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Sunday’s Obituary: Max Broida, AKA Buster Brodie

Max Broida, AKA Buster Brodie, Obituary from the American Jewish Putlook, vol. 27, no. 21, page 26, columns 1-2, via Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project, Carnegie-Mellon University, with kind permission for non-profit use only.
Max Broida, AKA Buster Brodie, Obituary from the American Jewish Putlook, vol. 27, no. 21, page 26, columns 1-2, via Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project, Carnegie-Mellon University, with kind permission for non-profit use only.

Broida Family (Click for Family Tree)

One more obituary for Max Broida, published in his hometown religious newspaper. Note that he was listed as Max (Buster) Brodie, not Broida. His death certificate notes his name as Buster Brodie.

Use the “Search” box to view more obituaries for Max and stories and pictures of his life.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. See image caption.
  2. Buster would have laughed his infectious laugh to see this website about his net worth- http://richestcelebrities.org/richest-actors/buster-brodie-net-worth-2/
  3. “A Doctor’s Diary” from 1937- original Buster post updated with the clip available at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvLWOxyiah0.

 

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We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), 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.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2015 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 
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Wishful Wednesday: The Circus is in Town!

School not to be dismissed for the circus. Marion Daily Star, Marion, Ohio, 17 Apr 1923, Vol. XLVII, No. 122, P 12. Used with permission.
School not to be dismissed for the circus. Marion Daily Star, Marion, Ohio, 17 Apr 1923, Vol. XLVII, No. 122, P 12. Used with permission. (Click to enlarge.)

Broida Family, Springsteen Family (Click for Family Tree)

The circus coming to town generated lots of excitement throughout the centuries, even through the first quarter of the 20th century. In times when the major public entertainments were lecturers, singers, some stage theater, and finally silent movies (until 1927 when ‘talkies’ were introduced), the circus brought exotic people, titilating costumes, wild animals, and daring acts to even small towns throughout the land. The circus parade through town as the people, equipment, and animals were unloaded was a fabulous advertising gimmick to get the town wishing to attend, and ready to rush in to buy tickets and explore the shows.

We know the appeal of the circus affected our wishful ancestors, with at least two of them- Max Broida/Buster Brodie and Jefferson Springsteen- running off to join the circus when young. Max Broida, AKA Buster Brodie in Hollywood, was likely a performer since he later became an actor; he possibly was a clown as he was very short and very bald, even when young. We do not know what Jefferson Springsteen did as a young man in the circus, however. He was a painter later in life, so perhaps he painted signs, backdrops, etc. Jeff was a good rider as a young man- he delivered mail on horseback through the wilds of early Indiana, so possibly he was a part of the trick riders found in most circuses. It would be great to know more about what they did in the circus- their stories of those times must have been amazing!

We had ancestors in Marion, Ohio (Beerbowers)  in 1923, so they would have possibly been a part of this excitement. Those in rural areas would come into town as well, so the circus was a huge community event. Countless more of our ancestors in other towns enjoyed the circus through the years, whether they had seats at a show, wandered through the aisles of the set up circus, or just watched the parade in town.

Old movies show young boys skipping school to go watch the circus set up, but even those children still sitting at their desks likely had their minds elsewhere- and maybe even their teachers did too! So this 1923 article from the Marion Daily Star in Marion, Ohio, gives us a hint at how important circus days were to a town.

Apparently there were requests to close down the school on circus parade day, but the school board thought they would instead follow what had occurred in previous years: parents could write a note to excuse their student to attend the circus. (Can you imagine that in today’s world of high-stakes education??) The board was smart though, as students would likely have more interest in geography and biology after seeing an elephant in person with its exotic Indian trainer, or a tiger jumping through hoops of fire. (Good teachers would have taken advantage of this too.) Persons from around the globe would have been part of the circus as well, and learning more about a ‘Chinaman’ or African pygmy would have been a way to teach students about diversity in a world where little of that existed at that time. (It was probably more of a novelty than diversity training, however.)

