdom of Shakespeare’s Fools.” This took place at the Goodwyn Institute, followed later in the week by performances of “Julius Caesar” and “The Merchant of Venice.”
Jessie read “St. Elmo” by Augusta Jane Evans, originally published in 1866. Later in October she began reading “The Little Colonel at Boarding School” (1904). This was one from a series of “Little Colonel” books. The character became popular to later generations with the Shirley Temple movie “The Little Colonel.”
*Credit to George Whitworth for the photo of Engine House 1, and to historic-memphis.com for the two other fire fighting photos.
The school year is in full swing and Jessie’s days are getting more and more busy. This month she just became a member of the Junior Beethoven Club, an offshoot of the Beethoven Club, for which her piano teacher, Mrs. Tobey, was one of the early organizers. The Junior Beethoven Club was one of the first music clubs for young musicians, and from the beginning the purpose of the the Beethoven Club was (and is) to promote classical music and performance. Follow this link to the modern day Beethoven Club’s history page.
Jessie’s gotten her team uniform and spends many afternoons practicing basketball. She plays center on her school team. Unfortunately, I can find no picture of her in her uniform, so I am including some photos of girls basketball teams from 1909 so you can see the kinds of uniforms they may have had.
Nickel shows were very popular during this time, and there were several theaters in competition for customers. Short silent films were popular, and sometimes they were interspersed with live vaudeville type entertainment. Jessie mentions going to the Majestic Theatre in some of her diary entries.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was touring in 1909. Jessie and her friends went, escorted by one friend’s father, and they had a ‘fine’ time. The cowboys in the the cabinet card photo below were performers in the Wild West Show.
*Credit to historic-memphis.com for the photo of the Majestic Theatre’s lobby.
The last days of summer for Jessie and her family were spent on vacation in Colorado, mostly Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. They hiked, rode burros into canyons, had picnics, went to the nickel shows, and visited relatives who were also in Colorado Springs (Aunt Imogen and Cousin Mary Katherine). In the picture above, Jessie is the last girl on a burro on the right. Her mother is standing to Jessie’s right.
The picture on the left looks like Jessie and her Dad on burros. The photo below is probably from their burro ride through south Cheyenne Canyon and to Seven Falls where they had a picnic. From left to right — Jessie, Swayne, and cousin Mary Katherine(?).
When the weather was bad, they stayed in their hotel rooms and played games or read. While she was in Colorado, Jessie read another Horatio Alger book, “Paul the Peddler.”
The last few days of their time in Colorado were spent in Denver. They stayed at the Drexel Hotel.
Jessie mentions in her diary that they saw the Gentry Brothers Parade while in Denver. Between 1885-1934, the Gentry Brothers had one of the most popular dog and pony circuses in the U.S. By 1910 they were the largest traveling show in the country with an 18 piece band, a steam calliope, trapeze artists, trained dogs, ponies and monkeys, 7 elephants, and 4 camels. Jessie also visited Denver’s White City in Lakeside. White City was a common name of dozens of amusement parks in the United States and Australia, all inspired by the White City of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Denver’s White City opened in 1908. According to Jessie, it was beautiful and had 60 amusements.
August 14, 1909, Jessie and her Mother have just left for Colorado on the train. There were several train stations in Memphis, and Union Station would not open until 1912. The Calhoun Station, which was the first depot in Memphis, may have been the terminal they left from.
Jessie read “Joe’s Luck” by Horatio Alger during August 1909.
She often mentions playing with C.S. I think this was one of her cousins who lived in the neighborhood, perhaps Aunt Sallie’s little boy (Jessie does not spell this out in her diary). Here is a photo Jessie took of Swayne playing with C.S. (in white) and a white rabbit. Another photo from Jessie’s scrapbook that I like — her Mother carrying a doomed chicken (or is that a rabbit?).
Just before Jessie and her mother left for Colorado, they went shopping and purchased Jessie a new suit for the trip. The Edwardian styles were becoming less frilly and cumbersome and more tailored at this time.
*Credit to historic-memphis.com for the photo of the Calhoun Street Train Station.
Things were slower in Memphis in the middle of the summer. Jessie kept up with her music lessons and and her clubs, Merry Maids and Mystic XX. There were band concerts in the parks many nights of the week — Gaston Park, Bickford Park, and Overton Park all had frequent band concerts. Jessie and her friends gave a concert themselves at Jessie’s house, for which they built a stage and sold tickets (making $27).
Jessie’s mother, Jessie Swayne Latham, was well known in Memphis for her civic and church and leadership. For many years she served as President of the Board for the Porter Home and Leath Orphanage. Jessie followed in her footsteps a bit, often going to the Home for Incurables to play the piano for the residents.
There were some birthdays in July. Dorothy Jane had her 10th birthday party, which Jessie attended. I don’t know if Dorothy was a cousin or just a little girl in the neighborhood that Jessie was fond of. Jessie’s dad had his 55th birthday in July as well.
We are all a product of our times and the environment in which we live. 1909 in Memphis, Tennessee was not that far removed from the Civil War. Many veterans of the conflict were still alive, and naturally there were organizations which sprang up to support the veterans and the families of veterans. Jessie writes in her diary (June 7, 1909) that she went to a meeting of the U.D.C., the United Daughters of the Confederacy. At first I didn’t want to include this information, because to some that might scream RACIST! But it is history and it is fact. My grandmother was a southern born woman with deep roots in the South. She was not a rebel. She was a genteel and sheltered 14 year old girl. The meeting of the U.D.C. was in preparation for a huge event Memphis was hosting – The United Confederate Veterans Reunion 1909. Memphis, being centrally located and on the Mississippi River, was accessible to many Veterans. It was a huge 3-day event, June 8-10, with parades, concerts, boat rides, etc.
On June 8th Jessie rode in the yellow float of the Floral Parade. (Is that Jessie looking at the camera?) On the 9th she sang at several events, and on the 10th was the big Veterans parade. All of downtown Memphis was decorated with bunting. Once again, credit for the photos goes to http://historic-memphis.com/memphis-historic/ucv/ucv.html. Check this website out for more historic photos and information about this event.