Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Save the child if you would save the state": Newsboys in Birmingham in 1922

               Serendipity can be a wonderful thing. Working on another project recently, I stumbled across an online volume of a quarterly magazine called The American Child, “A Journal of Constructive Democracy” published by the National Child Labor Committee and selling for 25 cents per copy.

               According to Wikipedia, “Edgar Gardner Murphy, an American clergyman and author, is credited with proposing the National Child Labor Committee following a conference between Murphy's Alabama Child Labor Committee, and the New York Child Labor Committee. The conference culminated on April 25, 1904 at a mass meeting held in Carnegie Hall, New York City. At the meeting, both men and women concerned with the plight of working children overwhelmingly supported the formation of the National Child Labor Committee.“

Murphy, who died in 1913, was an author and rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Montgomery; he had suggested a national organization in a pamphlet he published in February, 1904. The last decade of his life was devoted to efforts in education and social work. One of his books, Problems in the Present South, first appeared in 1904, with a second edition in 1909. The NCLC is still active today with headquarters in Manhattan. The American Child began publication in 1919 and lasted until 1967.

               Volumes 3 and 4 from the early 1920s can be found online at Google Books. In the last issue of volume 3, from February 1922, is a fascinating article by Esther Lee Rider, “Newsboys in Birmingham” [pp 315-324].  At the time, Rider was a Child Labor Inspector for the Alabama Department of Child Welfare. She studied the hours, pay and “general conduct” of 143 young men who spent two to four hours daily selling or distributing newspapers in the city. She wanted to know if that work affected their schooling “and whether street trades have a tendency to produce delinquency and low moral standards.”

               In 1922 three daily papers in the city published two to four editions each day. Morning papers rolled off the presses about 5 o’clock and the afternoon ones appeared between noon and 5 p.m. Most of the boys Rider studied, 107, were street sellers and most of them sold afternoon editions, which disrupted their schooling less. The others distributed morning or afternoon papers for some of the 150 or so men who as district carriers were responsible for getting papers to subscribers. Rider only studied boys who had “badges” under the Alabama child labor law; how many other unlicensed children were employed as newsboys is unknown.

               That law allowed children in the “street trades” to work only between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. Alabama had passed its first child labor act in the 1886-7 session. The 1915 act prohibited boys under 12 from selling papers and under 10 from distributing them; girls under 18 were not allowed to work in any street trades at all. Boys under 14 could not work during the hours that their local public schools were in session. In her research, Rider bought papers from newsboys as early as 3 a.m. and as late as 10:30 p.m. Many of the boys admitted to her they worked past 8 p.m. if they had not yet sold all their papers.

               Rider’s article covers many other aspects of the newsboys’ working lives. She examined how long they had been on the job and how much they made. “Although one boy said he made $20.00 a week,” she wrote, “the average earnings of the 107 boys studied [who sold papers] were $6.50 a week or 93 cents daily.” Very few individuals saved any money at all. She outlines a typical daily schedule for the boys and how they spend their earnings. She looked at school attendance and grade records for all of the boys, and found “Promotion uncertain” for 72 and 24 percent of the sellers and distributors respectively. 

               Rider examined the family status of each boy, and how many engaged in such activities as smoking, gambling, truancy, using vulgar language and staying out at night “habitually.” She noted that one boy stayed out all night if he didn’t make his quota and thus avoided his father’s beating. She also describes the recreational activities and juvenile court records of the newsboys.

               Her conclusions note the poor savings rate, the inability of many boys who work to do well in school, poor home environments and the need for more wholesome recreational activities for children, which are “preventive measures against immortality and crime which often result from misdirected energy in early childhood.” Her final sentence reads, “Save the child if you would save the state.” 