Those who didn’t have the pennies to attend the circus were not forgotten- the schools would be notified when the parade started, and students would be allowed to attend the parade before continuing their studies in the afternoon.

April 25, 1923, must have been a very exciting day for our wishful ancestors in Marion, Ohio!

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) School not to be dismissed for the circus. Marion Daily Star, Marion, Ohio, 17 Apr 1923, Vol. XLVII, No. 122, P 12. Used with permission.

2) Max Broida/Buster Brodie and the circus: The Real Max Broida, AKA Buster Brodie at http://heritageramblings.net/2015/04/10/the-real-max-broida-aka-buster-brodie/

http://heritageramblings.net/2015/04/10/the-real-max-broida-aka-buster-brodie/

3) Jefferson Springsteen and the circus: There are three parts to the series concerning Jeff’s obituary that includes the circus story- see Wishful Wednesday: Jefferson Springsteen was “Lured by the Sawdust Ring…” at http://heritageramblings.net/2014/10/08/wishful-wednesday-jefferson-springsteen-was-lured-by-the-sawdust-ring/ for the first post.

 

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We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), 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.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2015 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 
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Mystery Monday: Another Role for Buster Brodie/Max Broida?

"Crime on Their Hands," 1948 Columbia Pictures Corporation short with Moe, Larry, and Shemp of the "3 Stooges."
“Crime on Their Hands,” 1948 Columbia Pictures Corporation short with Moe, Larry, and Shemp of the “3 Stooges.” (Click to enlarge.)

Broida Family (Click for Family Tree)

Sometimes I get the strangest emails…

Tonight’s snippet in the email list was “What do you think about the passed out drunk…”

OK.

Thankfully I knew who the sender was, so clicked to read the rest.

There are some wonderful folks out there who love the Three Stooges and work to document all those who have appeared in films with them, either as the Stooges or when they worked separately. My original blog post on Max Broida/Buster Brodie and a photo I added of Max on his Find A Grave memorial helped two of these folks to contact me for more information, and they shared what they knew as well. That was helpful, as I had been researching Max obsessively for a number of months and had some posts almost done. (You can read all the previous Max/Buster posts just by putting his name in the search box above.)

Today we have a mystery from these wonderful Stooge-film-o-philes:

Is Buster Brodie the drunk lying down on the stairs or

standing  by the bar?

"Crime on Their Hands," 1948 Columbia Pictures Corporation short with Moe, Larry, and Shemp of the "3 Stooges." Bar scene.
“Crime on Their Hands,” 1948 Columbia Pictures Corporation short with Moe, Larry, and Shemp of the “3 Stooges.” Bar scene. (Click to enlarge.)

Bit players and extras were not always credited in films, and Max is not listed as part of the cast in this 1948 short from Columbia Pictures Corporation entitled, “Crime on Their Hands.” The character of the drunk does look somewhat like Max.

The film was made in September of 1947, and released in 1948. Max died of a heart attack on 9 April 1948, at the young age of 62. We have not found any images of him in his last years except the film images in our other posts. Strangely, we know of no family pictures of Max other than what we have shared- that seems odd to have no pictures when there was a family member “in pictures”!

Let us know what you think in the comments section. Could those be Buster’s ears sticking out under the hat in the stairway scene? Looks to be a match, but if the hat is pushed down, they could be just ‘normal’ ears. How about the chin? Looks similar to me. The man in black in the bar scene, however, looks a bit tall, I think- the bartender is 5’6″ per the notes from the Stooge group. (We have tried to find a WWI or II Draft Registration for Max to learn his actual height, but those are still elusive.) Family stories are that he was less than 5′ tall, and the image of Buster with the “Little People” shows that he could not have been much taller than that, especially since he played a ‘Flying Monkey’ in “The Wizard of Oz.” This actor looks slimmer than other images I have seen of Max, but since he was possibly having health problems at that point, he might have been losing weight. Buster had no eyebrows or eyelashes, so if we could enlarge the images enough yet retain clarity, we might be able to tell. (The makeup department could have altered that though.)

