The Value of Negative Space

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In between writing and digging around in a new-to-me database this week, I’ve been reading microfilm copies of The West Florida Commercial and The Pensacola Observer, 1867-69.

These newspapers were published during Reconstruction, and there are only scattered issues in existence. By 1871, both papers had ceased publication.

With so much information at our fingertips these days, the idea of a city producing more than one newspaper is amazing. The papers alternated production days; also, political leanings. The Commercial was solidly Democrat; the Observer, Republican. As such, Emmett’s grandfather, A.E. Maxwell, advertised his law firm only in the The West Florida Commercial.

Refreshing honesty of old-school journalism. Source: The West Florida Commercial, July, 1869.

Refreshing honesty of old-school journalism. Source: The West Florida Commercial, July, 1869.

These are four-page traditional-sized newspapers full of advertising and little content…except for the editorial pages, where the writers did not mince words, especially about carpetbaggers, scalawags, and the like. This was not a time for polite journalism. The refreshing honesty of the Fourth Estate, old-school style.

All that aside, I was reading the film to find out information about Emmett’s parents, grandparents, and uncle. Here’s what I’ve found:

  • The location of Emmett’s grandfather’s law office. It was in the Mallory Building. This is significant because Emmett’s grandfather, AE Maxwell, was the partner with SR Mallory, who owned the building.
  • I found mention of Emmett’s uncle, Everard Meade, who had opened a classical school in 1867 in Pensacola. His school’s advertisement was also in the Pensacola papers.
  • Meade’s school was located in the Mallory Building. Meade was married to Emmett’s aunt, Lucy Maxwell. So, odds are that the two were introduced by Maxwell and/or Mallory.
Christ Episcopal Church, Holly Springs, Mississippi. Built in 1858.

Christ Episcopal Church, Holly Springs, Mississippi. Built in 1858.

  • There is no more mention of Meade’s school in Pensacola after January, 1869. Meade married Lucy Maxwell on December 19, 1868, and this gives me a big clue re the date they moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi. Meade had a partner who re-opened the school on his own in the spring of 1869. Also, the Meades were enumerated in Holly Springs in the 1870 census. Meade became the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Holly Springs.
  • Although I have not found anything mentioning Emmett’s parents directly, I did find out who the town physicians were. This is important because Emmett’s father didn’t go back to medical school after the war; he apprenticed with an established physician in Pensacola, and that is how he got a license to practice medicine. I’ve been able to find out who those physicians were: The good news is that there were three of them, and with a bit more sleuthing, I can probably find out who was Dr. Wilson’s instructor.

While there doesn’t seem to be a lot here, there is something to be said for ‘negative space’ findings, and the information they provide, if you know how to use it.

 

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