Monday, May 27, 2024

Pleas Hutchinson (1887-1941) - World War I Veteran

National Archive
Unidentified Soldier

Pleas Hutchinson, African American, was born on May 26, 1887, in or near Forrest City, Saint Francis County, Arkansas.  Forrest City was named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate general and founder of the Ku Klux Klan, but historically it has had an African American majority population.

Pleas was the son of Allen Hutchinson and his first wife, Viney Brandon.  After Viney died in 1894, Allen remarried a woman named Leanna Snipes.  Although Pleas was thirteen years old in 1900, he had had only about two years of schooling.

The federal census of 1910 found the Hutchinsons farming near Eufaula, Oklahoma.  Living next to the Hutchinson farm was a family named Perkins.  Pleas married Mamie Perkins in 1911.  By the time he registered for the World War I draft in 1917, Pleas was already the father of three children.

Although the shooting was over by the time Pleas joined the U.S. Army in December, 1918, the Treaty of Versailles was not signed until June, 1919, making Pleas a veteran of World War I.  During and after the war, racially-segregated African American units unloaded supplies from ships, cleared out trenches and buried the United States’s war dead.

By 1920, Pleas was at home again in Oklahoma, farming near his father and brothers.  However, in 1923, the family moved west to Phoenix, Arizona.  Pleas and Mamie were living at Buckeye Road and South 15th Avenue when they gave permission for their oldest daughter Olive (or Ollie) to marry in December 1927.  Just a month later, their two youngest daughters, Mildred and Zenolia, died of meningitis and polio respectively.  Both were buried in the nearby Maricopa County Cemetery.

Pleas was the owner of a small farm near South 15th Avenue in 1930, when the federal census listed his assets as $1000.  The Hutchinsons had three more children during the 1930s, but the Depression may have cost them their farm.  By 1940, Pleas was working for WPA, doing highway construction.

Late in 1940, Pleas suffered a stroke brought on by chronic hypertension.  He died on May 12, 1941, at his home at 1325 West Sinola Street, Phoenix, and was buried in the Maricopa County Cemetery, now known as Cementerio Lindo.  Although the exact location of his grave is not known, he has a cenotaph in the cemetery’s memorial garden.

-By Donna Carr



Friday, May 24, 2024

Memorial Day - Honor Those Who Have Served


Library of Congress

Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday of May, is a solemn holiday in the United States dedicated to honoring and remembering the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it began after the Civil War, which claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and necessitated the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. On this day, many Americans visit cemeteries and memorials to pay their respects, laying flowers and flags on the graves of the fallen. It is a day of reflection and gratitude, marked by parades, memorial speeches, and ceremonies that underscore the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for the freedoms enjoyed in the present day. Additionally, Memorial Day weekend also unofficially signifies the beginning of summer, with families often celebrating with picnics, sporting events, and family gatherings.



Wednesday, May 22, 2024

John Proops (1848-1896) - Baker, Miner, Firefighter

Bing AI

John Proops was born on January 17, 1848, in Bristol, England.  After the death of his mother in 1856, his father moved the family to Charles Dickens’ London.  Young John was apprenticed to a baker and, in 1867, he shipped out to Adelaide, Australia, as a baker.

Settled by English debtors and convicts in the 1700s, Australia was a wild ‘n wooly outpost of the British Empire.  From Adelaide on the southern coast, Proops walked to Melbourne, stopping to work at sheep and cattle stations along the way.  From there, he went to Ballarat, where the discovery of gold had sparked a gold rush similar to the 1849 one in California.  Later, Proops returned to Melbourne to work as a journeyman baker.

While in Melbourne, Proops met and married Hannah Franks on February 18, 1873.   Their daughter Rose was born in 1874.  Thereafter, Proops became the chief cook and baker at the Government Orphan Asylum at Randwick, near Sydney, where sons Harry and Charley were born.

In 1881, Proops moved his family to San Francisco and then to Tombstone, but misfortune dogged his steps.  Only ten days after arriving there, his son Charley died of gastric fever.  Proops opened a bakery in Tombstone, but it did not pay enough to support his family.  After two years, he gave it up and turned to hauling freight from Kingston to Globe until his team of horses was stolen.  Eventually, he found work at the new courthouse in Tombstone. 

