Thankful Thursday: Ed McMurray’s Whooping Cough Party

"Whooping Cough Party" from left: John Warburton, Dick Barquest, Mary Lou Harvey, Mary Warburton, Bob H[arvey?], Edward A. McMurray
“Whooping Cough Party” from left: John Warburton, Dick Barquest, Mary Lou Harvey, Mary Warburton, Bob H[arvey?], Edward A. McMurray

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a dangerous disease that has taken the lives of many  infants and children throughout the years. Adults can get it as well- often from their children.

The initial symptoms of this highly contagious bacterial respiratory disease are often mild and may be misdiagnosed. Also called the “100-day cough”, pertussis then causes violent coughing fits that may cause fainting, hemorrhage, rib fracture, brain injury, and even death, especially in young infants. Making it hard to breathe, the coughing occurs in clusters of 5-10 coughs and then a ‘whoop’ as the patient breathes in. Typically this stage lasts six weeks but often continues ten weeks or longer; the whooping may last for some time even after the person has recovered from pertussis.

There is no real treatment for whooping cough- antibiotics are sometimes given to reduce how infectious the person is (that period may last 5 weeks or more) and possibly reduce side effects of the disease. Vaccination is currently the only way to reduce the risk of acquiring pertussis, and the immunity fades over time, requiring vaccination throughout the years.

There had been an average of over 175,000 cases of whooping cough reported per year in the US before a vaccine was available in the 1940s. The incidence decreased to only about 1,000 cases per year until 1976, when cases again began to rise. In the US, in 2012 there were more cases reported than since 1955; in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported a 30% increase in cases. (Keep in mind that many cases go unreported, so actual numbers are probably higher.)

1939 Whooping Cough Party. The Independent, St. Petersburg, Florida.
1939 Whooping Cough Party. The Independent, St. Petersburg, Florida.

Back at the turn of the twentieth century and into the 1930s, whooping cough epidemics scoured our nation. Schools would be closed because such a large number of children were absent due to the cough, and there were many deaths. Epidemics would occur every 2-5 years.

Imagine a large family of children, maybe a newborn and children aged 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12,14, and all of them coming down with whooping cough, one at a time, each at a different stage of the illness…   The disease may last 100 days, so an entire year or more might be spent with a family dealing with whooping cough, and the very youngest might not survive. The ‘whooping’ children would get bored and be distraught that they could not enjoy their birthday or other happy event. So parents invented “Whooping Cough Parties” to entertain the sick children- only those infected or who had already had the cough were invited. Parents as well as children were thankful for a respite from being sick.

New Zealand also dealt with whooping cough as an epidemic, as did countries around the world: Whooping Cough Party in Bay of Plenty Times. A creosote mixture was a part of the meal as a relish, and prizes were given for those who could whoop the longest and loudest; a booby prize was given to those who whooped the least.

There was even a mention of a whooping cough party in both the The American Journal of Clinical Medicine and The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal!

Back to the picture above- there are two sets of siblings in the picture, which shows how infectious the disease was. The photo was taken probably about 1930 in Newton, Iowa, at 609 South Sixth Street. Ed McMurray and Johnny Warburton were best friends, and they lived across the street from each other. Ed stated that his mother planned the party since so many were sick. This may have been an April birthday party, or a party just to keep those poor coughing kids occupied.


None of the information in this post should be considered medical information or advice- please consult a doctor if you want more information or think you or a loved one may have whooping cough.

Pertussis is the only disease with increasing occurrences today that has a vaccine available. Sadly, the increasing number of persons who are not vaccinating their children or getting them booster shots increases the risk for all of acquiring this sometimes fatal disease. At least 90% of the population needs to be vaccinated to prevent outbreaks, and in some areas of the US, 75% of the parents are NOT vaccinating their kids, thus there is no “herd immunity.” (Measles and polio are coming back as well because of so many not vaccinating.)

I have seen queries online about having a “Whooping Cough Party” to infect one’s child to develop the immunity- that is NOT what these parties were years ago, and it can be very dangerous to hold these ‘parties’. In the early 1900s, the parties were for children who were actually sick. Since some of the children may have attended while still infectious, some states enacted laws against these gatherings:

Whooping Cough Party Hostess is Arrested. 21 Dec 1911, San Francisco Call.
Whooping Cough Party Hostess is Arrested. 21 Dec 1911, San Francisco Call.

So please don’t hold a “Whooping Cough Party”- it is very risky and we don’t want to lose any of those cute little timeless faces like in the above picture to such a horrible, preventable disease.


Notes, Sources, and References:

1) “Whooping Cough Party is Success for 25 Children” accessed 10/13/14 at

2) See also an 1899 article from Australia about whooping cough, in which a sick child had 27 of her friends with the same illness:

3) New Zealand Whooping Cough Party article:

4) CDC information about pertussis and current outbreaks:

5) Creosote compounds were used for their antibacterial properties that helped with respiratory illnesses, and given frequently for tuberculosis. Guaifenesin, currently used in Mucinex and other medications, is a synthetic modification of these compounds. See Wikipedia article:

6) Pertussis article:




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Wishful Wednesday: Elsie Janis

Sheet music cover for "Bless Your Ever Loving Little Heart," from "The Slim Princess."
Sheet music cover for “Bless Your Ever Loving Little Heart,” from “The Slim Princess” stage musical. (The movie used a different actress.)

Elsie Janis’ real name was Elsie Bierbower (or Elsie Beerbower), so if you are a Helbling or Bierbower cousin, you may be related to this very-famous-in-her-time comedienne, actress, singer, mimic, and entertainer of our troops in World War I. Those troops gave her the nickname, “Sweetheart of the A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Forces)” and she truly earned the accolade.

Why is this a “Wishful Wednesday” post? It is because Elsie’s 1st cousin once removed, Mary Theresa Helbling, wanted so much to be a singer like Elsie. Mary’s mother, Anna May Bierbower Helbling, was Elsie’s cousin, and talked about her often as Mary grew up. Mary also loved the movie magazines and cut paper dolls from them, when she was allowed to have such expensive and scandalous magazines. By that time Elsie was mostly a writer for the movies- she never transitioned well from the stage to talkies as an actress. Elsie led a glamorous life though, and was often pictured in the magazines. Mary, when young, wished she had a life like that too.

Mary Theresa Helbling- 1940s Glamour Pose
Mary Theresa Helbling- 1940s Glamour Pose

Mary also loved to sing- she had a very beautiful voice. She loved listening to light opera and singing along to it and all the wonderful old movies with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and the fabulous musicals of the 1950s and 60s. Her voice was good enough to have sung on the radio back in the late 1930s or 1940s- wish I could remember more about that. Later, Mary and the love of her life, Edward A. McMurray, Jr., would sing together around the house, with a beautiful harmony and sometimes mooney-eyed in-love looks at each other even when they knew the kids were watching.

This is also “Wishful Wednesday” because I wished for so many years to be able to hear Elsie’s voice. There was a university in Idaho, IIRC, that had old recordings, including those of Elsie. Back then, I wrote a letter on paper (!) and sent it to them, asking if there was any way they could record Elsie’s voice on reel-to-reel tapes (!!) for me. No answer, despite repeated requests, even once the internet started up and I sent an email. (Maybe because I was not a scholarly researcher?) Many years later, there are now digital recordings of her music available to the public- even on iTunes. Wonder what Elsie would make of that???

Elsie Janis-Sweetheart of the AEF Audio CD Cover
Elsie Janis- Sweetheart of the A.E.F. Audio CD Cover

Downloading Elsie’s music was my first time for music with ‘Explicit’ material. I was sort of shocked- why would Elsie’s music be labeled as such? I then realized that some of the material was racist, such as that from minstrel shows or musicals that showed the races in the context of their times, the late 1800s-early 1900s, not our times. (Still hard to listen to some of those songs because of that.) I have also been able to buy one of her records on eBay, but no longer have a turntable so have not been able to listen to it.

The internet sure has made the amazing world of the past available to us all in seconds, and even while in our pajamas! It is wonderful to have my wish to hear Elsie come true; sure wish Mary would have had that opportunity.

More to come about Elsie’s interesting life!


Notes, Sources, and References:

1) See the International Movie Database at for details about the stage musical and movie, “The Slim Princess.”

2) Elsie Janis Find a Grave Memorial # 10334. The bio is inaccurate although I have contacted the person many times. The family links were finally changed but it still erroneously states that she was the daughter of Lou Bierbauer. See also the memorials for her family members on Find a Grave. A Bierbower researcher had also added a memorial for her: Memorial # 33617289 at

3) “Sweetheart of the A.E.F.” is the title of the audio CD that contains 20 of her most popular songs. It is available on and iTunes.

4) Remember Mitch Miller and Sing Along with Mitch? It ran from 1961-1966 on NBC. Mitch had a male chorale and also featured other excellent singers, like Leslie Uggmans, on the show. (Bob McGrath was one of those in the chorale; he later went on to be a long-time host of Sesame Street.) Mitch is regarded as the inventor of today’s karaoke, as the program featured the words shown on the screen, so the whole family could sing along. (There was no bouncing ball though.) For more information, see the Archive of American Television– YouTube has videos of some performances: Sing Along with Mitch, Part 1 of 4– (The commercials are wonderful- frozen foods were just becoming popular. I remember the whole family eating frozen TV dinners on the folding metal TV trays while watching Mitch!)

5) Sheet music and photo of Mary Helbling in personal collection of the author.


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Friday’s Faces From the Past: Edward Biron Payne

From left, Ninetta Wiley Eames Payne, Maude McMurray, Edward McMurray, Lynette Payne McMurray in front with her father, Edward B. Payne, in back.
The Payne Family. From left, Ninetta Wiley Eames Payne; little Maude McMurray & young Edward McMurray, Lynette Payne McMurray’s children; Lynette in front and her father, Edward B. Payne, in back. Taken at Wake Robin Lodge, Glen Ellen, California, c1907. (Click to enlarge.)

It is fitting to add this post today, on the anniversary of Edward B. Payne’s birthday, July 25, 1847.

Sorry that I haven’t been posting much due to real life, which sometimes interferes with genealogy. 😉

I have also recently had an article about Edward B. Payne (fondly known as EBP in our house) published in The Russian River Recorder, Spring 2014, Issue 124, which is the journal of the Healdsburg Museum & Historical Society, Sonoma County, California. The article took a lot of time to write, mostly because I was supposed to distill this complex man and his long life into 1200 words. I just couldn’t do it. I was so happy that they expanded the issue and I was able to use 1500 words. I will be posting the article soon.

The Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society  currently has a wonderful exhibit called “Visionaries, Believers, Seekers, and Schemers: 19th Century Utopian Communities of Sonoma County.” The community founded by Edward B. Payne, “Altruria,” although short-lived, was “… a glorious failure” according to some writers.  The Russian River Recorder has four articles about Altruria, plus numerous articles about the other three Utopian communities founded in Sonoma in the late 1800s. They are a very interesting read.

There were no known images of Altruria, as far as my research or that of others, until I contacted the Huntington Museum a couple of years ago. In some of Charmian London’s scrapbooks, the archivist found two images of Altruria. I requested a copy of the whole page, to get the images in context, and was surprised to see that there was also one image torn from the page- I would love to know more about that missing image! (I would be matching up the torn back of any loose photos with the remains in the scrapbook, but alas, the archivist states there are no loose photos.) These images too will get posted here on the blog, but I do need to get permission from the Huntington first; they did give their kind permission to publish in the journal above. It has been exciting to email back and forth with curators, archivists, and librarians for this research. They are all unsung heroes in my mind.

Edward B. Payne lecture advertisement. Possibly c1920, October 9.
Edward B. Payne lecture advertisement. Possibly c1920, October 9. (Click to enlarge.)

When Edward B. Payne could no longer preach due to his ‘pulmonary affliction’ (he acquired tuberculosis when he lived in New England), he earned a little income from lectures he provided throughout the Bay Area of California.

Lots more to come on EBP.


Notes, Sources, and References:

1) The Healdsburg Museum has a wonderful exhibit of the four Sonoma County Utopian communities through Aug. 3, 2014, plus their June 2014 The Russian River Recorder details these communities. See for more information. They are planning an online video tour of the exhibit, so watch for that soon.

2) Images from family photo archives.


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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #1- Edward Byron Payne

Edward Byron Payne, c 1920?
Edward Byron Payne, c 1920?

Most people have at least one beloved ancestor that they feel close to even once that person is gone. I have a stoic grandmother proud of her family history, who always said that we come “from strong pioneer stock, and can do anything we set our minds to do;” a sweet grandmother and grandfather that let me ride with them in their convertible on a trip to the lake; a smart aunt who inspired me to attend college and always keep educating myself; and a great-grandmother who always insisted we eat some of her potato salad that, as a picky eater, I loathed, but I did anyway, because she was my dear great-grandmother and it was a privilege to know her. Genealogists usually have even more of those beloved relatives, but they are often ones who passed away long before the family historian was born, even many, many years before.

Edward Byron Payne is one of my beloved ancestors that I never got to meet. He died the year before his great-grandson, my father, was born, so the connection seems ever more distant. My dad’s parents and grandparents knew him well, and shared some of their stories, though it was never enough for me. I have been researching this man since I was about 15, and it just seems that the more I learn about him, the more questions I have about him.


