Tag Archives: history

Faces to go with Names.

Here is a portrait of James A Graham (1855-1925) and Viola Alice (Allie) Kelly (1858-1923), my great, great grandparents referenced in the last obituary post.


James A Graham (1855-1925) and Viola Alice (Allie) Kelly (1858-1923)


Remembrance in the 1920s Newspaper.

While my mind is still musing on the modern-day obits section of the newspaper, here are two obituaries from my Ohio side of the family. James A Graham (1855-1925) and Viola Alice (Allie) Kelly (1858-1923) are my great, great grandparents. They lived in Adams County, Ohio at the end of both of their lives.

The obits are actually pretty diverse. James’ spends a good deal of time detailing his last day of life, while Allie’s focuses primarily on her virtuousness. Could it be gender at play, or diversity in obit author styles?

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Obituaries for James A Graham (1855-1925) and Viola Alice (Allie) Kelly (1858-1923)

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the MLIS

The future is a way harder concept to grasp than the past. At the former Acres of Books in Long Beach, 2008

The future is a way harder concept to grasp than the past. Acres of Books in Long Beach, 2008 (RIP)

I started out the Master in Library and Information Science program super-enthusiastic (new program syndrome), but quickly realized that taking multiple classes and working full time was a recipe for a time crunch. I made space for things here and there – the occasional outing and wedding things. Overall it’s been an endurance test, but now that I’m closing out on my first (successful) semester I’m feeling a little more confident about time management and sanity. I can do this!

I definitely had a breaking point about midway through and turned into a hermit with a lot of repressed stress that I think I pretty successfully hid from everyone around me, aside from the occasional whiny sorry excuse for why I couldn’t go to happy hour or couldn’t go on a hike or couldn’t [insert activity here]. I’ve gotta remember that this is a marathon, and not a sprint. That would probably be my #1 advice for anyone starting an online graduate program while also working full time.

#2 is don’t feel guilty if you need to go home from work and watch five episodes of Daredevil while having popcorn and beer for dinner. Because those nights are an important counterbalance to those ridiculous days where you have a bunch of meetings at work, projects to jam through, and then you have to come home and search databases, read articles, and produce some sort of writing piece that doesn’t sound like gibberish.

History is my true love. I came to it via writing (the two are practically conjoined twins sometimes), and I will always love history the bestest. Library science is a more practical skill set. It has its mumbojumbo like any discipline, but it is the tool that delivers my love. The pizza delivery guy that brings the Pacific Veggie (which BTW is great fuel for writing a 28 page research paper in one weekend).

As a special collections library person I can work on saving the past, which is cheesy but true. Just call me indoor Indiana Jones. (“It belongs in a museum!” or: “I belong in a museum!”) Now if I could just get better at embracing the present and not stressing about the future I’d be all set.

Application for a Date with a Seabee

While working with 20th century archival materials I think a lot about the privacy of the individuals represented in archives that have no idea some physical detritus of their earlier years is preserved for others to access. Access is one of the primary intentions of preserving anything in an archives, and even temporary restrictions are best avoided, but sometimes you have to look out for people.

There aren’t too many things in my family papers that need restriction before being launched online, but I felt compelled to be a little extra cautious with this Application for a Date with a Seabee from the 1950s. It’s tucked into my grandpa Donald Hickman’s scrapbook (the one that served in the Navy, including a tour in the Philippines). I doubt this individual (it’s not my Grandma) still lives in the same house in Oklahoma, and you wouldn’t get too far with a four digit phone number these days, but just in case.

There’s a blank form and a filled out version in my grandpa’s papers, but the filled out one is way more fun! I don’t know the form’s origin story, but it’s fun to think about really serious questions like: do you think the french kiss will replace the toothbrush?


Grade E in Sandy Springs, Ohio.

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My great grandma Edith Graham wasn’t too into school, at least during the 1901-1902 year. What came before the “F” for fail grade? An E!

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My recreational life, with some exceptions, is mostly described as “school” these days. I’m so used to the A-B-C-D-F system, that it’s funny to think about past alternatives.

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I’m okay not leaving footprints, though I do want to examine the impressions that are already out there in the sands of time. It feels a little mean to post a bad report card on the internet, but she kept it and it made it to 2015, so it must’ve not been all that terrible a memory!

Cincinnati Public Housing: Winton Terrace

When my great grandpa William Howard Furnier passed away in 1940, he left behind his wife Edith Myrtle (nee Graham) and their two kids.  Sometime around then she moved to the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority project Winton Terrace.  In my Grandpa’s (Edith’s son’s) papers there are newsletters from Winton Terrace in the latter half of the 20th century.  This one particularly caught my eye for its colorful cover and anniversary theme.

