While researching that last post I came across some great photos of Edie and House in the Broadway archives at the Museum of the City of New York. It appears the permissions unlicensed use of these pictures on a web page, but they do allow for social media sharing, so I created a Pinterest board for these images. Go take a look! I’ll put other online archive finds up there, such as covers for the pulps that ran Malcolm’s stories. There won’t be private pictures there, just links to images at other sources. (Yes, another thing I’m going to make you go look at.)
You know how you sometimes forget you already knew something? That’s what happened with me when it comes to (my great-great aunt-by-marriage) Edie’s previous marriage. I’d long suspected that House wasn’t her first husband, given her age and the age difference between them, but it completely slipped my mind that I’d found and saved a snippet of info that confirmed this.
So after writing last week’s post and realizing there were all sorts of little clues leading in the direction of an earlier marriage, I looked Edie up in some other family trees on Ancestry and found “Thomas Earle Browne” listed as her first husband whom she married in Canada. Of course Ancestry won’t let me see the Canadian record without signing up for their international plan, but the metadata lists the year as 1912, when Edie was around 18. (So Wikipedia was partially right: she married someone that year, but not House).
When I saw the name Thomas Earle Browne I looked back in my Evernote files and remembered that I’d snipped this thing from Google Books, where it had appeared in a theatre magazine from the late 1910s:
Then another search on Ancestry showed Edie and Earle living together on 83rd street in the 1920 census. So there you go. From what I can tell, Earle Browne was a screenwriter and actor with a handful of Broadway and early film supporting role credits. He was nearly 20 years older than Edie and died in LA in 1944. Here’s a picture of him I found.
Still no idea when Edie and House were married—or for that matter, when Edie’s divorce took place. Looking up an actress in the marriage and divorce announcements on Ancestry winds up being a hilarious fool’s errand, since apparently the database flags instances of the word “engaged” appearing alongside names, so every article about Edie being engaged to appear in a production of “Private Lives” or “Young Wisdom” comes up in the search results. And did the fact that Edie married Earle Browne in Canada meant perhaps that the divorce had to be filed in Canada? Is that how it worked? Both Edie and House went through Canada on their way to and from an Australian theater tour in 1930, so maybe they tied the knot then? (I also have a few other questions which I don’t want to put on a public site… anyone who knows anything should email me!)
Way back in late 2012 I promised to post my photos from New York, where I’d visited places where the Jamesons and MacGregors (well, Margaret at least) had lived in the 1930s and 40s. So here’s 244 E. 48th Street in Manhattan. The building shows up in a photo album that belonged to (my great-great uncle) House Jameson and his wife. Edith:
But since there are almost no notes or captions the album (shakes fist at ancestors ) I didn’t know this was the 48th Street place until I went there myself, using an address that I’d found for House in the 1930 census. And as it happened, it looked almost exactly the same:
Obviously this was an ideal location for House and Edie, who were both performing in Broadway plays on a regular basis at the time (and House’s radio career might have started by then too).
But apparently, for a time, House’s brother and his family lived in the building too. Here’s the 1930 listing for all four of them—Malcolm and Mary (my great-grandparents), 13 year-old Vida, and 11 year-old Mac, my grandfather.
The family posted for several photos at this spot. When I visited this street, I noticed those ornaments between the windows on the top story of one of the buildings across the street, and they helped me confirm I was in the right place. Cool, huh?
According to the census record, Malcolm was working as a salesman for International Correspondence Schools at the time. He had retired from the Navy just a few years before for health reasons, and after working various jobs in Texas (I think), perhaps it seemed a good idea to join his younger brother in the city. I also found a brief mention of this time in a journal written in the 1990s by my grandmother (Mac’s wife), who said that Malcolm and Mary had originally come to New York with plans to open a Mexican restaurant. Really?
House had been in the city after graduating from Columbia in the late 1920s (except for the times he toured with theater companies around the US and Australia). I’ve found a couple of other Manhattan addresses for House, but in at least one case the entire block had been razed for office buildings. This block on East 48th is relatively unchanged, although the 244 building has since been rehabbed into a single-family home that sold for over four million dollars a few years ago. (It originally listed for $12M!) But at the time the Jamesons lived there the building had several units, with Malcolm and Mary and the kids in one apartment and House and Edie in another. At least that’s what it seems when you go by the 1930 Census, which visited Malcolm’s place one day, and House’s place a few weeks later.
You’ll notice that Edie is listed as head of household, and House is a “roomer.” Interesting! But weren’t they married to each other by then? We thought so, but the census lists “Edith Brown Taliaferro” as married and House as single. Oh my. Of course census records get stuff wrong all the time, and it’s possible that the census-taker didn’t know how else to list two people with two different last names (which House and Edie had for professional reasons) living in the same place. Or perhaps the place had been Edie’s first and her name was on the lease. (She was ten years older than House, after all.) Or maybe House and Edie were having a bit of fun with the census-taker. At any rate it makes me realize that we don’t seem to have a record or even a date for when House and Edie got hitched. Edie’s Wikipedia page says she married House in 1912, but that would have been when House was ten, so let’s assume that was wrong. Perhaps Edie married someone in 1912…maybe that’s where the odd “Brown” in her name in the census record (which I’ve never seen anywhere else) comes from. But I guess I’ll have to add House and Edie’s marriage record/date to the list of things I need to look for.