              An interesting companion piece to Rider’s article is “Street Trades in Alabama” by Loraine B. Bush, published in the August 1922 issue of The American Child [pp 107-113]. Bush had presented this material at the 17th National Conference on Child Labor and gives some background to the Rider study. Bush notes that three studies of newsboys “hours, earnings and behavior” had been conducted in 1920 in Anniston, Mobile and Montgomery. In the following year a second Mobile study and the one in Birmingham had been completed. Her article gives additional details about the lives of these “nearly 1,000 boys under 16 years of age in Alabama who take out licenses for street trades.”

               These two articles give us a fascinating snapshot of life for some boys in Birmingham and other Alabama cities in the early 1920s. I am reminded of the various portraits of marginal existence and obsolete urban jobs in England described so well by Henry Mayhew in newspaper articles in the 1840s and published in several volumes as London Labour and the London Poor. A broad national perspective on newsboys and the street trades in America can be found in Peter C. Baldwin’s In the Watches of the Night: Life in the Nocturnal City, 1820-1930 (University of Chicago Press, 2012).

Newsboys in Mobile in October 1914. Taken by famed photographer & sociologist Lewis Hine. Source: Library of Congress    

Another of Lewis Hines' newsboy photos from that 1914 Mobile visit

The U.S. Library of Congress newspaper project "Chronicling America" has a topic page devoted to newsboys here

This piece first appeared on the Birmingham History Center's blog in April 2012. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Wild West Show Came to Birmingham--Many Times!

          For many years now the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus has appeared in Birmingham for a stand in late January. That circus has a long history that began in 1919 when the circus of P.T. Barnum and James Bailey merged with the Ringling Brothers Circus. This combined “Greatest Show on Earth” continues to thrive as it travels the United States and Mexico each year.

            Over the decades many other types of spectacular entertainments have visited the city. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries several different wild west shows came through Birmingham. These performances combined elements from the circus and vaudeville with a setting in the American West of the post-Civil War period. A number of men and women who had lived and worked in that time and place, becoming famous in the process, toured with these shows.

            Perhaps the best known was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. Beginning in 1868 William “Buffalo Bill” Cody was a civilian scout for the U.S. Cavalry and in 1872 won a Medal of Honor for gallantry. In December of that year Cody appeared in Ned Buntline’s show “The Scouts of the Prairie” in Chicago. After a decade with Buntline, Cody began “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” in Nebraska and toured various incarnations throughout the U.S. and Europe until the eve of World War I. Cody died in 1917.

            Cody’s shows were a grand spectacle combining many elements. Well-known individuals such as Annie Oakley, her husband Frank Butler, Calamity Jane and Sitting Bull performed. Scenes of western history such as Custer’s last stand, rides of the Pony Express, stagecoach robberies and attacks on wagon trains were included. As the show grew more elaborate, riders, horses and costumes from Turkey, South America, Mongolia, Arabia and other exotic places were added. In many cities the show’s arrival was announced with an elaborate parade before the first show.

Buffalo Bill's wild west and congress of rough riders of the world

Poster showing cowboys rounding up cattle & portrait of Col. W.F. Cody on horseback. c.1899

Cody’s show first arrived in Birmingham in October 1895 via that traditional parade. In October 1901 the show appeared as “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders” thus giving equal billing to the volunteer cavalry units of the Spanish-American War. Annie Oakley and Johnny “Cowboy Kid” Baker performed their sharpshooting skills.

 Other portions of the show re-enacted battles in the Boer War in South Africa and the Boxer Rebellion in China; scenes of the Canadian Mounted Rifles; and the U.S. Life Saving Service. Thus Cody kept the show updated with recent events that were appropriate to his format. Advanced tickets were sold at Norton’s Drug Store.

            By his 1909 appearance Cody’s show had combined with that of another wild west veteran, Pawnee Bill. Tickets were available at the Crystal Palace Drug Store. This version also appeared in 1911 and 1913 and in Tuscaloosa in 1912. Opelika saw Cody’s show as early as 1880, and again in 1901 [along with Gadsden] and 1907.