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Unfortunately there isn’t much history inside the newsletter, aside from this page making a special tribute to the families that moved in when Winton Terrace first opened (including my great grandma):


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The auto-fill that pops up when I type Winton Terrace into a Google search bar looks something like:

winton terrace beating

winton terrace fights

winton terrace cincinnati shooting

winton terrace cincinnati oh fight

The history of Winton Terrace

My Cincinnati and public housing history knowledge isn’t very sharp, so I don’t feel qualified to really dig into the social-cultural issues that make up Winton Terrace’s history and present.  (Best thing found in a quick online search is this report.)

I asked relatives about their memories of Winton Terrace. The small details of kid memory get me the most, like my aunt remembering “Grandma’s bricks on her aluminum garbage cans.” Memories from multiple family members about their Grandma (my great grandma) threatening (but never hitting) them with a flyswatter when they misbehaved.

I want to know more, but I started grad school this year and stuff got pretty real in February, so I have to set aside in-depth personal research for research of the school and work variety for now. But Winton Terrace will be hanging around in the back of my mind for awhile. That tension between the hope of public housing and the reality of decades of aging and change, and how personal memories and contemporary stereotypes about housing projects shape the conversation. Lots of questions; lots and lots of questions.

(P.S. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth is a really good documentary on a public housing project in St. Louis.)

Hipsters and the NRA

I recently had a conversation with a friend about how I have a lot of hipster-style leanings and I tend to want to go to hipsterville locales.  Despite this, I have a hard time proclaiming myself a hipster.  In a Catch-22 way declaring you’re not a hipster but love hipster style or have always been into hipster style somehow makes you doubly a hipster.  (Best hipster joke: Why did the hipster burn the roof of his mouth eating pizza?  He ate it before it was cool.)

At the heart of negative feelings about hipsterism is a disdain for ironic usage of stuff and a lack of authenticity.  The problem I have with calling myself a hipster is that I am actually fully in love with things old.  My 1960s-ish hipster glasses are cool because they look old, not because they are so uncool they are cool.  I pay my rent and feed my face thanks to history.  I’m in painful depths of debt because of studying history in college (undergrad and grad).  If my closet has vintage and my favorite places to go are old buildings, it’s not because I’m trying to be cool, but because old crap is my preferred way of life.  I’ve just lucked out that retro is so in right now, which makes a lot of old leaning styles more accessible.

So I don’t live a life of irony, I live a life that is authentically me.  That’s pretty much been my M.O. my entire life, and I’ve taken plenty of slack for it, so I’m just going to enjoy that what is me and what is hip decided to cross paths in my 20s.  The only thing that’s really changed as an adult is that I have more freedom in making choices in what I purchase and where I go at any given point in time.  I’d say my style has changed because I can actually go out and purchase old clothes and I’ve realized that particular decades look better on me.  I wear a lot more 1950s and 1960s style stuff because it looks good on me, not because it’s trendy or ironic. (On a side note, can we kill the word ironic, along with literally and interesting, because these words have pretty much become so overused they’re meaningless.  Everytime I use the word “interesting” I feel so lazy and disappointed in my vocab choice.  Though maybe to everyone their own since someone told me they thought awesome was overused and I love awesome.  Awesome is an awesome word.)

Now this all sort of leads to where I wanted to start in the beginning.  I have an NRA poster in my living room.  Now, to modern day readers this probably conjures up images of guns (whatever your political inclinations are then determines whether it’s a small child shot down at an unjust age or a bad ass looking hunter exercising his amendment rights).  But to me, NRA = a love for things 1930s, an admiration of President Roosevelt, and an interest in the politics of the time.  Because to me NRA means National Recovery Administration.

I had some hesistation about sticking this up in my living room.  I don’t expect non-history people to have any association with NRA other than the often maligned/often celebrated group centered on gun issues.  But it’s a cool original poster that makes me think of my favorite decade to study (and also makes me think of the Shanghai Lil musical number from Footlight Parade – all good things).

There is also a tiny part of me that thinks its pretty cool to have an inside joke on my wall (the inside being all the people into early 20th century history).  I’ve already confused one non-history person, who was concerned I was a big National Rifle Association fan after seeing the poster in one room and an outline of Texas in another room.  It’s the 1930s and where my brother lives – no guns involved at all.  Does my pleasure in confusing people make me a hipster?  It doesn’t matter because I love my old timey poster and the warm fuzzy history feelings that it conjures.

I might be a food hipster though.  That I might agree with.

Pico Adobe, Los Angeles, California

Inside the Pico Adobe

Inside Pico Adobe

One of the things that I love about Los Angeles, but also one of the things that makes its history so enigmatic, is the tendency to find very historic things next to very unglamorous things.  Earlier this week I got a chance to visit the Pico Adobe.  When it was built there was only one other second story house in existence in all of Los Angeles (according to the docent).  The core of the structure was built in 1834 and additional rooms were added on in following years.  Although it was blazing hot outside it was cool and comfortable inside, and I marveled at the usefulness of old timey construction methods.

The adobe is in the northernmost reaches of metro Los Angeles – and right next to a trailer park.  This juxtaposition of über historic California craftsmanship with a cluster of small thin walled dwellings is somehow appealing.  It’s this sort of tucked away quirkiness of Los Angeles history that often makes it difficult to parse, but also gives it its charm.

In the backyard of the Pico Adobe

In the backyard of the Pico Adobe

Boardwalk Empire Odds and Ends.

More stuff floating around in notepads that I wrote during the most recent Boardwalk Empire season:

Textured walls and people in the corner of the frame.  Oh god, I already want to watch last night’s Boardwalk Empire episode again!

Everyone rightfully praises Breaking Bad.  It’s a tightly written story with really deliberate framing of scenes.  When something is put into a shot you know it will have some sort of significance.  It’s that attention to small (usually) inanimate objects that gives the show it’s driving force.  It can be a slow show at times, but you always know there is some sort of payoff waiting at the end of the storyline.

Boardwalk Empire also has a slow, methodical pace punctured by bursts of violent action.  There are more characters and the varied storylines are more dispersed, so the structure of the show is ultimately different.  “Attention to detail” also takes on a different meaning in this 1920s prohibition world.  While Breaking Bad’s contemporary settings are studded with items of interest, the Boardwalk world is an entire scene of detail.

The beginning to this season was especially slow.  At times I wished there were less characters to follow because the first three episodes were like getting the 1924 sampler platter.  Lots of tasty, carefully arranged nibbles that left you looking at the clock, hoping dinner would start soon before your stomach starts eating itself.

Things finally started to roll with “Acres of Diamonds.”  Thought I sometimes think there need to be less characters, I really like the college storyline with Nucky’s nephew.  The collegiate and youth culture of the 1920s is a different landscape that the show hadn’t gone to before.

Historical dramas can occasionally get kind of stagey or look hokey in their costuming and set design.  Part of me wonders what I’m not seeing because I’m a person of 2013, and I’m curious to see how the show looks from the perspective of 2030.  I think it’ll hold up pretty well, but time will tell.


Sometimes I think I like all the characters on Boardwalk Empire that all the general internet fans dislike.  I’ve always been a huge Margaret fan (though my fandom did lapse a bit went she went all Catholic guilt churchy).  This season I actually like the Willie storyline.  It’s fun to go inside the 1920s collegiate world, and Willie is a great contrast with Jimmy Darmody.

Sure, Jimmy had a partial college experience, but the flashbacks to his college storyline in the 1910s presented a very different atmosphere.  He left college for the hardknocks Army school and lived through terrible World War I battles that scarred him emotionally and physically.  Even before he joined the military he had a crazy upbringing with very, ermph, untraditional family relationships.

On the other side of the coin, Willie was born into a powerful rich family.  Though his dad Eli hasn’t exactly been father of the year material, he has always had a mom and dad in some fashion, as well as a herd of siblings.  He grew up in a nice home and got to go to a nice college because his family had the leverage and bucks.  Not his fractured adopted family, but his own flesh and blood, as an earlier episode this season reminded us.

Both characters leave college against the wish of elder Thompsons, but their motivations for leaving have a lot to say about the differences in their characters.  Willie poisons and accidentally kills a fellow classmate over some immature teasing.  He was publically embarrassed and rather than live through the embarrassment and move on, he takes it extremely personally and wants a public show of revenge.  He clearly has a sense of entitlement.  He knows which family he comes from, and he doesn’t consider the consequences of his actions because he has the Thompson family safety net.

Jimmy’s safety net was always tenuous.  Even though he had Nucky as ally, they weren’t related, and his life never had any truly reliable family members.  When he went off to fight in WWI he needed an escape, and he made his reckless decision fully aware that it could be his death.  WWI served as Jimmy’s emotional death, and it only took a few mistakes before Nucky made it his physical death too.  The brutal and violent physicality of Jimmy is a manifestation of all the wrongs he was served in life and how his connection with reality and security was tenuous from birth.

I don’t think Willie thought of poisoning his enemy, leaving college, and pegging the murder on his friend and roommate as a death sentence.  I don’t think he realized the levity of his actions until after they occurred, while I think Jimmy was fully conscious that his decisions placed him on a death tightrope.  Willie doesn’t seem to have that same suicidal bent.

Willie seems to embody the roaring twenties cliches more than Jimmy.  To me, Jimmy was always a product or embodiment of the legacy of modern warfare and a domestic byproduct of late 19th century machine boss politics.  His life had more to say about the 1900s and 1910s.