It would be interesting to learn if there were letters from Max written back to Pennsylvania, to his father and many brothers. Wonder who ended up with his personal effects after he passed away? He probably had very little, since he was working at a racetrack to try to make ends meet- always a struggling actor. But we might learn just a bit more about Max, if we could find some artifacts in the back of a closet to tell more of his story.

In the meantime, doubtless Max would be very pleased that Buster Brodie lives on to make people laugh, and is remembered. Thank you, family. Thank you, dear Stooge-film-o-philes, AKA the ThreeStooges Fan Club.

 

Here is a bit more information about the Three Stooges researchers who have helped us get to know Max Broida as Buster Brodie a bit better:

 

OUR MISSION

To collect, preserve and interpret historically or culturally significant pieces of Stoogeabilia in order to further the enjoyment and appreciation of the Three Stooges and to maintain the legacy of their comedy for future generations.

 

Containing close to 100,000 pieces of Stoogeabilia, the Stoogeum (rhymes with museum) offers fans a chance to view a vast array of artifacts which celebrate the legacy of this legendary comedy team. The 10,000 square-foot, 3-story building houses anything and everything Stooge. Artifacts from 1918 to the present are on exhibit, including several interactive displays. The Stoogeum also contains a research library, a 16MM film storage vault and an 85-seat theater used for film screenings, lectures, and special presentations. The Stoogeum is also the headquarters of the ThreeStooges Fan Club, one of the nation’s oldest and largest fan clubs with 2,000 members world-wide. An annual meeting of the fan club brings together Stooges relatives, supporting actors, impersonators and fans with the Stoogeum at the hub of the event. The Stoogeum is located at 904 Sheble Lane, Ambler, PA 19002

 

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Buster Brodie/Max Broida memorial on Find A Grave- http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7472866
    Unfortunately his memorial is listed as one for a ‘famous’ person, so FAG administers it rather than family. I did send them edits which they made so that he could be properly linked to family.
  2. Buster Brodie page on “The Three Stooges Online Filmography”- http://threestooges.net/cast/actor/826/
  3. “The Three Stooges Journal”- http://threestooges.net/journal
    (
    As a science and history person, I never thought I would put those four words together. But I will admit, as a kid I did ROFL on Saturday mornings at their antics, though even back then, I hated the way they treated women.)
  4. “Three Stooges Lost Players” blog- http://stoogesplayers.blogspot.com
  5. The Stoogeum- ThreeStooges Fan Club or http://stoogeum.com. (They have a ‘Contact Us’ link if you are interested in joining the fan club or just nyuck nyucking around.)

 

Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images. Click to enlarge images.

We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), 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.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2015 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 
Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright of our blog material.

Talented Tuesday: Encore for Buster Brodie, AKA Max Broida

Buster Brodie/Max Broida in Joe McDoakes short, "So You Want to Keep Your Hair," a 1946 Warner Brothers Production.
Buster Brodie/Max Broida in a Joe McDoakes short, “So You Want to Keep Your Hair,” a 1946 Warner Brothers Production.

Broida Family (Click for Family Tree)

Our ancestor Buster Brodie was somewhat typecast by his appearance- he was very short, and very bald. In fact, his niece stated that he had no hair, no eyebrows, nor lashes.

Previous posts have described Max Broida, the man, and the stage and screen actor Buster Brodie, who were one and the same. We have a few more images from films he was in, so let the show begin!

Closeup of Buster Brodie/Max Broida in a Joe McDoakes short, "So You Want to Keep Your Hair," a 1946 Warner Brothers Production.
Closeup of Buster Brodie/Max Broida in a Joe McDoakes short, “So You Want to Keep Your Hair,” a 1946 Warner Brothers Production.