            Gordon “Pawnee Bill” Lillie began working at the Pawnee agency in Indian Territory at the age of 19. He joined Cody’s show as an interpreter in 1883.  After his marriage he and wife May began their own touring show, Pawnee Bill’s Historic Wild West. In 1908 he and Cody merged their shows. Lillie died in 1942, but his legacy continues at his former buffalo ranch near Pawnee, Oklahoma, which houses a museum and hosts various events. The show wintered in Birmingham in 1905-06.


Poster for Pawnee Bill's Historic Wild West.

            Another western show is known to have stopped in the Magic City during this period. The Kit Carson Buffalo Ranch Wild West Show wintered here in 1913-14.  Later in 1914 the show ended in Kentucky with complaints of cheating and claims by creditors.

            A traditional circus, the Sells and Downs Shows, wintered in Birmingham after ending its 1905 run in Sylacauga. Ticket receipts were stolen, and the company had to hold an auction of animals and equipment at Smith’s Park in January 1906. The items were purchased by James Bailey, of Barnum and Bailey, and put the production back on the road as part of the Cole Brothers Circus.

            Birmingham has a rich history of appearances by circuses and Wild West shows that awaits further research. A large number of photographs of the early Wild West shows can be found at the Denver Public Library's Digital Collections. Another large group of photographs of Native Americans from Buffalo Bill's show, taken in New York City around 1898, can be found here.    

For more information, see James L. Baggett's piece, "The Wild West Comes to Birmingham" in the Birmingham Public Library's Digital Collections.   

Sources used for this article included BhamWiki and Wikipedia.

This piece first appeared at in May 2014.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Birmingham Photo of the Day (18): St. Vincent's Hospital in 1908

This photo continues our series from the 1908 book Views of Birmingham

Today the St. Vincent's Health System operates in several locations in addition to the large hospital complex in Birmingham's Southside. The first temporary location established in 1898 by the Sisters of Charity Hospital Association was much more modest--the home in Fountain Heights of industrialist and founder of Bessemer, Henry F. DeBardeleben.

Groundbreaking for the facility shown in this photograph took place in March 1899, and this permanent location opened on Thanksgiving Day 1900. Known as Mount Saint Vincent, the hospital was the first in Birmingham to have x-ray equipment installed.

Information about the hospital's beginnings can be found in Howard Holley's History of Medicine in Alabama (1982). 

The Bhamwiki site has this postcard of the hospital in 1910:

St Vincent's Hospital in 1910

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hillman Hospital & How It Became UAB Hospital

The oldest building in the UAB Medical Center, now known as “Old Hillman”, is located on the block bounded by 19th and 20th Streets and 6th and 7th Avenues South. The four-story stone and brick structure was dedicated in July, 1903, and named Hillman Hospital after local benefactor Thomas Hillman, President of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company. The hospital was constructed on lots 1-6 of the block, purchased from John S. Cox. He had bought the land from the Elyton Land Company in 1877 for $250. A Victorian house on the property was used as the hospital’s first nursing dormitory.

                  Thomas T. Hillman Source: Encyclopedia of Alabama

Efforts to organize a charity hospital for the city had begun in 1884, and Hillman’s donations had helped fund several locations, including a 100-bed facility that burned in 1894. Hillman required that his support pay for wards for both white and black patients. Hillman Hospital was chartered by the state legislature in 1897 and operated by a Board of Lady Managers—wives of local businessmen, a group involved from the beginning as the Daughters of United Charity.

Hillman Hospital in 1908

            The four floors and basement were crowded with various facilities, including offices, reception rooms, a laundry, store rooms, and boiler and fuel room for the steam heat. Twelve private rooms and four adult and one child wards occupied most of the first and second floors. The third floor held a surgical amphitheater that could hold up to 80 students, sterilizing and ether rooms, two private operating rooms and more private patient rooms. The fourth floor held the kitchen (with dumb waiter access to other floors), nurses’ dormitory rooms, a dining hall and yet more private rooms.

