Chapter 57: Secretarial School

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September 7, 2016
Bender Library
The American University

I have holes in my Emmett Wilson timeline. Oddball gaps where I don’t know what was going in on his life. The only way I know how to narrow that gap is simply to read the contemporary newspapers from Emmett’s time — his family was prominent in West Florida. If anything, I can track down his family to see what they were doing, then try again to contact descendants about the time period. I don’t have much to go on.

One of the tools I’ve lately discovered is contemporary newspapers. There are several online, and many are available on microfilm for me to borrow via InterLibrary Loan. Today, I’m using the microfilm reader at The American University, where I am both an alumni and adjunct faculty, so I have privileges here.

Last month, I reported on finding electronic copies of The Pensacola News for 1902. The electronic newspaper is located on a database at the George A. Smathers Library of the University of Florida. You can see the copies for yourself at the link here.

There are only a few years of this publication available — and luckily, it exists electronically. My colleagues at the University of West Florida have several bound copies of The Pensacola Evening News (the later iteration of this same paper) from 1913 to 1918, but unfortunately, could not let me (or anyone else) look at it, because the bound copies are literally disintegrating. When I was in Pensacola in October 2015, I asked (my second request), even brought my own cotton gloves with me. The archivists — who know me fairly well by now — really wanted to let me look through the books, but they couldn’t.

One thing to note about the electronic copy is that it is only as good as the hard copy that was scanned in. Here’s an example:

Notice the faded text on the left side of the page. Unfortunately, this is the situation for the left side of the pages throughout the bound book of newspapers. Source: The Pensacola Daily News, Feb 14, 1902, page 1. University of Florida

Notice the faded text on the left side of the page. Unfortunately, this is the situation for the left side of the pages throughout the bound book of newspapers. Source: The (Pensacola) Daily News, Feb 14, 1902, page 1. University of Florida

I spent several weeks carefully going through every single paper available electronically during the brief period when Emmett lived in Pensacola (September 1901 to February 1902), before he enrolled at Stetson University.

Ad from The Chipley Banner, 1894. DJ Jones was a well-established attorney and judge for many years. Source: Chronicling America.com

After Emmett came home from WFS in January, 1901, he immediate started clerking for Judge Daniel J. Jones, one of the most important lawyers in West Florida, with the idea that he would do as his brother Cephas: Clerk for a prominent jurist for a few years, take the bar exam, and begin his practice.  But times were changing for the legal profession around 1900, as more states were requiring law school and official degrees as proper credentials over old-school apprenticeship training.

Emmett and Judge Jones must have discussed the future of the profession, and I am certain Judge Jones would have encouraged Emmett earn a law degree at a college or university, to ensure his best possible professional opportunities.

And surprise — I’ve discovered Emmett was attending Meux’s Business College, taking shorthand and secretarial courses.

Advertisement from August 30, 1901 edition of The (Pensacola) Daily News. Emmett had been clerking for Judge D.J. Jones, during this time -- but he could only do so much without knowledge of shorthand. It is likely Jones recommended Emmett obtain shorthand training. Emmett was visiting family during the summer of 1901, and this advertisement got his attention. Source: The (Pensacola) Daily News, August 30, 1901.

Advertisement from August 30, 1901 edition of The (Pensacola) Daily News. Emmett had been clerking for Judge D.J. Jones, during this time — but he could only do so much without knowledge of shorthand. It is likely Jones recommended Emmett obtain shorthand training. Emmett was visiting family during the summer of 1901, and this advertisement got his attention. Shorthand was cataloged under the ‘Sciences’, as in business science. Source: The (Pensacola) Daily News, August 30, 1901.

Emmett most likely lived with his uncle, Judge Evelyn Croom Maxwell during his six months in Pensacola. Emmett’s grandfather, Judge A.E. Maxwell, was also in Pensacola, but not in the best of health in 1901 — and at that point, A.E. Maxwell had moved in with his son. It’s possible he was staying with the Kehoe family, but I like to think about Emmett being in proximity to his grandfather. I’ve always believed that Emmett Maxwell and Emmett Wilson were very close.

Here's the census of 1900 showing that Emmett's grandfather (who went by 'Emmett'; hence the "E.A." in the list) was living with his son and daughter-in-law on Belmont Street in Pensacola. Source: U.S. Census, 1900

Here’s the census of 1900 showing that Emmett’s grandfather (who went by ‘Emmett’; hence the “E.A.” in the list) was living with his son and daughter-in-law on Belmont Street in Pensacola. Source: U.S. Census, 1900

Alas, there’s a big, empty lot now where the Maxwell house once stood.

And then, I found this:

Source: The Chipley Banner, September 1902.

Imagine clerking for a judge and not knowing shorthand? I suppose that was a problem for Jones. At least he gave Emmett a chance; mentored him for a bit, told him perhaps that he had the brains to do well in law, but he needed some basics. Stenography for sure, and then once he could truly do the work of a clerk for awhile, go to law school.

So, I’ve figured that Emmett remained with Jones as a clerk for about six months, before he left to take the shorthand course at Meux’s Business School in Pensacola. The course ran between eight and 10 weeks.

Then, Emmett returned to Marianna in 1902 to clerk for Cephas for several months, then earning enough money to attend Stetson University in September, 1903.

Portions of this post came originally from my blog here, and here.

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