The Grand Tour Part I – Ireland

If you were an American going on the grand tour at the beginning of the twentieth century whether you were going from Wyoming, Wichita or Waxahachie your point of departure from the United States was the Port of New York. You may have gotten there by train in which case it may have been a slow progress since you were required to stop everyplace along the way where you had family and visit for a minimum of several days – until the ladies constitutions were adequately restored to continue without fatigue. Once in New York – if you came from an English-speaking family – you would embark on an east bound Cunarder headed for Liverpool. If you were of Irish descent you might disembark at Queenstown for a sentimental journey. With maternal grandparents from County Louth and Roscommon and a father from County Wexford this stop for members of the Young family was de rigueur.

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The MAURETANIA was built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Wallsend-on-Tyne  in 1906 for the Cunard Line. She was a 31,938 gross ton ship, overall length 790 feet with a beam of 88 feet, four funnels, two masts, four screws and a service speed of 25 knots. There was accommodation for 563 – 1st, 464 – 2nd and 1,138 – 3rd class passengers. Launched on the 20th of September 1906, she left Liverpool on her maiden voyage to Queenstown  and New York on the 16th of November 1907. Between 1907 and 1924 she broke several transatlantic records, her shortest crossing being 4 days, 10 hours, 51 minute’s from Queenstown to Ambrose Light in September 1909 at a speed of 26.06 knots.

Queenstown [actually Cobh] was situated within the Port of Cork which was one of the largest ports within the British Isles and was the last stop on the westbound leg of the Liverpool to New York run in order to both pick up third class passengers – mostly poor Irish immigrants – and top of coal bunkers, fresh water and provisions. It owed it passing name of Queenstown to a visit by Victoria in 1849 but located on the south side of the great island it was the site of the liner docks. Of the two hotels located there the Queen’s was the preferred establishment and the starting point for the Irish pilgrimage.

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Not too far away is a locale legendary among the loquacious Irish – Blarney Castle in County Cork. Built in the 15th century by the Countess of Desmond it consists of a massive donjon tower some 120 feet tall and the ruins of the lower portions left over after a siege by Cromwell. The stone that has long been credited with conferring on all who kiss it a sweet persuasive eloquence that is almost irresistible is reputed at one time to have borne the inscription CORMAC MAC CARTHY FORTIS, MI FIERI FECIT is about eight feet from the top of the tower and requires the true believer to be lowered by their ankles in order to kiss it. Sometime in the late nineteenth century a lower, more easily accessible, stone was substituted for the tourists which may explain a good many things including the lack of eloquence in most wanna be Irishmen – you are either born with the gift of the gab or no number of rocks kissed will ever confer it!

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Continuing north from Cork we come to Killarney which the guidebook of 1900 credited as consisting of boatmen, guides, workers in arbutus wood and beggars. An old mining town that had become little more than a tourist attraction was at least blessed with three lakes nearby where would be anglers could either invest in tackle or rent it by the hour and be directed to  by their guides to inlets that the fish did not know. Growing tired of wasting bait by the time they reached Lough Leane [the lower lake] their trip could be redeemed with a trip to Ross Castle, an ivy covered ruin with a convenient landing and an easy climb to the top to enjoy the view of the lakes. It may have been a ruin but admission was by application to the occupant of the cottage close by and a small gratuity was expected.

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Most touring in Ireland could be done by walking or cycling for those interested in adventurism [ long before that abominable term was invented] , by train between the larger towns and then riding a jaunting car to the ruins, fishing or whatever. For those who planned on cycling the guidebook contained multiple itineraries including:

  • Dublin to Cork   210 miles through the Garden of Ireland
  • Cork to Galway 231 miles culminating in the summit of the Pass of Keimaneigh
  • Galway to Sligo 182 miles the coast road tour
  • Sligo to Londonderry 82 miles the shorter route to the highlands – uphill in both directions
  • Londonderry to Belfast 129 miles to see the Giant’s Causeway
  • Belfast to Dublin 103 miles downhill for all except the first 4 offering the chance of recovery

Having descended from the Young’s I would stick to the train and the jaunting car – although now it is most likely tour bus all the way.

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The terminus for most of the Irish from America was Dublin whence the continued on the River Liffey to Calafort Átha Cliath and boarded a ferry for the short ride across the Irish Sea to Liverpool and from there on to London and the beginning of the tour proper. The Zoological Garden is the only post card we have from Dublin. As for the guide-book it only notes that there is such a place, that admission is one shilling; Saturday sixpence; Sunday twopence, children half price. Having recently spent over $30.00 to take Margaret Edythe Young’s great grand-daughter to the Houston Zoo we must assume it was a bargain in its day and from the following description it seems not to have been without its charms.

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One of the newer attractions that the Young’s would have seen was Haughton House at the zoo’s centre was built in 1898 in memory of Samuel Haughton, Royal Zoological Society of Ireland secretary, a Trinity College professor, and noted science writer; it contained 10 wild animal ‘dens’, tea rooms and a lecture room.  Its verandah and  balcony offer views over the Kaziranga Forest Trail. The first Zoo open day in 1838 – attended by 20,000 people – to celebrate Queen Victoria’s coronation.  The first giraffe arrived in 1844 and the first pair of lions – Natal and Natalie – arrived in 1855, producing their first cubs two years later.  Reptiles got their own house in 1876. Although it came too late for the Young’s to see  a lion called Cairbre was born at the Zoo. Named after Cú Chullain’s charioteer he was seen the world over for many years when he became the mascot for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio.

 

Like all travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen… Benjamin Disraeli

Margaret Edythe Young was the first – and the last – of her sisters to make what was then called the Grand Tour. A trip through the old capitals of Europe, through the museums stuffed with looted antiquities, through the spas where hot mineral baths restored the old and invigorated the young and to the Shrines and Cathedrals of a Faith that dominated her world. At the same time she was making her way through Europe her brother, John Young, was on a cruise to the orient – not quite a pleasure trip since the purpose was to make commercial contacts for his father’s stevedoring business and, since he was a serving officer on leave from the coastal artillery, to report to his superiors on military preparations observed in his travels. Finally, the man who would marry Margaret Edythe Young’s daughter, Laureene, would make his way into the South American jungle searching for oil and prospecting for gold in one of the great adventures of his life.

Over the next several months we will examine these travels and try to convey what they saw, what they remembered and what we remember learning of what they saw. Much of it is no longer there so this is a guide only to memory and affection of places, things and people that, as Aristophanes tells us,  are but gone before, advanced a stage or two upon that road which you must travel in the steps they trod.  As an introductions we are going to begin with a series of pictures from a souvenir of the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901. This was the apex of the British Empire and in its own Scottish way Glasgow was more completely British than London and Galveston looked to Great Britain for cultural emulation much more so than the European continent. We hope you enjoy the pictures of a time passed that lingers but will not return.

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The city’s crest is an odd study in contrasts. On the top is Saint Mungo and the remainder of the crest recounts the four miracles attributed to him:

  •     The Bird — Mungo restored life to the pet robin of Saint Serf, which had been killed by some of his classmates, hoping to blame him for its death.
  •     The Tree — Mungo had been left in charge of a fire in Saint Serf’s monastery. He fell asleep and the fire went out. Taking branches from a tree, he restarted the fire.
  •     The Bell — the bell is thought to have been brought by Mungo from Rome. It was said to have been used in services and to mourn the deceased. The original bell no longer exists, and a replacement, created in the 1640s, is now on display in Glasgow.
  •     The Fish — refers to the story about Queen Languoreth of Strathclyde who was suspected of infidelity by her husband. King Riderch demanded to see her ring, which he claimed she had given to her lover. In reality the King had thrown it into the River Clyde. Faced with execution she appealed for help to Mungo, who ordered a messenger to catch a fish in the river. On opening the fish, the ring was miraculously found inside, which allowed the Queen to clear her name.