            By 1924 over 4600 patients a year were treated at Hillman. Financial difficulties had continued, and in 1907 the land and building were sold to the Jefferson County Board of Revenue. An annex built in 1913 failed to relieve the overcrowding of the 90 beds that Dr. Will Mayo had noted on his visit in 1911.  Finally the “new” Hillman Building opened in 1928, followed eleven years later by a five story outpatient clinic.

Hillman Hospital complex, ca. 1929. The original structure on the right was erected in 1902 and the annex, in the middle, was added in 1913. On the left is the 1928 addition, or “new” Hillman. Source: Birmingham Public Library

            Those seats in the main surgical amphitheater of Hillman Hospital were filled by faculty and students from the Birmingham Medical College. The school was a proprietary college owned by nine prominent Birmingham physicians and opened in October 1894. The college and the Birmingham Dental College were first located in a five-story building on 21st Street North originally occupied by the Lunsford Hotel. The school had electric lighting, lecture rooms, several laboratories and operated a free dispensary. Students were also exposed to patients at the city charity hospital, infirmaries owned by faculty members and clinics in nearby towns.

                  Birmingham Medical College in 1912 Source: BhamWiki

            In 1902 the college constructed its new home next to Hillman Hospital and a two-story autopsy house behind it. By that time the school had 94 students who were required to study four terms instead of the original two. In 1910 the medical and dental schools merged to become the Birmingham Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical College. One of the school’s achievements was the 1899 graduation of Elizabeth White. She was the second female to graduate from an Alabama medical school, following Louisa Shepard who had graduated from the Grafenberg Medical Institute in Dadeville in the 1850s.

                                     Source: Historical Marker Database

            Despite improvements in facilities, funding and graduation requirements, the Birmingham Medical College closed in May, 1915. Six years earlier Abraham Flexner had inspected the Birmingham school and the Medical College of Alabama in Mobile. He and his team were touring the country gathering information on all the nation’s medical schools for the American Medical Association. His 1910 report was very critical of most of those schools, including the two in Alabama; many schools, especially proprietary ones, closed in the next few years. The Birmingham school’s owners sold it to the University of Alabama, which operated it until the final students graduated. After a move to Tuscaloosa, the University’s Medical College of Alabama opened in Birmingham in September, 1945, using Jefferson Hospital as its base of operations.

            Before that major change another building was constructed on the block in addition to the outpatient clinic already mentioned. In 1929 Hillman Hospital opened a nursing dormitory. The structure was renovated and reopened in July 1965 as the Roy R. Kracke Clinical Services Building. Kracke was the first dean of the Medical College of Alabama when it opened in Birmingham.

                              Roy R. Kracke, M.D. [1887-1950]
      Source: National Library of Medicine/Images in the History of Medicine

            By the 1930s another expansion of Hillman Hospital was desperately needed. The County Commission hired prominent local architect Charles H. McCauley to design a seven-story annex to cost $1.5 million in U.S. Public Works Administration funds. By the time the building was dedicated in December 1940, nine more floors were added at a final cost of $2.25 million.

         1939 architect's rendering of Jefferson Hospital Source: BhamWiki

            The new hospital was state-of-the-art and known as the finest hospital in the South. Two banks of high-speed elevators carried doctors, nurses, patients and others from floor to floor. The fifth floor was a maternity ward; the seventh floor featured eleven operating rooms. Both of those floors were air conditioned. The top two floors had living space for 150 nurses and 25 interns and resident physicians. From March 1942 until April 1944 two of the floors were used for secret work by the U.S. Army Replacement and School Command. Responsible for personnel training, the unit’s headquarters had been relocated to Birmingham from Washington, D.C., to protect it from possible enemy attack.

            Four years later the facility became the Jefferson-Hillman Hospital where the new Medical College of Alabama would soon be located. The UA Board of Trustees renamed it University Hospital in 1955 and finally Jefferson Tower in 1979. By September 2010 all inpatient activities had been relocated to the new North Pavilion hospital complex and other areas.

