A day in New York in 1932

I came across this photo of my great-grandparents while sorting through the trunk stuff. This is an incredibly cool photo, for more than one reason.

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3rd from left: Mary “Nana” MacGregor Jameson. 4th from left (behind Nana): Malcolm Routh Jameson. 5th from left: Edith Taliaferro Jameson. Far right: Vida Jameson. Likely New York, possibly August 1932. Taken by House Jameson?

For one thing, it’s the only photo I’ve ever found that shows my great-great-uncle House’s wife, Edie, in the company of the other Jamesons. You’ll remember Malcolm, Mary, and Vida Jameson from the last two posts, when they were in D.C.; here, Vida is a teenager. You might also recall that in 1930 Malcolm and Mary and their kids were living in the same building on east 48th Street as House and Edie. Despite this, though the two brothers (Malcolm and House) with their respective spouses/families always seemed to be in different worlds. At times this was literally true—in the 1930s House and Edie were touring Australia and the US with a theatre company for months at a time, Then House’s radio and stage work in New York likely came with its own unique lifestyle, whereas in 1930 Malcolm was a salesman with the International Correspondence Schools. In some of the extended group family photos of the Jamesons in the 30s and 40s, House shows up, but never Edie. But here she is, with her brother-in-law and sister-in-law and niece (and some other unknown folks) on a rooftop in what looks to be New York City.

My guess is that House was taking the photo, which is why he doesn’t appear in it. I also can’t help but wonder if they’re all on the roof of their building on 48th Street. But—and this is the other cool thing about the photo—I figured out from looking at the photo closely (which meant scanning it, since it’s only three by four inches) that I could make a pretty good guess as to the exact day it was taken.  Continue reading

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When House was Hamilton

This stage photo of my great-great uncle House Jameson (actor, New York dweller, second husband extraordinaire), has been knocking around in my files for awhile; his name and the play title, The Patriots, are scrawled on the back in pencil. But somehow I hadn’t bothered to look up who he was playing in that getup until I stumbled across the info in a letter. He was Alexander Hamilton, you guys! He played Hamilton on Broadway in 1943, 73 years before being Hamilton on Broadway was cool.
HouseJamesonHamilton

The Patriots ran for several months, during which time House continued his role as Mr. Aldrich in the radio show The Aldrich Family (which turned out to be a long-term gig for him). But this meant that House had to come to the NBC studios dressed and made up as Hamilton in order to do both his live radio performance and the play that evening. So he’d be there in the studio speaking his loveable sitcom dad lines for listeners who’d have no idea he was at that very moment wearing 18th-century knee breeches and a wig (though for the studio audience it must have been pretty surreal). Then when the show signed off he’d run into a waiting elevator and then into an ambulance (!) at the NBC exit, which would rush him a few blocks over to Times Square. He’d come through the backstage door just as the curtain went up. Or so the story goes, according to a letter House’s second wife, Liz, wrote my grandmother in 1977, a few years after he died.

Anyway, that is some hardcore Hamilton, right?

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House un-wigged, in a more typical radio moment. (The woman is someone named Laurie Day, according to the back of the pic).

Bonus fact: if you are wistful about being 70 years too late to see House Jameson perform in dapper colonial American garb, you can still—to this day, and just about every day—see him in breeches and a waistcoast on the big screen, in Technicolor and VistaVision, playing William Byrd III in Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot, which has been airing at the Colonial Williamsburg visitor’s center since 1957. And yes, that makes the longest-running film in history. History! Hamilton! House! Sometimes it’s crazy what you find out.

Link

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.)

The New York City years (Part 1) with bonus House & Edie mystery!

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:

2016-02-20 21.51.53 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:

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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.

recordWhich is why the row of buildings across the street from the 244 building looked so familiar:

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Malcolm (my great-grandfather) and his mother-in-law, Anna Jones MacGregor (who must have been visiting)

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Mary (my great-grandmother), her daughter Vida, her sister Anna, and her mother.

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.

Which brings me to the little mystery about House and Edie that arose from reading their census record! See below. (I know, it’s hard to read. You can look here, too. And here, and here.)

facts

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?

How’s this for starters? IMG_7477