While the graphics remain the same,  interestingly enough the 19th century changed to motto to Let Glasgow Prosper , where the original had been Let Glasgow Flourish by the preaching of Your word, and the praising of Your name. Prehaps a little too Catholic for the Presbyterian elders of the king’s church.

Morrison and Fourmy’s General Directory – Part 11 – 1920

I began this series last August in an effort to educate myself a little more about the world of Margaret Edythe Young and although I have heard the complaint that there is a little too much Galveston and not quite enough of the Galveston Artist in these entries I finish them with a better understanding of the island that was her world and hope that my reader’s have found them helpful in picturing – to paraphrase the bard – This happy breed of people, this little world, This precious stone set in a silver sea. And so to the conclusion of this series.

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By 1920 the First World War had seen most combat operations end with the Armistice of 1918. The men who had fought in the war were getting on with the business of being reintegrated into the society. That included Margaret’s brother John who, as a Lt. Colonel in the Coastal Artillery Command, had been sent to the San Antonio caucus of April 1919 where he had been selected as a delegate to the St. Louis caucus that founded the American Legion. But if the War had ended you could not tell it on the Galveston waterfront – there was both a hot war raging from St. Petersburg to Sevastopol to Vladivostok that had to be supplied and there was the massive relief effort for a devastated Europe that the United States had undertaken. The Port of Galveston was able to close for Christmas Day in 1920 for the first time since 1916 but other than that it was all hands on deck for the other 365 days [it was a leap year]. In a move absolutely uncharacteristic of her father the firm took out its first, last and only paid advertisement in the Directory – we can only surmise that it was done while he was in Washington buying more tug boats from the government at surplus prices.

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By 1920 the preferred means of travel to Houston would have still been a train or the Interurban but because of the new and growing port at Houston – which actually started with the new Humble Oil Company refinery which opened in 1919 at Baytown [at the site of the old Confederate shipyard where the cotton clads which won the day at the 1863 Battle of Galveston had been fitted out] – there were passable roads, most of them made of crushed mud shells, and cars and trucks regularly made the trip.

David Buick, along with engineers Walter Marr and Eugene Richard, invented the valve-in-head engine, which became the strongest and most reliable engine as soon as it hit the market. But Buick Motor Company still ran into financial difficulties, and was bailed out by William Durant who had gone to the 1905 New York Auto Show, and before they had even built 40 vehicles, had sold over 1,000 at the show alone. By 1908 Buick produced 8,820 cars, the most of any auto manufacturer that year which helped Durant create a holding company named General Motors. Within 18 months, Durant had acquired a large stake in 30 different auto manufacturers and parts suppliers, including Cadillac , Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and AC Spark Plug. With so many purchases by 1910, General Motors was under financial hardships, and Durant lost control of GM. Durant and Louis Chevrolet, a very successful race car driver, created the Chevrolet company in 1911, and by 1915 Durant was able to take control of GM once again when he hired Walter Chrysler to run the Buick division who went on to build larger and more expensive cars, with doors and smoother lines and introduced a six cylinder engine along with the self-starter and a full electrical system – and took his severance package to found the Chrysler Corporation.

Models all the way from the early Buick 10 through the new sedans were always several steps up from the Ford’s Tin Lizzie and even though the  1918  Chevrolet introduced the Series D – a V8-powered model in four-passenger roadster and five-passenger tourer models – Buick retained its supremacy through most of the 1920’s as the car for the man who couldn’t yet afford a Cadillac but was more prosperous than your average Ford owner. The Bettencourts traversed the island and went visiting on the mainland in their 1914 Buick. The interesting thing about the advertisements may not be the  primacy of location [top right]  of the Buick ad but the fact that the following two ads are from saddle and harness makers who are transitioning from the days of horse and buggy. The other thing we notice is that the advertisement for the tire company is now for a business that exclusively sells tires – you no longer bought them with fishing tackle and shotgun shells.

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Although not much has been made of it another dramatic change in the automotive industry was the introduction of the storage battery. In early cars starting was achieved by physically cranking the motor – this required a certain amount of physical strength and excluded a number of people from the automotive pool – lighting was accomplished by the same kerosene lamps that had been used for a century and there was no need for a power source for the radio, which had yet to be invented. All of these things would change by 1920 and the advent of automotive electronics would mean that the relatively new invention of the telephone could be used to call help for the dead battery – the latest headache of their rapidly improving lives.

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And the batteries were not the only things that needed repair. Although there was Firestone, Saxet, Keystone, Speedway and Batavia tires to name just a few their most common denominator was that they were all MAYPOP! tires – i.e.; they may pop at any time  – and Southern Tire & Repair Company probably sold more than a few Kelly Springfield, Norwalk and Portage tires with their offer of free tire service. While the cars were simple enough to work on by our standards they were complex and daunting for the average owner requiring the expert mechanics of Leo David’s shop to keep the uninitiated from doing more harm than good especially in keeping their oil changed and their suspensions lubricated. Recently our son wrote us from his sojourn in Africa about coming across a panel banger – the term they still use to describe an auto repair shop – and we suspect that Schmidt Brothers, blacksmiths by trade, fit that description to perfection. I remember the story of Laureene Young driving her Packard across the causeway and meeting a farmer’s cow by accident. In the days before insurance her father conceded to the farmer that it was the most valuable cow in the state of Texas and wrote him a check. It is an everlasting tribute to Packard that all it needed was a panel banger to be roadworthy again.

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A high demand for cotton during World War I had stimulated production and had increased the business of the compresses and the port at Galveston but a drop in prices after the war led many to abandon farming altogether and move to the cities. While the port was busy there was the need for both commercial hotels for business travellers as well as residential hotels that took the overflow of single men who were working and could not find accommodation in a rooming house. There were also residential hotels for single women who had found clerical positions and who would have neither desired nor have been permitted to live in an establishment that served men. Even Millie Dillmount and Miss Dorothy Brown stayed at the Priscilla Hotel and there is nothing to suggest that Mrs. Ella Jordan of the Palmetto Hotel bore any resemblance to their house-mother Mrs. Meers.

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The beach was still the great draw and although the Galvez may have been the grand dame of the seawall and its boulevard there were a plethora of budget accommodations available for the tourists who arrived on the train or via the interurban. While there was no such thing as two weeks vacation every year for most workers there were the summer school holidays and many families saw mother and children packed off to the shore where Galveston was an average 10 degrees cooler than Houston while fathers stayed home and worked joining the family from Saturday evening to Sunday evening and enjoying a vacation of sorts of their own the other six days of the week.

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You can only spend so many hours on the beach without being burnt to a crisp. The electric pavilion and riding the trolley to other attractions – even going to the Rosenberg Library for a new stack of books once a week – could only entertain so much. Probably no trip to the island was complete without riding the excursion boat Galvez at least once. Cruising the port and seeing everything from the sailing skiffs that darted from the farms around the bay to supply the island’s kitchens to the latest of the great naval dreadnoughts like the USS Texas that made courtesy calls when coaling [it was not converted to an oil burner until 1925] had to be a marvelous spectacle for parent a child alike.

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Galveston and New Orleans have a long history together not only as competitors but also as cities that share many cultural ties. When a vacant  store located on Canal Street in New Orleans was converted into its first movie theater on the 26th of June  1896 Galveston could not be far behind. The USS Texas was christened on May 18, 1912 and a new camera took what was thought to be the first motion pictures of a United States Navy ship-launching and with the release of “The Birth of a Nation” in 1915 the moving pictures were off and running. Even with primitive air conditioning the lure of a cool place to while away a sweltering afternoon or evening must have made places like to Fortuna irresistible.