“So You Want to Keep Your Hair” was a 1946 Richard L. Bare Productions film in which the American Everyman, named Joe McDoakes, realized he was going bald so he tried everything to stop his hair loss. There was a series of the Joe McDoakes shorts- this one was just 11 minutes long; the next was ” So You Want a Television Set,” released in 1953, but we don’t know that Buster Brodie was in any of the others. These films would be shown along with a ‘double bill’ (2 movies in a row). Buster did not play the title character, and we have been unable to find the film, so don’t know exactly how he fits into the plot.

Buster seemed to get patted on the head a lot. This was probably a function of his height, as well as that bald pate. Wonder which came first- the pats and they made him bald? Or did all those pats on the head just shine it up for him?

He is a series of images from a 1941 film called, “Miss Polly.”

Buster Brodie/ Max Broida in the 1941 film, "Miss Polly" by Hal Roach Studios.
Buster Brodie/ Max Broida in the 1941 film, “Miss Polly” by Hal Roach Studios.

Miss Polly walked down the aisle of the town meeting, and acknowledged Buster, who was playing one of the townspeople.

Buster Brodie/ Max Broida in the 1941 film, "Miss Polly" by Hal Roach Studios.
Buster Brodie/ Max Broida in the 1941 film, “Miss Polly” by Hal Roach Studios.

Miss Polly continued on, but then, it had to happen:

Buster Brodie/ Max Broida getting a pat on his bald head in the 1941 film, "Miss Polly" by Hal Roach Studios.
Buster Brodie/ Max Broida getting a pat on his bald head in the 1941 film, “Miss Polly” by Hal Roach Studios.

It’s that pat on the head again.

Wonder if the lighting crew went crazy with the reflections?

Buster Brodie/ Max Broida in "Crazy Knights" with Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges. Buster played "Baldy" in the Banner Productions film.
Buster Brodie/ Max Broida in “Crazy Knights” with Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges. Buster played “Baldy” in the 1944 Banner Productions film.

In 1944, the country was in the midst of war, and Banner Productions provided a romp through a haunted house with Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges and two other characters. Buster played, appropriately, “Baldy,” and was in a picture on the wall in the haunted mansion. Ghosts and Barney the Giant Gorilla kept the plot moving, with an advertising tagline of, “Three crack-brained clowns trapped in a haunted house with a runaway gorilla!” Sorry I missed it.

And then there is the 1935 sports-crime-comedy-drama film (really? that’s a movie genre??) called, “Kentucky Blue Streak” in which Buster had a small role. (OK, pun not intended originally but it fits.)

Buster Brodie/Max Broida as a jockey in the 1935 C. C. Burr Productions' sports-crime-drama, "Kentucky Blue Streak."
Buster Brodie/Max Broida as a jockey in the 1935 C. C. Burr Productions’ sports-crime-drama, “Kentucky Blue Streak.”

The scene is the race track at about 51 minutes into the movie, and a line of jockeys are walking along the stands on their way to saddle up. They all have hats on, and all are very short and pretty young looking. The woman with the light-colored dress says haughtily, “Hmmm, those jockeys are just little boys.” Buster was the next in line, and when he hears the comment, he doffs his hat, saying, “I thank you, lady.” Everyone laughs- Buster was great at getting a laugh with just a few words. (But do note his voice- that may be why he did not get many speaking parts in the movies, but did fine in vaudeville in earlier years. Rudolph Valentino had the same problem.)

Closeup of Buster Brodie/Max Broida as a jockey in the 1935 C. C. Burr Productions' sports-crime-drama, "Kentucky Blue Streak."
Closeup of Buster Brodie/Max Broida as a jockey in the 1935 C. C. Burr Productions’ sports-crime-drama, “Kentucky Blue Streak.”