In May 1887, Proops came to Phoenix in the course of delivering a load of furniture for Mr. B. A. Fickas from his house in Tombstone.  He found employment first as a porter at the Commercial Hotel and then as the janitor of the city hall and gardener of the adjacent plaza.

Proops was said to have borne his previous financial misfortunes with a light heart and cheerful disposition.  A sociable fellow, Proops joined the volunteer fire company, the Ancient Order of United Workmen (A.O.U.W.) and the Foresters.

It was in the performance of his duty as a firefighter that he contracted his final illness.  On Friday, December 29 or 30, 1895, the volunteer company was called to a fire on East Madison Street.  Thoroughly drenched by the hoses and going home in the morning cold, Proops took a chill that turned into pneumonia.  He succumbed on January 6, 1896.

On the day of Proops’s funeral, the fire house lowered its flag to half-mast.  His comrades from fire company, the Foresters and the Ancient Order of United Workmen turned out to bury him in Phoenix’s A.O.U.W. Cemetery.

And there he remained until his widow Hannah died in 1903.  She was one of the first to be buried in the newly-opened Beth Israel (Jewish) Cemetery at 35th Avenue and Van Buren, and their son Harry had his father’s remains moved there as well.

 -by donna carr

Monday, May 20, 2024

Memorial Day - Open House, Monday, May 27th

Hey there! Don't forget to come down on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27! See our famous "residents": Jacob Waltz, Thomas Graham, Darrell Duppa, and many others! There will be light refreshments. We also have several self-Guided walking tours for you to do. We are at 1317 W Jefferson in Phoenix.

Hope you come to Visit!



Friday, May 17, 2024

Credit System - Blessing or Curse?

The credit system was a crucial aspect of general stores in the 1800s, accommodating the financial rhythms of rural and agricultural communities. Many customers relied on credit to purchase goods, with the understanding that they would settle their accounts at a later date, 

the credit system was a necessity due to the economic realities of the time. In rural and agricultural communities, cash flow was often irregular, tied to the cycles of planting, harvesting, and selling crops. The ability to buy on credit allowed families to manage these fluctuations and maintain their standard of living throughout the year.

Storekeepers kept meticulous records of transactions, tracking the debts and payments of their customers. This system required a high level of trust between the storekeeper and the community, as the viability of the store depended on customers eventually settling their debts. The credit system not only facilitated ongoing commerce but also reinforced the interconnectedness and mutual dependency of small-town life.

However, some credit systems did cause problems.  Some stores chose to reduce prices and encourage bartering for products.  this reduced unpaid debts, and customers going without due to unaffordable prices.


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The General Store Cash Register - "Incorruptible Cashier"


The cash register was a revolutionary addition to general stores in the late 1800s, transforming the way transactions were handled. Invented by James Ritty in 1879, the cash register, often referred to as the "Incorruptible Cashier," was designed to deter employee theft and ensure accurate financial records. These early cash registers were mechanical marvels, featuring intricate gears and levers, and they often had a distinctive brass or wooden exterior. Each transaction required the storekeeper to manually input the sale amount, which would then be recorded on a paper tape inside the machine. A bell would ring with each sale, alerting both the customer and the storekeeper to the completed transaction. This not only added a level of transparency and accountability but also helped in keeping precise records of daily sales. The introduction of the cash register marked a significant advancement in retail technology, enhancing both the efficiency and integrity of financial operations in general stores.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Vinyl (PVC) - An Accidental Discovery


General stores in the 1800s typically sold everyday goods such as food, clothing, household items, and tools. Chemical products available in these stores would have been basic and common items such as vinegar, baking soda, soap, and perhaps some medicinal compounds like laudanum or quinine.

However, new products and chemicals for household use were being researched on a regular basis.  One such researcher/scientist was Eugen Baumann.

Eugen Baumann, a pioneering German chemist of the 19th century, is best known for his accidental discovery of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in 1872, a material that would later revolutionize various industries. Baumann discovered PVC when he noticed that the material formed as a white solid inside a flask of vinyl chloride that had been exposed to sunlight.