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Today the last stop for many a tourist at Boston’s Logan airport is to get lobster’s packed to bring home – assuming you can still get them through security. The Galveston of 1920 was no different. Getting ready to board the Interurban for the ride home you could pack up on fish, shrimp and oysters to take back to Houston – points further north probably carries a risk of ptomaine poisoning which was something very real that people actually died of then.

You may have noticed the absence of advertisements for beverages in this post – particularly the kind that, used in moderation, reconstitute body and soul. In 1909 Monsignor James Martin Kirwin organized the Home Protective League, which succeeded in removing saloons from residential areas of Galveston. The league lobbied in the state legislature for a law empowering cities to restrict saloons. Adding an ecumenical twist to the proceedings in 1913 Texas sent John Morris Sheppard to the United States Senate and this pious Methodist gas bag managed to finagle what would become the 18th Amendment – prohibition – through the Congress and it took effect on the 17th of January 1920 and Americans could not drink legally again until 1933.

Prohibition – except for the initial ratification – happens outside of our timeline and even though its impact on Galveston was significant we will not discuss it here. Although Margaret Edythe Young certainly would not have been aware of the direction of the larger forces that shaped her world she basically lived in a brief window between the South regaining  large parts of its freedom and joining the American dynamo that was the early twentieth century through the transition of a Southern Democrat [Wilson] betraying the South and the nation and starting us down the path to the nanny state. At the same time what she was aware of were the timeless values of her Church and her very Irish family and an island city that provided a home to them all – she knew what was important!

Morrison and Fourmy’s General Directory – Part 10 – 1916

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In the 19th century the mile posts in Galveston history seem to be the storms that devastated the Island. In the 20th century the mile posts became the storms it survived. In August 1915 Galveston was hit again by a hurricane with 120 mph winds, tides 9–14 feet above normal and a storm surge of over 16 feet. Although damaged the Seawall held and less than 50 lives were lost on Galveston Island but the storm changed the beach structure with almost the entire beach eroded to become an offshore sandbar – something that time and tide would cure albeit incompletely. The really important numbers were that there was six million dollars worth of damage on the island and only one million dollars worth of damage in Houston and worse than that required repairs to the Seawall raised the question of whether or not Galveston could survive two storms in the same season. Business generated by the First World War might delay the inevitable but the moving finger had not only written but it had moved on and no chamber of commerce could lure it back to cancel half a line and no receding tide would wash out a word of it.

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When we left the Galveston of 1912 in our last entry we did so with an advertisement for the then new Magnolia Park – it had become an independent municipality in 1909 – that was the harbinger of the ascent of the Port of Houston. The 1916 advertisement shows how much it had grown, even allowing for developer hyperbole, but it was also undergoing a transformation of its own.  Americans of Mexican ancestry had begun arriving settling in the area filled by sand dredged from the new turning basin and known as the Sands. Most of the new settlers worked as laborers, laying railroad tracks or dredging and widening the new ship channel. Others worked as stevedores on ships or in the rail yards while  the women worked in jute mills, making bindings for cotton bales. These were industrious people who purchased lots, built family homes, and fostered an active cultural life  – the problem for the developer was that they weren’t white.

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Where Galveston as an island community with a limited amount of living space and being a good deal more cosmopolitan as a port city with a thriving international mix in its trade and its citizenry was more used to a homogenous society. Houston had room for sprawl and the nouvelle bourgeois aping the manners of the nouveau riche had no desire to be THAT cosmopolitan. By 1916 there were already 80 occupied homes in the new Park Place subdivision. Each home was built on a large lot with piped water and electricity supplied to every house  – both as public utilities. Most importantly it was on the Interurban Line.

The Interurban Line ran from 1911 until 1936 and was an electric rail car service that originated on 21st Street, between Church and Post Office Streets in Galveston, and ran to stations on Texas Avenue in Houston. If you drive the Gulf Freeway [first US 75 and later I 45] between the two cities you have traversed the old Interurban route – by some strange historical coincidence Oscar Holcombe, then mayor of Houston [serving one of his eleven terms], bought the Interurban right of way just before it was selected as the route for the new highway between the cities. This new route was a departure from almost a century of development.

Originally the route from Galveston to Houston was by water. You sailed up Galveston Bay and entered the Buffalo Bayou watershed between Morgan’s Point and San Jacinto. From there it was an uncertain passage. Turns that changed fairly regularly in a channel of uncertain depth meant that many of the original barge transits were accomplished with the aid of deck winches and lines connected to the largest trees that could be found on the bank – if you could get through at all.  Steam tugs may have improved things a little but the real transportation between the two cities was done by rail which followed the same basic route – north along what is now SH 146 then west along what is now SH 225 then northwest along what is now Harrisburg Street. It is like travelling two sides of a triangle and the Interurban route used the hypotenuse and changed the travel time between the cities from well over two hours to just over an hour and Park Place would have been less than an hour from Galveston and less than half an hour from downtown Houston.

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If all of this sounds a little too much like news from the Duke of Dismal it is time to note that not all was lost. Galveston was no Indianola. It was – and is – still an important port and an important city. It was undergoing the same transitions as the nation as a whole and thanks to technology things were changing. There were still ships under sail and they made up an important segment of the port’s business but there were fewer of them and the tonnage that they represented had declined precipitously with the economies of scale realized with ever larger steel hulls that depended on steam for propulsion. The sail maker had to start making awnings, tents, wagon covers and for the newest technology auto tops and radiator covers.

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There had been cars on Galveston Island for many years. Margaret Edythe Young’s father had owned a Cadillac since at least 1907 ( fours years after they started building them)  and her wedding party in 1912 had travelled from the reception to Union Depot in his car – interestingly enough followed by guests in carriages on what was only about a two-mile trip. Ford had started the same time as Cadillac and in 1908 had begun production of the Model T while Studebaker – which had been a wagon manufacturer since 1852 – had begun its production of gasoline powered cars in 1904. But there was a problem with automobiles that may be best summed up with the old phrase, you can’t get there from here, and automobiles were still rare enough that the Galveston Daily News published the names of people receiving licenses to own them – rarely more than two or three a day.

In 1916 Texas had 194,720 autos registered and by 1929 there were only 18,728 miles of main highways in the entire state, of which only 9,271 miles was hard-surfaced. Thanks to John Young and Maurice Coffey much of Galveston, city and county, was paved with crushed oyster shells as was Houston thanks to the W. D. Haden family and, to a far lesser extent, John Young.  Although they ceased production over eighty years ago Wichita Trucks,  produced by the Wichita Falls Motor Company which was created in  1911 and was the most successful motor vehicle manufacturing business ever established in Texas, would have been very well-known to John Young.

Wichita provided heavy-duty, off-road vehicles known for their strength and durability and especially for road building equipment, such as dump trucks as first local then state and finally the federal government began huge road building programs. Sales extended around the globe, to as many as 86 foreign countries, and Young & Company had the stevedoring rights to the trucks exported via Galveston which during the First World War exceeded 5,000 units.

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The combination of oyster shell – crushed or not – mud, gravel, plank and brick roads must have made long distance travel by automobile next to impossible and even short distances had to be an adventure. Starting in 1900 to supply pneumatic tires for wagons and buggies Harvey Samuel Firestone parlayed his friendship with Henry Ford in 1906 to become the original equipment supplier of Ford Motor Company automobiles. With the winner of the 1911 Indianapolis auto race – the first one to go 500 miles –  won by a car running Firestone tires [Apropos nothing the winning car was a 6 cylinder (477 cu. in.) Marmon Wasp followed by a Fiat and a 4 cylinder Mercedes (583 cu. in.)] Firestone was in the even more lucrative business of supplying replacement tires. After all a car might last a lifetime but tires rarely lasted more than a year.