The film makers had some fun with this film. The ‘meet cute’ at about 12 minutes in is interesting- they have hot dogs at the racetrack but they are in round buns and stick out at the ends! (Maybe hot dog buns had not yet been ‘invented’? But I am not researching that this late at night- especially because I would probably end up writing a social history piece about the hot dog and bun, and not stay focused on finishing this post.) Real Kentucky Derby racetrack scenes are incorporated to add realism- the cars are very cool. Also, C.C. Burr, of ‘C.C. Burr Productions’ played a cameo, as a jockey.

One very interesting thing in the movie caught my attention at the predictable end, and I had to go back and listen again. When they are calling the race at the end (about 52 minutes into the movie), the #3 post position horse is named, “Time Out.” The rider’s name is “Buster Brodie.” I was so surprised to hear that in the movie! Wonder how all the other ‘riders’ were related to the movie or writers.

“Kentucky Blue Streak” was made in 1935, but maybe there was a bit of foreshadowing, and we can only wonder why the name of the horse “Time Out” and Buster Brodie as its ‘rider’ were mentioned in the film. Variety– the entertainment professional’s newspaper- stated in Buster’s obituary that he had been in pictures for 20 years, “in addition to selling mutual tickets at race tracks recently.” It was probably hard for Buster to make it with just film work. Looking back on his life and career, we can see the irony of this film and his ‘second job’ during his later years.

 

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. See also, especially for availability of films:
    1. “Talented Tuesday: Max Broida-Now Starring as Buster Brodie”- http://heritageramblings.net/2015/04/07/talented-tuesday-max-broida-now-starring-as-buster-brodie/
    2. The Real Max Broida, AKA Buster Brodie- http://heritageramblings.net/2015/04/10/the-real-max-broida-aka-buster-brodie/
    3. “Talented Tuesday: A Bit More Buster Brodie”- http://heritageramblings.net/2015/04/28/talented-tuesday-a-bit-more-buster-brodie/
  2. Watch “Kentucky Blue Streak” online: http://free-classic-movies.com/movies-03b/03b-1935-05-01-Kentucky-Blue-Streak/index.php
  3. IMDb.com– This used to be the “International Movie Data Base” with volunteers posting all the details of favorite movies. The website is now owned by Amazon.com but still a good (although not always complete) source of information.
  4. “Buster Brodie” – Buster Brodie/Max Broida obituary in Variety, 14 Apr 1948.

 

Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images. Click to enlarge images.

We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), 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.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2015 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 
Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright of our blog material.

Labor Day: Celebrating the Labors of Our Ancestors

First Labor Day Parade in the US, 5 Sep 1882 in New York City. Via Wikimedia.
First Labor Day Parade in the US, 5 Sep 1882 in New York City. Via Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)

 

Labor Day officially became a federal holiday in the United States in 1894. “The Gilded Age” included the rise of big business, like the railroads and oil companies, but laborers fought- sometimes literally- for their rights in the workplace. Grover Cleveland signed the law to honor the work and contributions, both economic and for society, of the American laborer. Celebrated on the first Monday in September, ironically the holiday was a concession to appease the American worker after the government tried to break up a railroad strike but failed.

The Labor Day weekend is a good time to think about our ancestors and the work they did to help move our country and their own family forward.

Jefferson Springsteen was a mail carrier through the wilds of early Indiana, traveling for miles on horseback through spring freshets (full or flooding streams from snow melt), forest, and Indian villages. Samuel T. Beerbower, who would be a some-number-great uncle depending on your generation, was the Postmaster in Marion, Ohio, for many years. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Edward B. Payne, circa 1874. Image courtesy of Second Congregational Church, Wakeman, Ohio.
Edward B. Payne, Pastor, circa 1874. Image courtesy of Second Congregational Church, Wakeman, Ohio.

