Friday, August 24, 2018

Wedding Spoons

One of the challenges of sorting through the estate of family members that loved buying antiques is figuring out which items are actual family memorabilia and which items are just things they picked up at flea markets and junk stores.

When we were sorting through everything, we spotted the monogrammed H on a pair of tarnished spoons and set them aside in case the H stood for Harmon. The spoons had a date engraved on them, which we figured would help us decipher their history.

Since then, as I've been working through the family archived and genealogy, I've become familiar with the significant dates in the Harmon family tree. When I looked again at the spoons last weekend, I immediately knew what they were.

The date engraved on the spoons is September 19, 1906 (9.19.06). That's the day that Edward Harmon married Mollie Carson in her parent's home at Hughesville, Missouri. Ten years later, Mollie gave birth to their only child, James, who would eventually become my grandfather.

Hughesville, Missouri today is a tiny village, with fewer than 200 people. It was founded in 1871, located on a branch of the Missouri Pacific railroad line, with a small post office and general store. During its early years, the village's prominent citizens included immigrants from Scotland and Germany, as well as migrants from Eastern states like Kentucky.

Mollie's father, James Carson, was an Irish immigrant who worked as a farm laborer in Hughesville (1900 Census). Her mother, Narcissa Garner Carson, was only 15 when the couple married in 1860. Mollie, in contrast, was 28 when she married Edward Harmon (who was 38 and divorced).

Edward Harmon's father owned a farm near Kansas, Illinois. Edward and Mollie set up their own home there, and Edward worked as a carpenter. He was also an inventor: he received a patent in 1907 for a Combined Dumping and Platform Elevator.

The spoons were made by the R. Wallace Company of Connecticut, founded in 1835 by Robert Wallace of Prospect, CT. The production of silver-plated flatware was big business in Connecticut during the 1800s and early 1900s, with companies in Waterbury, Wallingford, Meriden, and other cities supplying the country (and the world) with fashionable and affordable utensils.

The company that made the Harmon family spoons was R. Wallace & Sons, based in Wallingford, CT.  Flatware marked "1835 R. Wallace" was the most expensive of the Wallace line. An advertisement from 1911 claimed that the 1835 R. Wallace flatware was made with extra silver plate "on the parts most exposed to wear." (McClure's Magazine, Marketplace of the World, April 1911, p. 109)

Kansas, Illinois was a thriving village of 1,500 people in 1905 (Encyclopedia of Illinois and the History of Edgar County, Edited by H. Van Sellar, 1905). The village included a hotel, several stores, electricity and telephone service. The spoons may well have been purchased in Kansas as a wedding gift for Edward and Mollie.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Perils of Radio

I've finally started going through the Harmon Family archives, sorting and organizing all of the documents, photographs, postcards, and other ephemera, and getting everything placed in archival storage containers. It's a task that will likely take a few years to complete.

Among today's discoveries was a letter written in 1931 to Mollie Harmon by George M. Skinner, who taught Sunday School to Mollie's son James. Skinner apologizes for introducing young James to radio, attributing his low grades to his new hobby. The letter reads: