Women, the past and home ownership

As I’ve stated before I’m not too keen on architectural history, in that I just don’t have an interest in it. However, I do have an interest in property transfers and its history, as that tends to relate to personal wealth.
Today, I’ll be covering myself in red rot from old volumes regarding, some DC properties in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There are published books (Lusk real estate assessment directories, published by Rufus Lusk & Sons) listing the owner of the property. I noticed, running my eyes down the list of owners, I saw several repeats for a series of houses right next to or nearby each other. So you’d have say a Ruppert or a Richardson owning 4 or 5 houses on a block. And not all owners were male. Most were male, but not all.
Now going back to the 1900 census project, so far (I’m still cleaning up data) of the 1101 households, 892 rent. That is a huge chunk. 78 are owners with a mortgage, and 104 own their homes free and clear. Of the homeowners, 45 are women. Now, it would be correct to say that in 1900, not many women owned their own home. It would be also correct to say not many men owned their own homes either, since most rental heads were male.
Though not as popular as the career of laundress there were about 9 landladies and 1 female capitalist. Yes, ladies and gents, someone said their occupation was that of a capitalist. So in this turn of the century world there were women involved in the real estate game, as owners or property managers (landlady). Not many, but 1900 wasn’t 2000 where credit was extended to anyone who could breathe for a home loan.

Don’t fill out 2010 Census forms drunk

This year is when we will get the 2010 Census in the mail or if you don’t get it or fill it out, census takers will come to your door. Anyway, my cousin has completed the 1900 census for the Truxton Circle area and I still got to mash the data up, clear out the non-addresses, and decide what kind of paper I want to write. The last enumeration district she had to do, was ED 63, and according to her complaint, the dude who was the census taker must have been drunk. Since it is 1900 I will concur on the drunk part, and not chalk it up to crack. The census taker’s work was sloppy, disjointed, and simply disorganized. We imagine that he was staggering around eastern Mt. Vernon Square area asking random passersby where they lived.
Maybe he kept stopping by bars. I don’t know about the number of saloons or bars in the TC area circa 1900 but apparently a lot of the Irish that were captured in our study were barkeeps. Yes, I know that just goes right into a stereotype. What can I say, our data has stereotypes. Don’t blame us, blame the occupational landscape for Irish, and African Americans for 1900.
Back to our drunken census taker, he has made trying to clean up the data hard, and there will probably be some holes. So for the sake of any future researcher in 2090, please write clearly with a clear head, when you fill out your 2010 census form.
Thank you.

Euphemia Lofton-Haynes or Intellectualism doesn’t pay well

It has been twice in one week I have referred to Dr. Euphemia Lofton Haynes, first Afro-American woman with a PhD in Mathematics in conversation, not by name, but by accomplishment. Her connection with anything relating to me is that once upon a time she owned my house. She didn’t live in it, it was an investment property. She bought it, rented it out, and later sold it, as she did with several other properties in the area. It was just one of many in her portfolio.
If the quick biographies of her, very few, if almost none mention where she got the money for living the life of an educator and social activist. She was the only daughter (she had a brother) of a dentist, so she came from some level of comfort. She worked in public schools such as Armstrong and Dunbar, Miner’s College, and later the president of the DC Board of Education. Positions, though highly respectable, don’t strike me as highly lucrative. According to the biography provided by the university that holds Dr. Lofton-Haynes papers, “the Haynes’ family moved solidly into the upper-middle class, owning a substantial number of rental properties throughout the District.”
She is rightly known for her educational achievements, but what supported her ability to become the intellectual and activist was not her income as an educator. Right now I’m meditating on what that means.

The past is a weird country you only get to visit via travelogues

I was chatting with my cousin about the census project. We were on the topic of occupations. Some bewilder her, like hustler and huckster and compositor. Then there are others where she was amazed at the sheer number of laundresses. Lota lota laundresses. Off the top of my head I was trying to remember the history of Washington DC domestic service, along with the history of American consumer culture and the rise of the home washing machine and indoor plumbing, which would have made a laundress unnecessary. Later, conditions changed where the “need” & “supply” for domestic servants (another large female occupation) disappeared.
She also noted the large number of people in one house, also unusual for our time, normal for then. I explained that several houses in the neighborhood were two or more units. You can see it with some of the Bates Street houses still, where there are two doors, one for the lower unit, and another for the 2nd floor unit. Regardless, there would be three generations sharing a house or a unit.
Another shocking thing I told her, not revealed in the data, but coming from the whole laundress and plumber (a biggy for white males) discussion, was the lack of running water in many neighborhood houses. Yes, not every house had running water inside. Think of all the things you use that requiring water on command (toilets, dishwasher, shower, etc) and imagine not having that. I illustrate this for her I recalled one of our late grandmother’s odd habits such as keeping a chamber pot under her bed. She had running water, but she was, eh, mentally ru-ral. The running water problem lasted up till about the late 50s or 60s in parts of Shaw.

Ten Days of Truxtun- The End

Day 10. I’ve been trying to figure out at what point Tom Truxtun went from Captain Truxtun to Commodore Truxtun. Apparently some time between 1800-1801, when he took command of the President and before he quit the US Navy all together because of some ranking spat, that wasn’t entirely Truxtun’s fault. In 1801 the fake war with France ended and there wasn’t much of a need for a wartime naval force. And it appears through some letters sent in 1802 about a meeting with the Secretary of the Navy, because he caught a cold failed to dine with the Secretary, who apparently wasn’t that keen on him in the 1st place, who then failed to provide Truxtun with the requested personnel needed. It seems that Truxtun decided if he was going to get no respect he may as well quit. So he did and from 1803-1822 lived life as a gentleman living off of prize money won in earlier years. He had a farm, a couple for a while, but settled at Wood Lawn, a farm not far from Philadelphia. He served as a High Sheriff from 1816-1819. In 1822 he died, his wife a year later.

Ten Days of Truxtun:
Day 1- The Name-The Hood
Day 2- Slavery
Day 3- Commodore’s background
Day 4- What I did During the American Revolution
Day 5- Continuing the Revolutionary War
Day 6- Going for broke
Day 7- In the Navy
Day 8- Not the British Navy
Day 9- Fake French War

Resources- Commodore Thomas Truxtun 1755-1822 by Eugene S. Ferguson. The free Library of Philadelphia, 1947.
Truxtun of the Constellation: The Life of Commodor Thomas Truxtun, US Navy, 1755-1822, by Eugene S. Ferguson. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

Ten Days of Truxtun- Fake French War

Day 9. Friendships are funny things, particularly between nations. France was our ally in the Revolutionary War and our revolution inspired the French Revolution, well the revolution part not so much the beheading and turn the world upside down part. Anyway America made peace with Great Britain and in regards to the war between Britain and revolutionary France, the French turned on the Americans. Not officially though, they just sent privateers after American ships. Thus the fake war.
In 1799 (as far as I can tell) Captain Thomas Truxtun had some significant victories over the French. One was the capture of L’Insurgente, which was one of France’s fastest frigates. The other was the severe damage of La Vengeance, a much heavier ship that was bigger and had more firepower that Truxtun’s Constellation. Truxtun’s newfangled ideas about discipline and naval training is credited to his victories.

Ten Days of Truxtun- Not the British Navy

Day 8. After some chatting with a friend whose knowledge of the British Navy in the 18th & 19th Century comes from reading novels and having a crazed roommate obsessed with the Horatio Hornblower series, we came to the conclusion that the last place you wanted to be was in the British Navy. There was the bad food, the floggings, the classism, disease, more floggings, and the warfare, ’cause no one likes getting shot at. Now Captain Tom Truxtun tried to move away from the British model with fewer floggings replaced with reprimands, and some idea about courtesy and mutual respect. The problem with the British system he wrote,

” A man of war is a petty kingdom and is governed by a petty despot… The little tyrant, who struts his few fathoms of scoured plank, dare not unbend, lest he should lose that appearance of respect from his inferiors which their fears inspire. He has therefore, no society, no smiles, no courtesies for or from any one. Wrapped up in notion of his own dignity, and the means of preserving it, he shuts himself up from all around him. He stands alone, without the friendship or sympathy of one on board; a solitary being in the midst of the ocean.”

[Ferguson, 147]
So therefore let Capt. Truxtun inspire you this day not to be a tyrant to your interns or underlings, smile at your co-workers or remember to show them some courtesy in your dealings with them this day.

Ten Days of Truxtun- In the Navy

Day 7, in March of 1794 Congress decided grudgingly to support a Navy. The idea was 6 ships would be built, they would address the attacks from the Algiers on American ships, and once that’s done disband and go back to being a shiny new nation. Well that was the idea. Tom Truxtun agreed to be one of the 6 captains of this American navy which limited his income. He would make more money as a merchant seaman than as a captain in the navy. Each captain was in charge of overseeing the building of his ship and Truxtun chose Baltimore for his ship. Unfortunately there was a huge problem with finding suitable live oak, needed to build the type of ship needed, which created delays and it didn’t help that peace was achieved with the Algerians. In 1796 the US Navy was in danger of being dismantled, per the act of Congress that commission it, but was saved with the Navy bill signed by George Washington April 20, 1796.
Besides getting the Constellation built, Truxtun’s other great contribution to the Navy was creating a system of organization. The initial idea of the Navy was there would be 6 ships, six captains, and they would operate independently of each other. The nation was loathe to use signals and other customs from the Royal Navy, so Truxtun wrote a book in 1797 Instructions, Signals, and Explanations, Ordered for the United States Fleet. He stressed learning and the study of the naval arts in a profession that wasn’t known for it’s love of reading, or scientific study.

Ten Days of Truxtun- Going for broke

Day 6, in looking at the life of Tom Truxtun, for whom a circle was named, and that now gone circle names a ‘hood.
Nothing truly exciting happened between the end of the Revolutionary War and 1794 in Tom’s life. He got older, sailed the world, got into a scrape with John Paul Jones, had a bunch of kids, the usual. The notable things to mention was his career as a merchant seaman was pretty good despite nearly losing it all and going into deep debit because the post war economy went into the crapper. Apparently, printing a lot of money, speculating and importing and not really exporting is bad for a country.
Next, Ten Days of Truxtun- In the Navy