Bad weather, gloom of night, ocean crossings in the mid 1800s, and the threat of disease or injury did not stay our minister, deacon, and missionary ancestors from their appointed rounds either- especially since the felt they were appointed by a higher power. We have quite a number of very spiritual men in the family. Henry Horn became a Methodist circuit rider after coming to America as a Hessian soldier, being captured by George Washington’s troops in Trenton, NJ, then taking an Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and serving in the Revolutionary Army. The family migrated from Virginia to the wilds of western Pennsylvania sometime between 1782 and 1786. A story is told of how he was riding home from a church meeting in the snow. The drifts piled up to the body of the horse, and they could barely proceed on, but Henry did, and was able to preach another day. He founded a church Pleasantville, Bedford Co., Pennsylvania that still stands, and has a congregation, even today. Edward B. Payne and his father, Joseph H. Payne, Kingsley A. Burnell and his brother Thomas Scott Burnell were all ministers, some with formal schooling, some without. Edward B. Payne gave up a lucrative pastorate because he thought the church members were wealthy and educated enough that they did not need him. He moved to a poor church in an industrial town, where he was needed much more, however, he may have acquired his tuberculosis there. He also risked his life, and that of his family, by sheltering a woman from the domestic violence of her husband, and he testified on her behalf.

Abraham Green was one of the best tailors in St. Louis, Missouri in the early 1900s, and many in the Broida family, such as John Broida and his son Phillip Broida, plus Phillip’s daughter Gertrude Broida Cooper, worked in the fine clothing industry.

Edgar Springsteen worked for the railroad, and was often gone from the family. Eleazer John “E.J.” Beerbower worked for the railroads making upholstered cars- he had been a buggy finisher previously, both highly skilled jobs.

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.” (Click to enlarge.)

The theater called a number of our collateral kin (not direct lines, but siblings to one of our ancestors): Max Broida was in vaudeville, and known in films as “Buster Brodie.” Elsie Janis, born Elsie Beerbower, was a comedienne, singer, child star in vaudeville, “Sweetheart of the A.E.F” as she entertained the troops overseas in World War I, and then she went on to write for films. Max Broida also did a stint in the circus, as did Jefferson Springsteen, who ran away from home as “a very small boy” to join the circus (per his obituary).

Collateral Lee family from Irthlingborough, England, included shoemakers, as that was the specialty of the town. They brought those skills to Illinois, and some of those tools have been handed down in the family- strange, unknown tools in an inherited tool chest turned out to be over 100 years old!

Will McMurray and his wife Lynette Payne McMurray owned a grocery store in Newton, Iowa. Ella V. Daniels Roberts sold eggs from her chickens, the butter she made from the cows she milked, and her delicious pies at the McMurray store. Franz Xavier Helbling and some of his brothers and sons were butchers in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, and had their own stores.

Some of our ancestors kept hotels or taverns. Joseph Parsons (a Burnell ancestor) was issued a license to operate an ‘ordinary’ or “house of entertainment” in 1661 in Massachusetts, and Samuel Lenton Lee was listed as “Keeps hotel” and later as a saloon keeper in US Federal censuses. Jefferson Springsteen had a restaurant at the famous Fulton Market in Brooklyn, NY in the late 1840s.

From left: Edgar B. Helbling, (Anna) "May" Helbling, Vi Helbling, and Gerard William Helbling, on Flag Day 1914.
From left: Edgar B. Helbling, (Anna) “May” Helbling, Vi Helbling, and Gerard William Helbling, on Flag Day 1914. Note ‘Undertaker’ sign- yes, it was all done in his home. (Click to enlarge.)

Many of our family had multiple jobs. William Gerard Helbling (AKA Gerard William Helbling or “G.W.”) listed himself as working for a theater company, was an artist, then an undertaker, and finally a sign painter. George H. Alexander was artistic as well- he created paintings but also worked as a lighting designer to pay the bills.

Sometimes health problems forced a job change. Edward B. Payne was a Union soldier, librarian, and then a pastor until he was about 44 when his respiratory problems from tuberculosis forced him to resign the pulpit. For the rest of his life he did a little preaching, lecturing, and writing. He also became an editor for a number of publications including, “The Overland Monthly,” where he handed money over from his own pocket (per family story) to pay the young writer Jack London for his first published story. Edward B. Payne even founded a Utopian colony called Altruria in California! He and his second wife, Ninetta Wiley Eames Payne, later owned and conducted adult ‘summer camps’ that were intellectual as well as healthy physically while camping in the wild and wonderful northern California outdoors.