Edward B. Payne, fondly known as EB or EBP in my household, was the third (known) child of Joseph Hitchcock (“J.H.”) Payne and Nancy S. Deming. J.H. Payne was an ordained Congregational minister, living and serving in Ohio when their daughters were born- Cornelia in 1837, and Ruby D., in 1839. There was a long break before another known child was born- perhaps there were others who did not survive, a sad reality in those days. The Rev. Payne was farming and preaching in Middletown, Vermont, in 1846-47, when Edward was born, although I have been unable to find any record of EBP’s birth in the town vital records.

Interestingly, Edward was born 25 Jul 1847, just 19 days after his maternal grandfather, Harvey Deming, died in Middlebury, VT. (The circle of life…) “Edward” has been a family name now used for at least four generations, starting with (Dr.) E.A. McMurray, in honor of Edward B. Payne. (Dr. McMurray was EBP’s grandson.)  I can only find one earlier Edward: Stephen Edward Payne (1821-1883), the brother of EBP’s father. The “Byron” part of EB’s name probably was in honor of his mother’s brother, Byron Deming (1826-1920), as well as the poet in this educated, literate, family.

In 1850 EBP was just 3 years old and living in Fremont, Lake County, Illinois, along with his sisters Cornelia and Ruby D., their parents, and Nancy’s mother, Ruby (Sturtevant) Deming. His father is listed as a farmer, with $1000. in real estate value; he also was serving as a minister per other records. The 1850 US Federal Census was taken on 7 Dec 1850. Little Ruby, named after her maternal grandmother and just 10 years old as listed in that census, died sometime later that month. (Her death record has not yet been found, nor her grave.) Although the holidays were not celebrated in a grand way back then as they are now, it must have been a somber Christmas, instead of what would normally be one of the most joyous times of year for a minister.

Finding the family ten years later in the 1860 census has been a challenge, with no success as yet. They were in Salem (or Liberty) and Wilmot, Wisconsin 1858-1865 per Rev. Payne’s Necrology. Apparently they were just one step ahead of the census taker…

More to come about Edward B. Payne.


Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Photo of a photo of Edward B. Payne that hung in my grandparent’s home.

2) 1850 US Federal Census, Joseph H. Payne, head of household: Source Citation: Year: 1850; Census Place: Fremont, Lake, Illinois; Roll: M432_114; Page: 79A; Image: 163., accessed 3/31/14. JH Payne was listed as a farmer with $1000 in real estate value, and born in New York. His wife was born in Vermont, and mother-in-law Ruby (Sturtevant) Deming born in Massachusetts.

3) Joseph Hitchcock Payne- Necrology, Congregational Yearbook, 1886, Congregational Churches in the United States National Council, Volume 1886. Published by Congregational publishing society, 1886. Page 30.


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Sentimental Sunday: Jonathan Felix Benjamin

Hannah (Ford) Benjamin- Bible Record Transcription
Hannah (Ford) Benjamin- Bible Record Transcription (click to enlarge)

Websites like Find a Grave (FAG) have been incredible resources for genealogists- we have found cousins and long lost living relatives, information is available to help as ‘clues’ to be verified for one’s own research, locations within plots can help determine family relationships, as can inscriptions on tombstones or cemetery records, and it is comforting to know where family is “quietly resting.” Writing memorials for FAG has also been a wonderful exercise to analyze and reassess what I think are known facts, and to tell a person’s story. It is also a way to tug at one’s heartstrings, as one learns of the love and heartbreak of a family.

Today my work on Wittemburg Cemetery memorials on FAG tugged at my heartstrings.

If you are a descendant of Dr. E. A. McMurray, Jonathan Felix Benjamin would be a some-number-of-greats Uncle. He was the g-g-uncle of Dr. McMurray, so you can figure your relationship from there.

Jonathan Felix Benjamin was the fifth child of seven known children born to Jonathan N. Benjamin and Hannah E. Ford Benjamin. He lived the first part of his life in Burlington, Licking Co., Ohio, until he moved west with other family members at age 29, in 1867 when they all migrated to Jasper County, Iowa.

In 1870, Jonathan F. and his wife were living with his father and mother on a farm in Malaka Twp, Jasper Co., Iowa. The parents had just $150 in personal estate, but Jonathan F. and his wife had $6500 in real estate and $1000 in personal value.