Further Reading

Pennycuff, Tim L. "Hillman Hospital" Encyclopedia of Alabama and its list of sources

This piece appeared on the site in October 2013.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Alabama Book Spotlight: Starett by Arthur V. Deutcsh

I'd like to begin this intermittent blog series with a book barely connected to Alabama, a novel by Arthur V. Deutcsh. He came to Birmingham in 1981 and served 10 years as the city's Chief of Police. He may thus be the only published novelist among police chiefs in Alabama history.

This front and back cover is the Dell paperback edition published in January 1980. The third image is the front cover of the Arbor House hardback edition which had appeared in 1978.

The hardback dust jacket announces the book as simply "A novel by Arthur V. Deutcsh". By the time the paperback appeared, the cover declared that Starett was "A Scorching Novel by a Twenty-Year Veteran of the N.Y.P.D." 

Deutcsh apparently published only this one book. His dedication reads, "I have dedicated some off-duty hours to this book and the entertainment of fiction readers. In real life, I've dedicated twenty-two years to my city's finest profession, the police force. Neither of these dedications would have been possible without the help of my lovely wife and six children."

Deutsch was tried for tampering with governmental records while in Birmingham and received a 12-month jail sentence and a $2000 fine on the misdemeanor charge. He and three other officers were indicted for altering arrest records of Mayor Richard Arrington's daughter Erica in December 1990. Deutsch filed an appeal in July 1992. 

I have found curiously little about Deutsch online. I did not find the outcome of his appeal or an obituary. I did find a 1987 article about Deutsch's pursuit of a thief while he and his wife Elaine were out walking near their home. 

I have yet to read Starett but hope to get to it one day. Who could resist a novel with a cover tag like "His business was death. Both the cops and the Mafia called him one of their own."

Arthur Deutsch is not the only Alabama policeman to publish fiction. James Byron Huggins, who worked in the Huntsville Police Department among many other jobs, has published a series of popular novels. Sorcerer published in 2006 seems to be the most recent.

Lee Kohn worked for the Mobile Police Department from 1977 until 1993. He has published several novels such as Badge 13. 

[Added 8-23-14]

 I recently came across a copy of the "Just A Chat" feature the Birmingham News ran years ago dated June 12, 1991. The subject was David Harris, an Irondale police lieutenant at the time. He mentions having written one novel, "The Visitation," about a policeman who fights a demon in a small Southern town. He also notes he's far along on a second novel, "All Creatures Here Below," "a futuristic love story." I've been unable to find any further information about these novels. 

If you know of other Alabama law enforcement officials who have published fiction, please comment below. Join me again next time for another obscure book somehow related to Alabama!

[Added 8-29-14]

I found an old file I had on Chief Deutsch that contained some further articles. "Deutsch may have had a stroke, his doctor says" ran in the Birmingham Post-Herald on January 27, 1995. This article noted that "Since falling down a long flight of stairs at Birmingham City Hall three years ago, the specifics of Deutcsh's declining health were never publicly disclosed." The article notes his misdemeanor charge of record tampering as noted above had been overturned on appeal. His attorney Mark White said Deutcsh did not understand due to his mental status. 

Earlier articles in my file focus on Deutcsh's literary career. "New chief's book about cop-gone-bad gets attention now" the Birmingham News noted in a November 11, 1981, article. A brief note in the News on September 28, 1986, described his upcoming appearance at the Avondale Community School for a talk on mystery writing and his recent workshop at the Birmingham-Southern College Writers Conference. 

An April 20, 1984, article in the UAB Kaleidoscope declared, "Police chief finds second love as aspiring writer." This item notes an episode Deutcsh wrote for the television series McCloud that starred Dennis Weaver as a policeman from the west working in New York City. Deutcsh's script for "The 42nd St. Cavalry" featured McCloud riding a horse through the city.

Source for paperback edition: my collection

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon