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.

Emmett in Pensacola, 1902

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A little over a month ago, 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 last October, 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.

What I know about this period is that 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.

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.

Information Sleuthing; Research Envy

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I heard back from the archivist at the University of West Florida, Dr. DeBolt, about the half-editorial written by CHB Floyd in the Pensacola Evening News for 1912. Dr. DeBolt checked the hard-copy holdings and the reserve film.

Unfortunately, the bound copy and the reserve film showed that the editorial is only one half of the page, just as in my version of the microfilm. But he referred me to his colleague, Dr. James Cusick, at the University of Florida’s George Smathers Library and Archive in Gainesville. They also have copies of the Pensacola Evening News in their holdings, but he was not sure how complete they were.

Dr. Cusick got back to me this morning and said, unfortunately, they don’t have anything in bound copy from 1912. The more complete holdings are at the University of West Florida, so if they aren’t at UWF…well, strike two.

I’ve put queries out to the other libraries that may have Pensacola newspapers from this time period in their holdings, including the Library of Congress, but they may not have updated their holdings list, or, they simply may not have the Pensacola Evening News, period.

Next, I’ll contact the CHB Floyd descendants again. Perhaps they found a collection of their ancestor’s published writing, or notes that would include something from 1912 since my last contact.

Cross your fingers. Something may turn up.


Meanwhile, I’ve been working on the logistics for the second research trip. What’s hard is narrowing my list of need-to-see from the want-to-see list because I simply don’t have an unrestricted amount of time when I visit. There’s so much I’d like to see, but I’m only going to have about week, maybe 10 days on the outside, to do it. Two and a half of those days are for traveling, as it is a 15 hour drive to Pensacola from here.

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I’m having to prioritize what I can see/do on this trip. I’ll hit Pensacola, Chipley, Marianna, and (maybe, hopefully) Tallahassee. I had hoped to fit Gainesville in there, too, but it isn’t going to be possible.

I don’t know about you, but I have this tendency to overthink and overplan things and events before they happen. I’m trying not to do that, but it is a bit hard, because I have a big list of items I need to see in the archives this time. The last time I was in Pensacola, the Escambia Court Archives and Records building was closed due to hurricane damage the week before I got there. So, I’m having to make up for that missed visit.

Most of my time will be spent divided between Pensacola and Marianna, viewing holdings in the Escambia and Jackson county courthouse archives. Getting what I need to get done between business hours is the thing; as in, I’m worried that I won’t be able to accomplish what I need to do before I have to leave.

Hell, I could stay all night in an archive if someone would let me, and I’d finish. All I need is a blanket, a laptop, and coffee in a travel cup. I’d leave the place cleaner than I found it, just like a good scout. I’d even have a fresh pot of coffee and bagels in the office kitchen ready to go the next morning as a thank-you!

See, they use a LOT of legs for that legwork, AKA 'research assistants.' Otherwise, our friends Wes and Elyse, et al. would not be able to produce this show every week.

See, they use a LOT of legs for that legwork, AKA ‘research assistants.’ Otherwise, our friends Wes and Elyse, et al. would not be able to produce this show every week.

This is where I share with you my deep envy of the fact that the History Detectives have research assistants AND a budget for them! I so envy the fact that other historian-type writers, such as David McCullough, have research assistants AND a budget for them!

A colleague has suggested hiring a research assistant at the Gainesville and Tallahassee libraries to look the information up for me if I run out of time. It is a good option, but honestly, I much prefer to see this information for myself. I hate the idea of delegating that to a research assistant, because I don’t want to miss anything in the discovery process, including holding the same document that Emmett might have held in his hands once upon a time.

Still. Nowhere is it written that Emmett’s research must be done in one fell swoop, all by my lonesome; and in fact, much of my research has been about cooperation with many willing others who are simply glad to help. There are RAs on staff at these two libraries who would be more than willing to help me with this project. Some of these students who need the research experience for academic credit. It’s worth investigating.