When you view a PBS show funded by the Alfred P. Sloan foundation before you reverence his philanthropy you must consider the fate of the Interurban Railroad – in which Firestone played a role as well. Unfortunately the entrepreneurial spirit so often seems to breed the monopolist fever and Firestone along with Sloan [General Motors], through their corporate personas, were charged and convicted of criminal conspiracy for their part in the Great American streetcar scandal which involved purchasing streetcar systems throughout the United States dismantling them and replacing them with buses.

Excelsior started out producing first parts and then bicycles. Their motorcycle production started in Chicago in 1905 and by 1910 they had introduced the engine configuration they would become famous for – the ‘X’ series. The engine was a V-twin measuring 61 cubic inches (1000 cc). Ironically another businessman with dreams of empire lurked over the horizon. Ignaz Schwinn’s company had been producing bicycles for some time, but the downturn in sales around 1905 (due in part to the popularity of motorcycles) convinced him to look at other markets and instead of designing and manufacturing their own, Schwinn decided to buy Excelsior Motorcycles.

It was 1911 before the Schwinn Company completed the purchase of Excelsior for $500,000. By this time, motorcycles were taking over from cycles in competitions, too. Many races took part between cities, state borders and even on motordromes. The motordromes, originally for cycle races, were high-banked ovals made from 2″ wide wooden planks. To publicize the brand, Excelsior entered many competitions and set a number of world records. One record set at this time was for a top speed of 100 mph. [The winner at Indy averaged less than 75 mph.] By 1914 the Excelsior brand was proving to be one of the most successful manufacturers of motorcycles in the world.  A year later, 1915, Excelsior introduced a new model with the Big Valve X, a 61 cu inch V-twin with a three-speed gearbox. The company claimed this bike was the “fastest motorcycle ever.” Nineteen sixteen saw the Excelsior brand used by numerous Police forces, including Galveston’s, by Western Union Messengers and even the US military during Pershing’s campaign in Mexico.

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Everybody sold tires – especially it seems the people who sold sporting goods which has a certain logic when you consider that a hunting trip might require several tire changes. They also sold kerosene, which along with ethanol or naphtha, was used to fuel the new cars, motorcycles and fishing launches. The store was owned by one of the numerous members of the Sweeney family that have been Galveston stalwarts for many years and who had the wit to use the old saying, “Tell it to Sweeney,” as part of his advertisement. The slogan itself is a corruption of the British navy usage, “Tell that to the Marines – the sailors won’t believe it,” the origins of which are reputed to be traceable to both Walter Scott and Byron and Sweeney is one of a group of Irishmen, like Riley, Kelsey, and Kilroy, whose names are used apparently for some humorous effect. I can not vouch for all of the etymology in this paragraph but I know I must have heard the phrase a thousand time from my dad while fabricating and elaborate “stretcher”.

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The trend in hotels in Galveston was to have a property in the central business district for commercial travellers and one on the beach for the tourist trade.  In addition there were residential hotels including the Hotel Moose which advertised that it was the perfect hotel for your wife, mother or sister and charged for the privilege with rates of rates of $0.75 to $1.00 for rooms without a bath to $1.50 to $2.00 for rooms with a bath. By comparison establishments like the Island City Hotel – without the sanctity of a ladies only policy – had rates of $0.50 to $1.00 and even such bastions of propriety as the Tremont offering steam heat, hot and cold running water and long distance telephones in every room for a mere $1.00 to $2.50 per night.  All of the hotels with listings emphasize that they now operate on the European Plan – no meals included in their rates.

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Galveston was still an important port, cotton was still king but the 1915 crop having been devastated by the hurricane other shipments were being made. In 1916 Woodrow Wilson was running for reelection on the slogan, “He kept us out of the war,” but John Young’s longshoremen were busy shipping 3,500 Wichita trucks to France and another 400 to Russia while his men also worked loading ships to help feed Europe with the products from John Sealy’s Seaboard Rice Milling Company. The newspaper may have been full of war news on the front pages but the real story was being told on the commercial pages where business was good from a war that had not touched America directly – yet.

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Morrison and Fourmy’s General Directory – Part 9 – 1912

1912 was the beginning of a new age in America. Woodrow Wilson was elected president and while no one could foresee the long-term implications of his variety of progressive populism what was apparent in the South was that a Democrat was back in office, patronage for federal offices was back in the hands of the machine that controlled the city, county and state and a burgeoning government would mean that there was a bigger pie to share. Most of this was good news for the economy of Galveston and in a peacetime prosperity a rising tide lifts all boats.

On the 21st of July in 1909 a hurricane with a 10 ft storm surge and 110 mph winds from the ESE had struck and 41 people were killed in Texas but the new seawall held which meant that Galveston held and almost as an act of defiance built up to the water’s edge for its tourist attractions.

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Henry Toujouse had arrived from France in 1872 and found work at the Opera House Saloon situated in the basement of The Tremont Opera House at Tremont and Market. From behind a beautiful rosewood bar, Toujouse observed Galveston of the gilded age and those who regularly met at the opera house saloon. When the original proprietor died, Toujouse took over the saloon business and managed it until the opera house was sold in 1894. He then moved across Tremont Street opening First Henry’s Café in the Stag Hotel taking  the elaborately ornamented bar with him.  Not wanting to miss out on the beachfront bonanza Henry also invested in the Beach Hotel which was a large frame building built for the tourist traffic that arrived by train and took the street car from the depot to the beach. These hotels were basically one step up from the bath house adding only a bed to sleep in that their guests would be sorely in need of after too much sun, too much sand and too much seafood at the other beachfront attractions.

galvezhotel

Just a few blocks east of that modest hotel – but a world away – was the brand new Galvez Hotel. John Elias Pearce who would become mayor of Galveston started his career as a telegraph operator. He had moved to Galveston in 1896 and  subsequently served as chief cotton clerk for the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad, where he became a vice president. He started a stevedore business in 1901 and with the backing of the of the Southern Pacific line  organized the Hotel Galvez Operating Company of which he was president and general manager.

Where the old Beach Hotel had been a Victorian Gingerbread fantasy by Nicholas Clayton executed entirely in wood – which may explain why it burned to the ground in 20 minutes in 1898 – the Galvez was eight storeys of concrete, brick and steel with over two hundred rooms and two floors of luxury suites. It was the destination in Galveston and when complemented by the Bucanner and Jean Lafitte it put the Tremont and other hotels in the business district into a long decline that would not see them revived for nearly fifty years. One of my favorite stories of the hotel was that when the Rockefeller’s visited Mrs. Rockefeller lost her very valuable stole and when it was found and returned by a porter she gave him a dime as a tip – the rich are different than you and I and apparently a good deal cheaper!

cocacola

Galveston and the Galvez may have been able to claim that they rivaled Atlantic City, Florida and Southern California as year round resorts with a special emphasis on warm winters but the truth of the matter is that without plenty of cool beverages Galveston before air conditioning must have been a sauna 300 days out of 365. While there were saloons for the men who needed to cut the dust of the docks from their lungs – as well as saloons where their managers could partake and the clergy could imbibe in medicinal dosages – none of these establishments served ladies. In addition to this there was a strong temperance movement in the state and on the island and the sale of colas, tonics and carbonated beverages probably rivaled the sales of beer – at least in volume.

magnoliabrewery

1912 was the first instance we found of an advertisement for the Coca-Cola bottling works in Galveston and we notice the decline in advertising home-brew carbonation kits for those wanting seltzers, tonics and whatever other concoctions they may have devised or had prescribed for them. Although there was a brewery in Galveston there was always the problem of the water – the stuff that came from the islands wells had a taste of sulphur and iodine that made it taste like cheap scotch without the more pleasant aspects of the later beverage. Mr. Rossi – who cautiously kept a foot in both camps (and was thus unable to qualify for the Coca-Cola distributorship) was the agent for the Magnolia Brewery in Houston and had a carbonated beverage and ice-cream business operated by his son.

rossimignon

Not everything going on in Galveston had to do with hotels and soda water. Galveston was the Wall Street of the South and had the banks to prove it.

lobitbank

The banking business of Adoue & Lobit was founded in 1865 by Bertrand Adoue and Joseph Lobit, immigrants from France. Both were prominent in the affairs of Galveston including charitable causes. Adoue helped establish the  Seamen’s Bethel in Galveston, which was sort of seaman’s center, as well as being consul for Sweden and Norway, while his partner, Joseph Lobit, was the French Vice-Consul for the city. Upon Adoue’s death this bank was permanently closed in accordance with his will and, ironically, is the only one of the five original banks on the Strand that does not continue to thrive in some form in Galveston today.

As commercial bankers they were not in the business that we think of as consumer banking today but were involved in things like the Cotton Concentration Company which became the largest feeder of cotton to the wharves and brought much-needed uniformity in handling this important commodity. It did most of the cotton compressing and exporting until the compress industry moved inland. The original shareholders in the $50,000 capital were Hutchings, Sealy and Company ($15,000), D. W. Kempner (7,500), Adoue and Lobit (7,500), W. L. Moody (7,500), Robert Waverly Smith (7,500), and C. H. Moore (5,000). The fact that they were on an equal basis as the Moody’s gives some indication of their importance – although the fact that Robert Waverly Smith was married to the daughter of John Sealy shows that the Sealy family actually controlled 45% of what would become the Moody Compress.

Their bank building was constructed on the Strand in 1890 designed by Nicholas J. Clayton in the Neo-Renaissance style, and was originally three stories in height and one of the most beautiful buildings on the Strand. In 1919 the J. H. W. Steele Company, steamship  agents, purchased the  building, re-arranged the three-story building into four floors, and in doing this stripped off the original lavish details of the exterior except for the ground floor cast iron columns. The site had a history that went all the way back to the modern founding of Galveston having first been occupied by a two-story frame store and counting house erected in 1839-40 for Michel B. Menard. In 1868, that building was purchased by George C. Rains who since the early 1840’s had operated a saloon on pilings at Twenty-first and the wharf, known as “The First and Last Chance”, which provided sailors their first drink upon arriving and their last drink before sailing. The saloon continued at its new location until Mr. Rains was retired from his business by an irate sailor in the late 1880’s and his heirs were foreclosed on to make way for progress.

mccarthybank

While McCarthy came much closer to our idea of a modern bank you must remember that the great majority of people never saw the inside of a bank because they simply did not have, nor were they likely to earn, enough money to open or maintain an account. Banks existed primarily to serve as counting houses for businesses and investment conduits for the well to do. John Young commonly bought or built houses for his stevedoring supervisors or tug boat captains but the mortgages were either sold to or serviced by the banks and the companies that he provided services to cabled funds to him to pay for those services – if he deeded to travel he had a letter of credit from his bank and withdrew cash as needed from correspondent banks wherever he happened to be.

mistrotbros

The Mistrot story is one that touches so many aspects of Galveston. Originally the trading company of the Blum brothers, wholesalers of staple and fancy dry goods, served the Southwest, Indian Territory, and Mexico from headquarters in Galveston and offices in New York, Boston, and Paris, France had started with two brothers acting as peddlers out of a store in Richmond, Texas before the Civil War. After growing first to Houston and then consolidating in Galveston they relocated during the war first to Brownsville and began the business of exchanging goods for cotton, which they sold to buyers for export to Europe through Matamoros, Tamaulipas eventually moving there before union troops advanced on Brownsville. After the war it became the first major wholesale dry-goods business in the state and Blum purchased directly from the manufacturer, imported staple goods, and shifted from retail to wholesale business seeking “quick sales and small profits.”

By 1870 earnings reached over $1 million but several family employees en route to New York to buy goods died when their steamer foundered, and in 1877 the store was destroyed by a fire.  The new Blum Building, built in 1879, occupied 90,000 square feet in the Strand, had two hydraulic elevators, offices finished with cypress, and light entering the building unobstructed on three sides. The company employed 125 clerks and thirty traveling salesmen before 1887 but they failed during the nationwide depression of the 1890s, as did subsequent efforts to reorganize the business. After assets were distributed the company stock was sold to the Mistrot brothers in 1896. John W. Young [Margaret Edythe Young's brother] married one of the Mistrot daughters and so the two families were related. Ironically it was the neo-Renaissance-style Blum Building that was remodeled and became the “new” Tremont Hotel in the 1980’s. In Galveston everything changes but nothing changes.

ssbanana

Margaret Edythe Young’s brother, John, had gone to work for his father in the stevedoring business and was in charge of the banana boats. This was long before refrigerated container ships and the small and fast ships used in the service carried no more than could be brought without ripening before delivery on each trip. This meant several things. These ships had priority berthing, were worked 24 hours a day until unloaded and you never saw SHEXC [Sundays and holidays excluded] in a charter-party.

The other interesting thing about this service is that these ships were the main source of goods from Asia entering Galveston. Ever since the days of the California Gold Rush in the mid-nineteenth century there had been a Panama Railroad that served as the first great transportation link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. As marvelous as it was it was insufficient to handle the building of the Panama Canal and the original railroad was replaced between 1907 and 1912 with a line that is still in service today.

In addition to the Panama Railroad there was the Tehuantepec Railroad which crossed the isthmus north of the Yucatan Peninsula and ran between Coatzacoalcos on the Gulf side and Salina Cruz and the Pacific side. This route might have well been an alternative to the isthmian canal and had been under serious study since the mid-nineteenth century. The main thing that killed it was the intransigence of the various Mexican governments and the fact that the Panama route – even though it was two days sail further away –  offered different but fewer engineering problems. While the Tehuantepec Railroad offered an alternative that helped take stress off the Panamanian line while it was busy with the construction of the Canal – and to keep prices in check through competition – the final price of the intransigence was that almost as soon as the Canal opened the Tehuantepec Railroad began to fail and, now, even the tracks are gone.

texasice

One of the busiest industries in Galveston was the ice business. Both the tons of fish and the rail cars full of bananas had to be packed in ice before they could be put on fast trains as far away as Kansas City and Clovis, New Mexico. While his neighbor, Manuel Francisco Bettencourt, had a job as a yard foreman at a cotton compress  courtesy of John Young [MEY's father] Manuel’s son, Toni Luis [later Anglicized to Anthony Lewis] Bettencourt, had a job as a cashier at Texas Ice and Cold Storage courtesy of John Young. Since the Bettencourt’s lived across the street from the Young’s [they were in fact renting a house that belonged to John Young] they were frequent guests and constant companions. Whether it was proximity or familiarity or the good looks of a young man from Portugal we have a few conspiratorial notes from Laureene Young to her sister Margaret asking if she was going to see her “beau” and we know that she must have since he became her husband. Mrs. Rockefeller may have had ermine and sable, Minnie may have had her Mick, Lombard may have had her Gable, but the ice man had his pick!