Stay tuned for more New York photos (at some point), including one photo—the only one I’ve ever found!—that shows Edie with other Jameson family members. And I bet you want to see more House and Edie, too, don’t you?
Remember these gals? My great-grandmother Mary and her four sisters. When we last saw them they were little girls in white dresses in south Texas around 1900. Their mother was Anna Jones MacGregor (whose baby photo we saw in the last post) and their father was Dr. W.W. MacGregor (bearded wonder doctor and one-time superintendent of an insane asylum). It’s been a few years, and now the Sisters MacG have grown up into… young women in white dresses in south Texas.
(They were on the Mexico border, though, and it must have been hot. White probably was a good choice.)
My guess is that these photos were taken around 1907 or 1908, with Mary in her late teens, Margaret around 13 or 14, and Kathryn around 12. (Was 15 the age girls graduated to longer skirts?)
Here’s Anna, who would have been just out of her teens, old enough to occasionally don black dresses and alarming corsets:
Letter to Anna Jones MacGregor (my great-great grandmother), who was exactly three weeks old at the time, from her aunt Hannah Moore. It’s one of the first letters I transcribed, and it’s so completely charming that it was worth the effort:
Corpus Christi TexasMay 23 1862My dear little NieceWelcome three welcome to this beautiful world of ours May yours be a life of sunshine and happiness A blessing all around you.Grand Pa told us of your arrival as soon as he came. The news was received with many smiles and exclamations from your many Aunts and Uncles.Uncle Chappie declared he could not sleep for thinking of you. And call himself Uncle Chappie all day. Aunt Nelie says she will nurse you and take the greatest care imaginable of you —If you are pretty. But she seem to doubt that. She has some things to hand down to you as soon as Mama can trust you with them.I fear you will find Uncle John a rough but loving Uncle. Aunt Maggie will be as patient as possible with you.All the servants from Aunt Peggie down had some comment to make about you, wondering if you looked (like) your Pa or Ma.We are all very anxious to hear from and see you.Ask your Pa to write soon and describe you to us.Perhaps you will wonder what use to make of letters. The best use to make of mine is to pull them out of your Mama’s hand and tare it to pieces for amusement.Don’t let Grandma spoil you while she is up there. You had better come down with her and visit the sea shore.Kiss yourself in the glass for me. Give my best love to Pa Ma and Grandma and accept a large share for yourself from your loving “Aunt Hannah.”
Anna’s records show she was born in Montgomery, Texas, about 250 miles from Corpus Christi. “Aunt Hannah” is Hannah Moore, sister to Anna’s mother Mary Ann Moore, who was 23 at the time of her first daughter’s birth.
Down in Corpus Christi, Hannah was 19, apparently still living at home with a passel of mostly younger siblings—all of whom, from the sounds of of this letter, had just become uncles and aunts for the first time and were thrilled to bits. “Uncle Chappie,” AKA Elisha Chapman Moore, who was nine at the time; Cornelia, AKA “Nelie,” who was 11; John, 16, and Margaret, “Maggie,” 21. (There was an eldest sibling, William, who seemed to be elsewhere.)
The letter is even sweeter when you see this adorable photo (tintype?) of Anna:
This letter was found in a binder that Anna Collins (Anna’s daughter) had put together in the late 1960s. Thank God for the note she left along with it, otherwise I don’t know if I’d have been able to figure out who the hell these people were.
Based on Anna C’s note I was able to go into Ancestry and link to some family tree info that matched the information in the letter. These Moore kids were all born in either Alabama or Mississippi (!) and show up in Corpus Christi in the 1870 census.
Three years later, about 90% of the contents of the Trunk (and its related boxes) are finally here in Chicago after schlepping them back from New Mexico after the holidays. There are far more scrapbooks than I remember. There are a few things I hadn’t seen before. It’s all still blowing my mind.
It may be just as well that it’s taken this long to get everything here (and to get to everything), especially the scrapbooks, since over the past few years iPhone cameras have become even better at capturing images of things that are too unwieldy and fragile to go on flatbed scanners, and there are now plenty of scanning apps too. The lighting on the spread above (from one of Ammie’s aka Jamie’s scrapbooks) could be better, but it’s high-res enough to zoom in and read everything. I’ve been saving most of the scrapbook digitizing for later, though—just organizing all the photos has had to come first.
Here’s what the front room of our apartment looked like this weekend:
I set up some extra tables. The gray boxes behind the chair are the archival boxes where photos, letters, and various ephemera are filed, most of them in plastic envelopes. So far I’ve filled six of those boxes. Some of the duplicates can go into albums, the nicer photos will eventually be flatbed-scanned for posterity, and for now I’m just taking iPhone shots of anything that I want to study closer (i.e., snapshots) or anything else that looks interesting. You’ll see. (Oh, you’ll see.)
I’ll also be uploading photos to this album on Flickr. Not much there now, and some of it is from 2012, but check back in the next month or two—I’ll be uploading much more (I’ve had an account there for years, and it’s the easiest way to share). And if you look in the corner of this site, there should be an email signup option where you’ll be notified whenever I update.
Sign up now! Our ancestors are standing by!