Jonathan F. and Hannah E. Marple had married in 1863 (probably in Licking Co., Ohio where their first child was probably born) and had six? children: Edson Benjamin (b. 1864), Roland “Rollie” E. Benjamin (b. 1867), William Benjamin (b. 1867), possibly another William (b. 1870), Emma Benjamin (FAG #44708133, b. 1872, married Herman B. Lufkin), and Orlin Dell Benjamin (b. 1878). An “Infant Benjamin, son of J.F. and H. E.” is buried in the same cemetery as his parents, and died in 1873- this may be one of the Williams? though dates do not align.

By 1885, the Iowa State Census shows the family living in Twin Lakes, Calhoun, Iowa. They may have returned to Jasper Co though in 1895, where there is an Iowa State census record that has Jonathan’s age a few years off.

In 1900, Jonathan F. was listed as head of household in the census for Newton (City), living at 748 Main St. at age 60 with his son Orlin, daughter Emma, her husband Herman Lufkin, and their 4 y/o son Percy. Jonathan was listed as a house painter who had been out of work for 2 months, but he did own their home. 

The part that tugged my heartstrings, after seeing they had an infant buried in Wittemberg Cemetery, was Jonathan’s listing as to marital status in the 1900 US Federal Census. He was listed as married for 37 years, but his wife was not listed on the page- she had died on 27 March 1900, and the census had been taken on 08 Jun 1900. How hard that must have been to face life without one’s partner of 37 years! Just that simple little “M” in the marital status column, with a “37” alongside for the years married, but no wife listed after his name, tells a story. He just couldn’t be a widower yet- in his heart, he was still married.

(OK, the cynical and fact-based folks will say that it could have been the census taker’s error, or that of the person giving the information. But maybe not…)

Jonathan was living alone in 1910, when he may be found in the Federal Census renting on Third St. in Newton, still working as a house painter but not out of work. He was listed as a widower in this census.

Jonathan F. Benjamin passed away in March of 1913, age 74. He is buried in Wittemburg Cemetery alongside his wife Hannah E. (Marple) Benjamin.



Notes, Sources, and References:

1) From “Notes on the Life and Family of JONATHAN BENJAMIN, 1738-1841, Frontiersman and Revolutionary War Veteran,” Hannah (Ford) Benjamin Family Bible Transcription. (Bible owned by Orletta Hatch Foreman at the time of these “Notes.”) Type-written copy given to me back in the 1960s, when I was too young to know much about documentation. I believe it was written by the Benjamin family historians, and reading it and later finding information about these Benjamin ancestors in a book got me totally hooked on genealogy.

2) 1870 US Federal census, Jonathan Benjamin head of household: Source Citation: Year: 1870; Census Place: Malaka, Jasper, Iowa; Roll: M593_398; Page: 342A; Image: 324; Family History Library Film: 545897.

3) 1880 US Federal census, John F. Benjamin, head of household: Source Citation: Year: 1880; Census Place: Twin Lakes, Calhoun, Iowa; Roll: 330; Family History Film: 1254330; Page: 285B; Enumeration District: 025; Image: 0313.

4) 1885 Iowa State Census, Jonathan F. Benjamin: Quigg, Gary, comp.. Iowa, State Census 1885 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2003.

5) 1895 Iowa State Census, Jonathan F. Benjamin: Iowa, State Census, 1895 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2003. Original data: Iowa. 1895 Iowa State Census. Des Moines, Iowa: State Historical Society of Iowa.

6) 1900 US Federal Census for Jonathan F. Benjamin, head of household: Source Citation: Year: 1900; Census Place: Newton, Jasper, Iowa; Roll: 439; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 0030; FHL microfilm: 1240439.

7) 1910 US Federal Census for Jonathan Benjamin: Source Citation: Year: 1910; Census Place: Newton Ward 1, Jasper, Iowa; Roll: T624_407; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0032; FHL microfilm: 1374420.

8) My Find A Grave memorial #57139950 for Jonathan Felix Benjamin:

9) My Find A Grave memorial #57139890 for Hannah E. (Marple) Benjamin:

10) My Find A Grave memorial #28129737 for Infant Benjamin:

11) US GenWeb- Iowa listings for Wittemburg Cemetery, Jasper Co:

12) [Edited 04/06/2015 to add] See also posts for Edson Benjamin and his wife, Martha “Jennie” Slade Benjamin:

Tombstone Tuesday: Edson Benjamin and Martha Jennie Slade

Series of posts beginning with Tombstone Tuesday: Edson Benjamin- “A Cowardly Murder,” Part 1:



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