modeldairy

John Young may have been chiefly involved in the shipping business but like other successful businessmen he branched out into other areas. Real estate was probably principal among them since he was constantly sponsoring fellow immigrants and many of those who went to work for him ended up living in houses that he had built and rented to them or helped them eventually get mortgages for. Nor were families so very different then since all of his children wound up moving into houses that he owned when they were first married – Galveston is a small island and none of them were more the six blocks away! One of the non-residential investments that he made was the land on which the Model Dairy was located. Amazing as it seems you can get off the causeway at 61st street, turn right and head for the beach. As soon as you pass Calvary Cemetery on your right there is a development with restaurants, shops and a large motel and condominium – this is just west of where Fort Crockett used to end – and this is where the dairy farm that served most of Galveston for many years was located.

magnoliapark

Galveston had recovered from the 1900 Storm. It had weathered the 1909 Storm behind its new seawall with very little damage. It was in the middle of a grade raising project that was an engineering marvel in an age of marvels and was publicly looking forward to a new century of prosperity. Less than 60 miles north the son of a civil war gun runner, Edward Mandell House, who had been a speculator and political operative since the 1890’s had hitched his wagon to Woodrow Wilson in 1911 and after the 1912 victory helped set up his administration. Offered a cabinet position he  declined, choosing instead to serve wherever and whenever possible, which then – as now – was a license to steal.

The citizens of Harris County had voted a bond issue in 1909 to create the Port of Houston – never mind that the funds appropriate wouldn’t have covered the cost of a fishing pier – and thus created a public entity that could receive federal funds. Galveston Wharfs being privately held were judged not entitled to these funds. The race to build the Port of Houston was underway – with most of the Galveston shipping community was privately right in the middle of it – and in 1914 Woodrow Wilson would press a button on his desk in the White House and declare the Port of Houston open.

Thomas Brady, the elder, had impeccable Texas credentials. lawyer, legislator, newspaperman, and Houston city promoter he had moved here in 1856 and established a law practice at Houston while living at Harrisburg. In the Civil War Brady served the Confederacy on Gen. John B. Magruder’s staff and was a volunteer aide to Commodore Leon Smith on the steamer Bayou City in the capture of the Harriet Lane and the defeat of the federal fleet at Galveston Harbor on January 1, 1863 where he received special mention for his courage.

Brady was one of a group of businessmen who established the Texas Transportation Company, which became part of the Southern Pacific Railroad and built a line from Houston to Clinton on Buffalo Bayou. In the 1880s he helped to organize the Houston Belt and Magnolia Park Railway Company, later part of the Missouri Pacific. He was also interested in deepening the Houston ship channel and had the bayou dredged in what became Houston’s first turning basin about where Brady’s Island is today.

Married to Lennie Sherman, the daughter of Texas hero Sidney Sherman, he died after suffering a stroke on an inspection of the port of Houston on June 26, 1890.
His son – also Thomas Brady – immediately laid out  a 1,374 acre site from his father’s property on Harrisburg Road across Bray’s Bayou from Harrisburg and seven miles downstream from Houston and called it Magnolia Park for the 3,750 magnolias that were planted there as part of developing the site. The development essentially covered the entire south side of what became the Port of Houston and was originally designed to house all of “white-collar” workers that would be needed by the new port. John Young bought a block in the new subdivision and dispatched one of his grandsons to open his first Houston office. While there are no Young descendents that we know of in Magnolia Park – or Galveston – there are some still in Houston so lament it as you may Colonel House apparently won the day.

Morrison and Fourmy’s General Directory – Part 8 – 1908

The Young family was involved in shipping before Margaret Edythe Young was born and her grandson still followed the profession sixty years after her passing. Ships operate on closely observed schedules, sailing boards are posted a certain number of hours prior to departure, watches are set and kept, meal hours are observed, speed is adjusted to make tides and everything happens at six-minute intervals [three-minute intervals if you have a martinet as a captain]. This is done simply for the convenience of reconciling time – which is a base sixty system – with money, a base ten system, so that if something takes two hours and twelve minutes the appropriate party can be billed for 2.2 hours rather than converting two hours and seven minute to 2.1166… hours.

History does not function quite so precisely. It may be argued, for instance, that the nineteenth century ended in England with the death of Victoria in 1901, in Russia with the revolution of 1905 and in the United States with the end of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency in 1909. While our discussion here is not going to center too much on the great events of history it will give hints that things were changing. After the 1900 Storm the Galveston Seawall was constructed – with the original section completed in 1904 and extensions thereafter – and this was followed by the even more ambitious project of the grade raising which altered the elevation of the island from five feet above mean low water to twenty-two feet on the Gulf side and eight feet on the Bay side, a project that began after the Seawall was completed and ran until 1928. Both of these projects will receive entries of their own hereafter but are mentioned now just to indicate how busy the premier city of the Texas Gulf Coast was.

The advertisements tell their own stories and some of them may amount to the same ground covered twice. 1908 may have been a tipping point for the United States between centuries but just as Victoria giving way to Edward VII was imperceptible the transition from Roosevelt to Taft was no shock to the nation – that would wait for Wilson – and both nations enjoyed a continuity that was missing from Moscow to Madrid to Mexico City to Manchuria. We have discussed a number of the schools available on the Island based on their advertisements in previous entries but in this one we are going to include some material out of actual texts. This was an age when education was a serious business and how well-educated you were might well mark the limits of you ascent within the society – extra credit was not given even to those in the fell clutch of circumstance and the constant recipient of a “gentleman’s C” did not have great prospects outside of a family business.

bernausgym

In March of 1881 the Texas Legislature authorized the University of Texas and provided that Texans would determine its location by popular referendum – which turned out to be Austin – the same authorization provided that Texans could locate the medical school of the new university in a city different from the one selected for the main campus. Between 1865 and 1881 Galveston doctors had organized medical societies, taught medical students in two colleges, examined candidates for licensure in Galveston County, participated actively on a board of health, treated indigent patients at local hospitals, and edited the state’s only three medical journals. Proud of this cultural legacy, Galvestonians lobbied fiercely for their city as the site for the new medical school and in September of 1881, 70 percent of the voters chose Galveston over Houston. After ten years the Medical Branch of the University of Texas opened in October 1891 with thirteen faculty members and twenty-three students occupying a classic building designed and built by Nicholas J. Clayton. The  regents added a School of Pharmacy in 1893 and assumed responsibility for the John Sealy Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1896. By 1900 the institution had graduated 259 men and six women as physicians, seventy-six men and six women as pharmacists, and fifty-four women as nurses.

While the Medical Branch produced “establishment” physicians Galveston was still populated by doctors who specialized in everything from homeopathic remedies to advocates of “physical culture” like Professor Bernau who apparently thought that a hot both and massage could cure anything from deformity in children to heart trouble of 20 years standing in six weeks to three months. Among the books in Margaret Edythe Young’s library was The Heart of the New Thought by Ella Wheeler Wilcox which was a 92 page tract on the power of positive thinking, especially for the woman in maternity: Even the woman who has not been enlightened upon the law of ante-birth-influence will, if a true disciple of the Religion of Right-living, bring healthy and helpful children into the world, because her normal state of mind will be inclusive of those qualities; and her continued and repeated assertions of her own divine nature will shape the brain of her child in optimistic and reverential mould and while it is difficult to find fault with such a generalization her further assertion that, It has been said upon excellent authority that Napoleon’s mother read Roman history with absorbing interest during the months preceding his birth, leads us to wonder exactly what the new thought was.

stjosephs

The “old” thought was still safely and securely in the hands of the Sisters of Divine Providence – another order like the Ursulines and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word  – brought to Texas by Bishop Claude Marie Dubuis. All of these orders established and maintained schools from the parish level – like St. Joseph’s – to the university like  Our Lady of the Lake University, opened in 1895 and the oldest regionally accredited institution of higher learning in San Antonio. They converted their original mother house in Castroville to a military academy and having been taught by these good ladies that fact came as no surprise.

