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Treasure Chest Thursday: Mary Theresa Helbling’s Salt & Pepper Shakers

Dutch-style salt & pepper shakers with tray, owned by Mary Helbling.

Helbling Family (Click for Family Tree)

Collecting salt and pepper shakers was a big thing in the 1950s and even before and after. One collector written about has over 55,000! (And those are pairs, so 110,000 individual shakers!)

The above S&P shakers belonged to Mary Theresa (Helbling) McMurray, who thankfully did not have that large of a collection. These were always favorites, though.

Mary was the daughter of William Gerard Helbling and Anna May Beerbower.

These S&P shakers are called ‘lusterware,’ and one antique dealer stated they were from the 1940s.

The tray is about 2-1/2″ long and 1-1/2″ wide; the houses are each about 1-3/4″ high, 1″ deep, and 3/4″ wide. Each roof on this set is actually a soft gray-blue, and the tray is an iridescent white. These shakers came in other colors as well.

Their value on one website was only $11.50, so truly, it is sentimental value that is important here. These are objects Mary loved, and part of the treasure chest of items she left to those who loved her.

Little Dutch girls and boys and windmills were popular images at various points during the 20th century. These S&P shakers suggest a stylized bit of a Dutch influence, being tall, narrow, and having a steep roof. Mary liked the cute Dutch items available, including a pitcher and mug set she had. She would be SO amazed to learn that her Springsteen family was really Dutch, and lived in New Netherlands!

New Netherlands= Dutch New York City— Manhattan and Long Island! The first-born Springsteen of her line was born in Bushwhick, a neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, in 1664! (They would be amazed to know how much their land would be worth today.) We will have some of this exciting research coming up on the blog in the near future.

DNA and some wonderful sharing- including a post from this blog detailing an obituary shared by Mary’s brother, Edgar Helbling- broke open the whole mystery of the Springsteen family. So please share your family heirlooms, and get your DNA tested! The results can lead to wonderful family stories, and new cousins.

And sentimental feelings about salt & pepper shakers. Especially today, on the anniversary of Mary Theresa’s birth.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Family heirloom.
  2. Mary apparently did not know that she was named for her German paternal great-grandmother, Mary Theresa (Knipshield) Helbling (1810-1891). Sure wish we had been able to learn about her heritage while she was still with us.

 

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Sentimental Sunday: Mary Theresa (Helbling) McMurray

Mary T. Helbling and "Honeychow," the family's beloved cocker spaniel, c early 1940s.
Mary T. Helbling and “Honeychow,” the family’s beloved cocker spaniel, c early 1940s.

This is really a ‘Sentimental Sunday’- a day that causes memories, regrets, happy thoughts, and a whole mix of emotions to weave through my consciousness throughout the day. It is the birthday of Mary Theresa (Helbling) McMurray.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, to G. W. Helbling and Anna May Beerbower Helbing, Mary never knew that she was named for her paternal great-grandmother, Mary Theresa (Knipshield) Helbling. She always thought her family was of poor German and Irish origins, but it turns out that they were early pioneers, upstanding community members, and good, hardworking people. (See previous Helbling posts.)

Mary Theresa Helbling as a baby, 1925.
Mary Theresa Helbling as a baby, 1925.

Mary was the last of the seven children born in the family, with her nearest sibling eight years older. So she was the ‘baby’ of the family, and often felt like she had a number of mothers and fathers, since her oldest sibling was 17 years older. Her father was stern with her, but her mother doted on her, and she loved her mother so intensely that it was very hard for her to leave home even when she fell in love and married.

Mary T. Helbling playing chess as a child, c1930s.
Mary T. Helbling playing chess as a child, c1930s.

Mary’s father, G. W. Helbing, was extremely intelligent, even though he had not completed more than the eighth grade; her mother completed two years of high school. Her older brothers and sisters were very intelligent too- she sometimes had the same nuns for teachers as they had at St. Mark’s Catholic School, and the nuns would expect so much of her, because her older siblings had done so well. She was very good at spelling and loved to play chess, which her father and siblings taught her when young, and was a whiz at schedules and plain old arithmetic. She never really liked school though.

Mary T. Helbling as a young teen with one of the family's cocker spaniels, c late 1930s.
Mary T. Helbling as a young teen with one of the family’s cocker spaniels, c late 1930s.

Mary loved to play with paper dolls and read movie magazines, though the magazines were considered scandalous back then. She would sometimes cut out the pictures of the movie stars, and use them as paper dolls. She loved the ‘glamour girls’ of the 1940s and wanted to look like them- there are many pictures of her in similar poses. She loved singing- even sang on the radio once as a child or young teen. Her mother’s cousin was Elsie Janis- a famed comedienne/singer/actress  of the early 1900s and “The Sweetheart of the A.E.F.”  (more on Elsie in upcoming posts) – and Mary wanted to be like her. The family had cocker spaniels which Mary dearly loved. One died in a fire in the family home, and Mary was always so sad about that, even 50 years later.

