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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Galveston 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.