Looking at John Young’s [MEY's brother] grade school primer of First Lessons in Our Country’s History we find the following questions for the aspiring scholars – and we promise that those who got promoted knew the answer to each and every one.

  • Where was the first fleet fitted out? Names of the ships? How many persons were on board the three ships? Give the date of sailing?
  • Repeat what is said of the old Spaniards. When did they come to America? Name the countries they seized.
  • What name did the Spaniards apply to this country? [They called all of North America except Mexico, Florida]
  • [Revolution] Give an account of the campaign in New York. Give an account of the campaign in New Jersey. Give an account of the campaign in Pennsylvania.
  • [Gettysburg] Tell what took place the first day. The second day. Give an account of the third day’s battle.

None of that is terribly difficult but it does require the ability and the discipline to learn names, dates and facts which, of course, is the basis for further investigation and thought.

labadiekodak

Our good friend Mr. Labadie is back and added to his “picture room” is Kodak Cameras, supplies and photo finishing. George Eastman had been marketing the Kodak under the slogan, You press the button – we do the rest,  since 1888. In 1900 the first of the famous BROWNIE Cameras was introduced. It sold for $1 and used film that sold for 15 cents a roll. For the first time, the hobby of photography was within the financial reach of virtually everyone. In 1902 the KODAK Developing Machine simplified the processing of roll film and made it possible to develop film without a darkroom and in 1908 Kodak produced the world’s first commercially practical safety film using cellulose acetate base instead of the highly flammable cellulose nitrate base. There were still portrait photographers, there were still commercial photographers and there would be the intervening novelty of Edwin Land’s Polaroid but essentially all the pieces of amateur photography were in place by 1908 and nothing would change dramatically until digital photography.

artsupply

The invention of photography did not kill the art – in fact in spite of so-called modern art being moribund [or at least of interest to cultural morticians] – the arts continue to flourish and they did in the Galveston of the day with water colors, seascapes in oil and portraiture being much in demand.  In 1908 Margaret Edythe Young was in Chicago studying art at the Institute while living and receiving teacher training at the Sisters of Mercy convent. One winter however proved enough – if not too much and she returned to Galveston and pursued her art and acted as a governess for her younger sister, Laureene, and for her older sister’s [Florence] children. One of my father’s old bon mots was to refer to the United States and Galveston but as a leading city of its day just about everything was there and anything lacking would arrive on the next train or ship.

The Religious Sisters of Mercy were known from their founding as the “walking sisters” because their foundress, Catherine McAuley, came late to her vocation and was in her 50’s before she used an inheritance to organize their institute, and they did not live in a cloister but went among the poor that they served and taught. This was something of a revolution – and a scandal – in the Dublin of 1831 but by the time they arrived in Chicago in 1846 it garnered not a second glance. Their curriculum would have fit in any American university of its day as well as a sampling of the questions in Margaret Edythe Young’s Lessons in English Literature by Murray indicates:

  • What is the name of Jonson’s first comedy and what are its merits?
  • What are the merits of Hudibras as a burlesque poem?
  • What can you say of Alexander’s Feast, an Ode in Honor of St. Cecilia’s Day
  • What is to be said of the merit, rank and variety of Newman’s writing?

tremonthotel

The Beach Hotel had burned in 1898, before the 1900 Storm had a chance to wash it away, and the Galvez would not open for another four years. The Strand was still the commercial center of the island and although there were diversions spread all over the island the opera house and the theaters were close by – as were Labadies and Outterside, Eimer and LaFrance. In the middle of all of this was the Tremont House, a name and a location that had survived revolution, war, fire and flood. Quoting rates of $2.50 to $4.00 a day on the American plan – three meals a day included – still made it a good deal more expensive than the immigrant hotels that ran from 50 cents to a dollar a day. Although the hotels offered commercial lodging some took extended stays, like Charles Sweeney’s brother, who lived in a room and used the sample room as his stevedoring office or Joseph Deghuee who attempted to teach John Young [MEY's brother] Steiger’s colloquial Method of Learning the German Language which we must admit and equal ignorance of and an inability to offer any of the questions from the text we still have. One hundred and fifteen years ignorance of German may not be anything to be proud of but from brother to grandson to great-grandson we do at least display a dogged, if not remarkable, ignorance.

bodinehotel

Galveston’s Nicholas J. Clayton had built the first public building in Texas will electric lights in 1881 with the Galveston Electric Pavilion but after the 1900 Storm there was a need for an attraction to keep the bathers who used Murdoch’s bath house entertained in the evening and on the island as overnight guests. The plan was to build a Coney Island type attraction and the electric trolley company built the Electric Park to fill the need. Against the backdrop of the Gulf an aerial swing 50 feet high, shooting galleries, and a roller coaster called a Figure Eight along with the Cave of the Winds for those willing to descend in darkness as gusts of air blew on them, all of it illuminated by six thousand bright electric lights it had to be a spectacle to behold. You could get red snapper at Murdoch’s and crabs at the Crab House that was so close everybody thought it was part of the park and if you had no desire to be thrilled you could enjoy the music from the bandstand or the nightly firework displays and if you were on an excursion you could stay at Bodine’s – the new hotel just across the street – or if you were a business man you could take the trolley back to the Tremont.

gregorytransferGalveston was still in the age of the horse and buggy – even if you could catch a fast train [about 60 hours] to New York or a steamer to just about anywhere [not quite so fast since the Panama Canal would not open until 1914] – and the homes of the well to do had stables and grooms or, as in the case of the Young family, a gardener/groom but considering that it was ten miles from one end of the island to the other and that the central part of the island was only about five miles long and two miles deep a horse was about all that was needed and with the trolley’s operating and bicycles available Galveston was a very mobile city. How odd it is that the island hasn’t really grown but it is much harder to get around these days.

This was Galveston in 1908 – the new century was eight years old but would take another four years to really take hold – and while the marvels of engineering were going on every day and the gizmos and gadgets of modern life were starting to make themselves apparent it was a leisurely transition.

 

 

Morrison and Fourmy’s General Directory – Part 7 – 1904

By 1904 Galveston had by all external signs recovered from the 1900 Storm. It was a presidential election year and despite the latter-day adulation of Theodore Roosevelt by Texas conservatives – who may be a little uncertain of ALL of his positions – Texas and Galveston held with the yellow dog South and voted for Alton B. Parker and Henry G. Davis, the Democratic candidates for president and vice-president whose positions would make current day Republicans look like a bunch of socialists. America – and Galveston with it – was firmly in the grasp of peace and prosperity and if this entry seems a little boring it is the kind of boring that we long for so return with us now to those wonderful days of yesteryear and enjoy a better time in America.

bicycles

Nicholas Descomps Labadie had in impeccable Texas pedigree having come here in 1831, having fought under Gen. Sidney Sherman and tended the wounded at San Jacinto, having traded his plantation on Lake Charlotte to Michel B. Menard for Galveston wharf rights and built Labadie’s Wharf near the foot of Twenty-sixth Street and having served as examining physician for draftees in 1863 and as surgeon of the First Regiment, Texas Militia, in Galveston during the Southern War for Independence. His descendents remained on the island and continued to play roles in businesses there.  E. H. Labadie was a patron of the arts and in addition to framing pictures conducted an “art room” that served as a gallery for many of the island aspiring artists including Margaret Edythe Young it is a little amusing to think she may have ridden one of his bicycles to bring her work to his gallery but then again the art world was far more innocent – and far less effete – in those days.