"The Merry Macs" as she labeled this photo. Mary T. Helbling and her husband, Edward A. McMurray, September 1948.
Mary T. Helbling and her husband, Edward A. McMurray, September 1948. “The Merry Macs” as she labeled this photo in her album. 

 Mary was a very fast typist and knew shorthand. She worked at Gardner’s Advertising and then a government group (maybe AFEES?) during the war. Mary met US Army/Air Corp veteran Edward A. McMurray on a blind date at a picnic in a park in 1946. The two fell madly in love, but did not want to marry, as Ed was in pharmacy school. Love won out, however, and they married on June 5, 1948. They lived with her parents until Ed graduated, found a job, and they purchased a house in north St. Louis County, in a new subdivision during the booming 1950s.

Mary (Helbling) McMurray holding their first child, 1954.
Mary (Helbling) McMurray holding her first child, 1954.

Although Mary would have loved to have the glamorous life of a singing star, as her mother’s cousin Elsie Janis had, she mostly just wanted to be a wife and mother. She did both, and always said that was her greatest accomplishment.

Mary Theresa (Helbling) McMurray passed away April 3, 2008, of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Happy Birthday, Mary Theresa. We love you and miss you.

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) G.W. Helbling, head of household, 1940 US Federal Census- Source Citation: Year: 1940; Census Place: St Louis, St Louis City, Missouri; Roll: T627_2208; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 96-670.

2) Family photos and oral history.

 

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Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.

 

Helbling Family Home & School, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Part 3

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Helbling Family Home & School
Mary Theresa (Knipshield) Helbling
Mary Theresa (Knipshield) Helbling

[See previous posts in this series for more information.]

The many Helbling children continued in the school now at Squire Nickel’s Mansion. They had a new teacher- a Mr. Mertz, who was also an interesting character:

“Teacher Mertz was of small stature and in the thirties and is said to have limped. He had crossed the ocean in the company of his sister who died on ship. He kept her jewelry and was fond of displaying it. The report we have of him is not very flattering. He was neglectful of personal appearance, his hair and beard not used to the comb or brush. He was fond of playing cards and drinking beer. Hence he was seldom fit to teach and when he fell asleep during class periods the pupils had a jolly recess. He was no disciplinarian and the pupils soon realized this for on the occasion of an altercation between the teacher and an older pupil, the latter forcefully ejected the teacher from the room. Undoubtedly, Teacher Mertz had been reprimanded for his misconduct but instead of reforming he became defiant and ultimately refused to teach the catechism or to give religious instruction in any form. Indeed, he finally succeeded in wrecking the Lawrenceville Academy for a time, as we learn from the Announcement Book of St. Philomena’s:

“Since the former German Catholic teacher of Lawrenceville intends to start a private school, saying that he leaves the religious instruction and catechism to the priests and parents while he teaches the other branches, we consider it our duty to tell you that we cannot recommend such a school and that Catholic parents of Lawrenceville and of the neighborhood must send their children of school age either to the English school of Father Gibbs or here to Bayardstown until another Catholic school can be provided.”

The Helblings, like their devout neighbors, most probably withdrew their children and enrolled them in the Lawrenceville Catholic School on the spacious second floor of Robinson Hall at 4121 Butler St.  The parish priests kept up their encouragement for a parochial eduction:

“Since the schools in Sligo [an Irish-Catholic area] and Lawrenceville are established again, the respective parents are urged to send their children to these schools, and to contribute to their support. Without a good Catholic school little good may be expected in life either from the children or from the parents.”

 Mr. John Beck was the next teacher for the Helbling children and others at the Lawrenceville school. Sadly, after just a few months teaching, he died from a fall on Feb. 6, 1859. Again, without a teacher, the church Announcement Book appealed to the parishioners:

 “Since the teacher, died last Sunday, we request all the men of Lawrenceville to meet this afternoon at four o’clock in the school. The purpose of this meeting is to take steps to prevent the discontinuing of the school.”

It is believed that some of the local Sisters (nuns) taught standard subjects at the school and prepared the children for their First Communion. The problems, however, continued:

“The St. Augustinus records the testimony of Mr. John Wirth, then one of the oldest members of the parish, that the Know-nothings and other bigots ridiculed the Sisters and spread caricatures representing the Sisters maltreating the children. The Sisters must have discontinued their work at the end of the school term of 1859.”

 

To be continued…

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) St. Augustine’s Parish History 1863-1938. Personal copy from a cousin, but the entire history may be found online at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~njm1/StAugJub-TC.html. Accessed 1-22-2014. Please see this history for detailed references to specific items in the narrative.

2) Helbling Family Home & School, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Part 1:  http://heritageramblings.net/2014/01/24/helbling-famil…e-pennsylvania/

3) Helbling Family Home & School, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Part 2: http://heritageramblings.net/2014/03/04/helbling-famil…vania-part-2-2/ 

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Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.

Helbling Family Home & School, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Part 2

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Helbling Family Home & School
Franz Xavier Helbling and Maria Barbara (Helbling) Helbling, c1860s? Family portraits and reprinted in St. Augustine (Lawrenceville, PA) Diamond Jubilee pamphlet, page 40.
Franz Xavier Helbling and Mary Theresa (Knipshield) Helbling, c1880s? Family portraits and reprinted in St. Augustine (Lawrenceville, PA) Diamond Jubilee pamphlet, page 40.

[For the first part of this story, see “Helbling Family Home & School, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Part 1.“]

After the loss of the eccentric “Teacher” at the Helbling school, efforts to continue the Catholic education of local children were reinforced. Father Hotz provided another teacher to board at the Helbling home as well, Mr. George Rutland.

From St. Augustine’s Parish History 1863-1938, page 13:

By this time news of the primitive school had spread and many parents applied for the admission of their children. The room, however, was too small to accommodate all who applied, hence, like the good soul he was, Mr. Helbling fitted out his unused storeroom for a school room. A goodly number of pupils attended especially children by the family name of Kalchthaler, Stein, Bischoff, Fleckenstein, Burckhardt and others. The first scholastic year might have started a little late in the fall of 1854 and had but a short interruption between the departure of the first teacher and the arrival of the second. On the third Sunday after Easter, April 29, 1855, the following announcement was made in St. Philomena’s church:

Some months ago a Catholic school was opened in the home of Xaver [sic] Helbling, near the cemetery [Allegheny] in Lawrenceville. Since a larger and more suitable accommodation has been now provided by the same Mr. Helbling, we admonish all the parents of Lawrenceville and the neighborhood who have children of school age, to send them to this school so that they may be trained to be good Christians. We ourselves shall take interest in this school and shall visit it from time to time.
Sometime around September, 1855 saw the beginning of the next school year. An announcement by St. Philomena’s Church stated,
 “Since the Catholic school of Lawrenceville has already commenced and a good opportunity is offered the children of school age to acquire virtue and knowledge, the parents living there are requested to send their children as soon as possible.”

With the addition of neighboring German children, the school had outgrown the facilities that could be provided by the Helbling family. Additionally, it was too far for the short legs of younger children to travel, and had no heat, so was far too cold in the long Pennsylvania winters. The school was thus moved to “Squire Nickel’s Mansion” which was more centrally located at 4016 Butler Street. This big stone mansion had a first floor that could be used for the school, and a second floor that was used as a hall for meetings, dances, etc. The school was sometimes called “Rutland Hall” after its teacher, but then became known as “The Lawrenceville Academy.”

Mr. Rutland probably resigned in 1856.

“Rumor had it that his resignation hinged upon disappointed matrimonial aspirations to the hand of one of Mr. Helbling’s daughters.”

The school continued with a female teacher who may have been Alsatian, as she was fluent in both German and French. (The Helblings hailed from Endingen, near to the German border with France, and family lore was that they were from Alsace-Lorraine, so it is ~correct.) She did not last the year and Teacher Mertz arrived to take over her duties.

To be continued…

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) St. Augustine’s Parish History 1863-1938. Personal copy from a cousin, but the entire history may be found online at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~njm1/StAugJub-TC.html. Accessed 1-22-2014. Please see this history for detailed references to specific items in the narrative.

2) Helbling Family Home & School, Part 1: http://heritageramblings.net/2014/01/24/helbling-famil…e-pennsylvania/

Please contact us if you would like a higher resolution image.

Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.

 

Mystery Monday-Helbling or Springsteen Woman and Child

Unknown woman and child tintype from Helbling and Springstein picture collection
Unknown woman and child tintype from Helbling and Springstein picture collection.

This beautiful image was in with photos of the Helbling and Springsteen family. Looking at other images we have, I think this may be Mary Theresa (Knipshield) Helbling, with one of her children. Facial features are similar, and note the size of her hands in both pictures- very large.  She may even be wearing the same earrings! (Some enhancement in Photoshop may be required for further investigation.)

Daguerreotypes were widely available from the early 1840s to the late 1850s. Ambrotypes first came into use in the US in the early 1850s and lasted until the 1860s, when tintypes became more popular and cost effective.

Mary Theresa Knipshield’s first child was born in 1837, her last in 1862.

Follow along with my posts on the Helbling Family Home and School this week to see another image of Mary that is positively identified. What do you think?