Other times, health problems- those of other people- are what gave our ancestors jobs:  Edward A. McMurray and his brother Herbert C. McMurray were both physicians, as was John H. O’Brien (a Helbling ancestor), who graduated from medical school in Dublin, Ireland, and came to America in 1832. He settled in western Pennsylvania, still wild and in the midst of a cholera epidemic that was also sweeping the nation; he had his work cut out for him. (It appears he did not get the same respect as other doctors because he was Irish, and this was pre-potato famine.) Lloyd Eugene “Gene” Lee and his father Samuel J. Lee owned a drugstore in St. Louis, as did Gene’s brother-in-law, Claude Aiken. Edith Roberts McMurray Luck worked as a nurse since she received a degree in biology in 1923.

We have had many soldiers who have helped protect our freedom, and we will honor some of those persons on Veterans Day.

We cannot forget the farmers, but they are too numerous to name them all! Even an urban family often had a large garden to supplement purchased groceries, but those who farmed on a larger scale included George Anthony Roberts, Robert Woodson Daniel, David Huston Hemphill, Amos Thomas, etc., etc. We even have a pecan farmer in the Lee family- William Hanford Aiken, in Waltham County, Mississippi, in the 1930s-40s.

Lynette Payne, December 1909, wearing a purple and lavender silk dress.
Lynette Payne, December 1909, wearing a purple and lavender silk dress. (Click to enlarge.)

We must also, “Remember the ladies” as Abigail Adams entreated her husband John Adams as he helped form our new nation. He/they did not, so 51% of the population-women- were not considered citizens except through their fathers or husbands. Many of these women, such as Lynette Payne McMurray, labored to get women the right to vote, equal pay, etc. (Lynette ‘walked the talk’ too- she was the first woman to ride a bicycle in Newton, Iowa! Not so easy when one thinks about the clothing involved.) Some men, like her father, Edward B. Payne, put their energy into the women’s suffrage movement as well. Many of our ancestors worked for the abolition movement too, including the Payne and Burnell families.

A woman worked beside her husband in many families, although she would get little credit for it. Who cooked the meals and cleaned the rooms for the Lee and Parsons innkeepers? Likely their wives, who also had to keep their own home clean, laundry washed, manage a garden and often livestock- many families kept chickens even if they didn’t have a farm. They raised and educated their many children too, sometimes 13 or more. Oh yes, let’s not forget that women truly ‘labored’ to bring all those children into the world that they had made from scratch. (Building a human from just two cells makes building a barn seem somewhat less impressive, doesn’t it?) Some of them even died from that labor.

June 1942- Claude Frank Aiken and his wife Mildred Paul in their drugstore.
June 1942- Claude Frank Aiken and his wife Mildred Paul Aiken in their drugstore in St. Louis, Missouri.

Working alongside one’s husband could be frightening due to the dangers of the job. A noise in the Aiken family drugstore in St. Louis, Missouri in 1936 awoke Claude and Mildred Aiken since they lived in the back of the store. Claude look a gun and went into the store while Mildred called the police. Claude fired the gun high to frighten the intruder- Mildred must have been very scared if she was in the back, wondering who had fired the shot and if her husband was still alive. Thankfully he was, and the police were able to arrest the thief, who wanted to steal money to pay a lawyer to defend him in his three previous arrests for armed burglary and assault.

 

We applaud all of our ancestors who worked hard to support their family. Their work helped to make the US the largest economic power in the world, and a place immigrants would come to achieve their ‘American dream.’ We hope our generation, and the next, can labor to keep our country prosperous and strong.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. There are too many folks listed here to add references, but using the search box on the blog page can get you to any of the stories that have been posted about many of these persons. Of course, there is always more to come, so stay tuned!

 

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