Willie’s a spoiled rich kid who seems to think the world owes him something.  Even though Nucky gives him Ragged Dick, I don’t think he’s going to take Horatio Alger to heart – the 1920s ethos is to get rich quick and have a good time in the city.  Though willie says he wants to work hard and earn his way in life, the Alger protagonist is a hero for older generations.  It’s only a matter of time before Willie gets swept up into mess of the 1920s and his personal Great Depression hits.

As I said earlier, I do like the Willie character, and part of me hopes that he turns out to be a stronger presence and less of a pawn for sussing out the Nucky and Eli relationship.

Me in DNA form.

Freshly opened DNA kit!

Freshly opened DNA kit!

So I decided to spit in a tube, drop it in a mailbox, and get my DNA analyzed via AncestryDNA (the ancestry.com DNA test, not the other one floating around on Groupon).  It was incredibly simple and the results of the test analysis showed up a couple weeks earlier than I’d anticipated.  Win, win, win.

1. Spit in tube after not eating for awhile.


Drooool. (After at least 30 minutes of not eating – don’t want to contaminate your precious cargo.)

2. Close tube cap and release spit DNA preservation stuff.  Oooo, it’s blue!


Spit enhanced by blue preservation substance.

3. Remove tube funnel and screw on the tube cap.  Place the tube in the biohazard envelope.  Oooo, your spit is a biohazard!

Radioactive....but not.

Radioactive….but not.

4. Place the tube+envelope in the mailer and drop it off at your nearest postal pick-up locale.

Have a safe trip little vial of spit!

Have a safe trip little vial of spit!

5. Wait as patiently as possible. (taps foot -> tap, tap, tap, tap)

6.  Get extremely excited when an e-mail shows up in your inbox announcing your results are ready!  Whoo!


Me in regional DNA estimate form.  It’s like my high-tech selfie.  Oooo, I feel so exposed. (P.S. This is much more readable if you click the image and plaster it across your monitor.)

For the most part I found what I was expecting to find.  I really hoped I was at least a dash American Indian, so that was an exciting find.  The trace of Asia Central was unexpected but not entirely surprising.  The most surprising was the 9% estimate for Iberian Peninsula.

On my paternal side I’m Japanese and a mishmash of European – German, French, Irish, and English mostly.  These ancestors lived in the Ohio/Kentucky/Pennsylvania/Maryland region.

On the maternal side I’m half Eastern European (Polish and Slovene) and a mishmash of European.  I’m still working on researching back further, but so far the European side seems likely to be English/Scottish/Irish.  This group of Euro settlers mostly began in North Carolina, migrated to Tennessee, and then later to Texas and Oklahoma.

I’m really not sure which side (or both?) the Iberian peninsula comes from!  I thought maybe it could be southern France, but the last French ancestor I had intermarried into other communities back in the 1700s, so 9% seemed a little excessive for such a distant ancestor.  I’m also not sure where in France my ancestor came from.  We (the family in general) are pretty certain our French ancestor was Huguenot – I’m not sure if this could have some contribution to the mystery.

My actual initial thought was that there was maybe a connection to Slovenia.  It’s a bit of a leap maybe, but in non-DNA percentages I’m 25% Eastern European, so initially I looked to the other percentages to see why the Eastern European estimate was so low.  The more I think about it, the more obscure this connection seems.  I haven’t found any evidence to back up this knee-jerk theory.  I know the DNA that gets passed down to you doesn’t split 50/50 from each parent and I really don’t know if my Eastern European ancestors moved around a bunch in the past couple hundred years.  I just know that they lived in those particular countries before coming to the U.S. circa 1900.

I also read some stuff online about a possible migratory connection between the Iberian peninsula and Ireland, leaving it possible that a couple of my Irish ancestors might have lived on the Iberian peninsula at one point?  I’m not sure.  I need to do some more reading and researching.  I just feel pretty certain that there isn’t a hidden recent ancestor from Portugal/Spain/Southern France/Northern Africa.  But universe, go ahead and surprise me!

I don’t have any documentation of Scandinavian relatives on either side of the family, but I imagine that has something to do with the migration of Scandinavian groups to the British Isles way back in old timey Viking days.  That seems like a pretty straightforward possibility.  Dang, Britain and Western Europe have a pretty strong showing.  Makes sense, but just looks like such a big number to have all those odds and ends of British and Western European ancestors grouped in one percentage.  I don’t tend to think of that part of my ancestry as cohesive since they’ve all been in the U.S. for so long – I tend to think more distinctly about the cultural/ethnic identities of my 20th century immigrant ancestors.

My Mom tells me her dad (of the generally North Carolina->Tennessee->Texas/Oklahoma branch) always said he was “‘Merican” when asked what he was.  Ultimately, that is what I am too!  Americans often get a bad rap (that is also often earned), but I’m happy and proud to be one.  Somebody get me a Stars and Stripes to wave!

All in all, totally worth it.  It was my birthday present from my parents and definitely exactly what I wanted.  🙂