oleandercity

In the ongoing fight against saloons and drinking it is very likely that Margaret Edythe Young and her friends enjoyed carbonated beverages including those produced by Italian immigrant Charles Casentini. His company would be a soldier in the early cola wars and see its product, Kos-Cola, fall by the wayside as Coca-Cola came to displace almost all of its competitors. But in the early days his products would have been favored by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union who favored prohibition to help prevent the domestic violence that was blamed on husbands who drank. These same women broadened their goals and pressured the legislature for laws authorizing reformatories to keep children from being incarcerated with adult criminals. Then they fought for alcohol education in the public schools, forbidding the sale of cigarettes to minors, and raising the age of consent for girls from ten to twelve in 1891, to fifteen in 1895, and to eighteen in 1918.  While it is highly unlikely that she ever drank anything stronger than sarsaparilla as the grand-daughter, daughter and sister of saloon keepers – or former saloon keepers – and as an Irish Catholic it is highly unlikely that she was ever involved with the WCTU.

lumbercompany

In early Texas sash mills consisting of a single blade held in a frame and powered by water or animals cut crude lumber, one board at a time, and produced 500 to 1,200 board feet a day. These were supplanted by larger mills featuring circular saws that could cut more than 25,000 board feet of lumber a day which, by the end of the nineteenth century, had been replaced by the big mill – with a daily capacity of 80,000 to 100,000 board feet per day. The importance of Galveston as a business and transportation center as well as its proximity to the forests of East Texas made it a natural location for a lumber company.

The Peach River Pine delivered the cutting from the 14,000 acre reservation of the Walker County School District – the way they supported their public schools – and the red cypress lumber, which is now considered so fine as to be used only for furniture, were considered not only the staple of building timber, dock pilings and railroad ties but also for residential construction.  Building construction and comfort were facilitated by mass production of building components, frame houses were given elaborate gingerbread trim made possible by the jigsaw and an organized fire departments reduced the amount of damage caused by fires. All of the houses belonging to the Young family in Galveston were wooden frame structures and although the first burned in 1898 it did not takes its neighbors with it and while its replacement finally succumbed to the Storm of 1947 the house that Anthony Lewis Bettencourt moved into with his new bride – Margaret Edythe Bettencourt [nee Young] in 1912 still stands.

plumber

During the last two decades of the nineteenth century, waterworks, sewerage systems, electric-light companies, gas works, ice plants, telephone systems, and rail transportation all improved sanitation and afforded numerous conveniences in many towns. For interior comfort, ventilation devices were introduced, steam heat was developed, and electrical lighting was installed in many buildings. If you look at the architecture of Galveston you will find high ceilings, floor to ceiling windows and interior sash doors that open to allow whatever breezes there were to flow through the houses – the Bettencourt house on Avenue L was built one storey off the ground not only to create a utilizable space for a house with no yard otherwise but also to keep it dry and well ventilated and to that end the central hall ran most of the length of the house and had a skylight that also acted as a ventilator.

Galveston had led the way with public electrification in the state with Nicholas J. Clayton having built Galveston Electric Pavilion in 1881, the first building in Texas with electric lighting but the process of electrification was a slow one depending on coal-fired generation – a hydroelectric plant had been completed on the Colorado River to supply Austin in 1900 and was expected to produce 14,000 horsepower [a little over a million watts] but produced only 900 horsepower [just under 7,000 watts] during the summer when the river was down – so residential electrification was minimal at best powering light fixtures in better homes.

Even the light fixtures may have been gas-powered since Galveston had in 1856 been the first city with public gas lighting. It was the difficulty and expense of connecting residences to this system that led many to manufacture their own gas using the less than safe stems that cost the Young’s a daughter and a home in 1898. Rebuilding after the 1900 Storm meant that the system could be made safer and its products distributed as a domestic utility – mostly for lighting and cooking – but also for heating in that it could be used to fire a boiler for steam heat.

Residential indoor plumbing, gas and electric lighting, cooking and heating were all in their infancy on their way to quickly becoming commonplaces not only in public building and great houses but also in the homes of the burgeoning middle class and – as a market driven necessity – in the properties that they owned and rented to the poor. Anthony Lewis Bettencourt would for a time work with his brother in a partnership that provided electric and gas fittings until his brother, Arlindo [not quite as anglicized as Toni Luis], moved to Paris, Texas to help rebuild the city after it nearly burned to the ground.

singerbooksplus

Galveston was still THE port in the western Gulf and most of its industry was centered around shipping but there was also the Medical Branch of the University of Texas, the only Jesuit university on the Gulf coast west of New Orleans, banking and insurance companies that had grown with the port but expanded beyond shipping and the army of clerks that kept everything afloat on the sea of paper. While Clarke & Courts were the preeminent printers on the Island, J. Singer was the business book binder – even if he did do double, if not triple, duty by acting as a custom’s house broker/freight forwarder and insurance agent. There is a lesson in the evidence that a man could not make a living in the shipping or book business exclusively if I could only discern it.

fowlermcvitie

One of the oldest shipping agencies in Galveston was Fowler McVitie and it was at this time one of the largest. McVitie was a Scotsman who had sought his fortune in Australia and retired to London and was running a fleet of colliers. Since the steamships of the day were coal-fired – as were the power plants for most industries – there was a market in Galveston for coal. Add to this the fact that the ships that brought coal in could bring cotton – or increasingly grain – back and you had a shipping bonanza. In a true show of genius bring in a relative of  Charles Crocker [one of the "Big Four"  who controlled the Southern Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroad Company, which built the western end of the original transcontinental railroad]as one of your partners and it is very little wonder that your firm would endure for most of the 20th century as well.

hoppeshotel

Whether it was a barque of 250 tons arriving in 1841  with passengers John Jones, Michael Wilson, Charles Hayes, William Rice, Richard Thompson, Charles Wells, John Thomas, H Wales, William Walker, A McDowell, William Wright, Peter Donaldson, John Jackson, A Powell, R Newton, J Sharp, Cargo includes 4 tons Whalebone, 74 tons black oil and 13 casks bottled beer, or one of the countless steamers that would deliver 133,000 immigrants to Galveston in the opening years of the 20th century they had to have someplace to stay and hotels like Hoppe’s served the need. It was only a block away from the Union Station, four-stories high and built of  red brick that was the pride of Galveston when it opened in 1887. The station boasted seven tracks for passenger trains with rails extending three blocks out to 28th Street where they converged into two main-line tracks, joining other railroads leading to the trestle bridge that connected to the mainland and the object of most immigrants was not to remain in Galveston but to go west, find land and turn it into farms and prosperity – and most did.

washingtonhotel

The other type of hotel that was prospering was the business / residential hotel like the Washington. It had been built in 1873 by John Parker Davie as the Cosmopolitan Hotel and was located among a number of fashionable hostelries and shops in the Strand district. Davie was a merchant [who left an endowment to provide scholarships for blacksmiths and boilermakers that is now used to funds students in healthcare careers (sic)] who sold the building  in 1878 to John Summers, who renamed it the Washington Hotel after an earlier inn by that name which was destroyed in the Galveston fire of 1877. While Davie’s hardware store occupied the first and fourth floors of the east end of the building the ground floor of the west end provided space for the hotel lobby, restaurant and retail shops. For many years there was a plaque in front of the building that had a photograph engraved on it that showed ladies sitting in the second floor windows with both the placers of the plaque and the average tourist blissfully unaware of why they were there – at this point, dear and gentle reader, we shall draw the curtain on this entry.