Despite PVC's delayed practical applications, Baumann made immediate and impactful contributions to organic chemistry, most notably through the Schotten-Baumann reaction, developed in collaboration with Carl Schotten in 1879. 

This reaction, which acylates amines and alcohols to form amides and esters, has become a cornerstone in synthetic chemistry. It is extensively used in the pharmaceutical industry for the synthesis of drugs, enabling the formation of peptide bonds essential for producing many medications. Additionally, the Schotten-Baumann reaction is pivotal in the fragrance industry

Monday, May 13, 2024

Products of the General Store - 1800s

General stores in the 1800s frequently stocked local products, reflecting the self-sufficient and community-oriented nature of the era. Many of the items on their shelves were produced within the surrounding area, including fresh produce, dairy products, baked goods, and handmade items like soap, candles, and textiles. This emphasis on local goods not only supported the local economy but also ensured the freshness and quality of perishable items. By selling locally sourced products, general stores helped sustain local farmers, artisans, and craftsmen, fostering a sense of community pride and mutual support. This practice also provided customers with a direct connection to the origins of their purchases, enhancing their trust in the quality and authenticity of the goods. The focus on local products was a defining characteristic of general stores, underscoring their role as integral parts of the local economic and social fabric.


Friday, May 10, 2024

The General Store - Community Hub

General stores in the 1800s served as vibrant community hubs, far beyond their role as retail establishments. These stores were often the epicenter of social interaction, where townsfolk would gather to exchange news, share gossip, and discuss local events. The storekeeper played a pivotal role in this dynamic, acting as an informal news source and often being one of the most well-informed individuals in the community. The store was a place where people came not only to shop but also to connect with their neighbors, fostering a sense of community and belonging. From political discussions to personal anecdotes, the general store was a melting pot of conversations and ideas, making it an essential gathering spot and a cornerstone of social life in 19th-century towns.


Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Ghost Signs - Nostalgic Glimpses of Past Businesses

Ghost signs, the faded remnants of old advertisements on buildings, offer a nostalgic glimpse into the commercial past. Often hand-painted on brick facades, these signs were once vibrant promotions for local businesses, products, and services, from soap to soda to shoes. Over time, exposure to the elements has left them weathered and barely legible, yet they retain a haunting beauty that evokes a bygone era. Many ghost signs remain hidden for decades, concealed beneath layers of paint, until renovations or weathering reveal their existence. These signs are more than just historical artifacts; they are stories etched in brick and paint, reflecting the entrepreneurial spirit and aesthetic sensibilities of their time. Today, these ephemeral artworks are cherished by urban explorers and historians alike, serving as poignant reminders of the ever-changing landscape of commerce and community.

Library of Congress



Monday, May 6, 2024

Louis Roth (1859 - 1894) - Shopkeeper


Tim Kovacs

Louis Roth, son of Yosef Avraham and his wife Tcharne, was born about 1859 in what is now Kovácsvágás, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, Hungary.  He was later known as Louis, Lajos or Leo.

After the Austrian Hapsburgs teamed up with Tsar Nicholas I of Russia to put down the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, Hungarian Jews lost the few civil rights they had enjoyed and became subject to the Russian military draft.  Louis’s older brother Jacob was conscripted in this fashion, prompting their father to urge his other sons to emigrate as soon as possible.

Accordingly, Louis and Max, the next two oldest sons, came to America in 1879.  Louis appears to have filed a declaration of intent to become a naturalized U. S. citizen under the name of Lewis Roth in Fairfield County, Ohio, on January 30, 1885.  By 1888, Louis and his younger siblings had reunited in Los Angeles, where he had found work with the Kline Clothing Company and the Excelsior Clothing Company.  The Roth family—Max, Rosa, Kelly, Mike and Isidor—ultimately became very involved in Los Angeles’s Hungarian Jewish community.

In January, 1888, Louis’s financial position was stable enough for him to marry Miss Fannie Gerson.  Unfortunately, the marriage did not last; they divorced just five months later.

By January 1891, Louis was in Phoenix, Arizona, operating his own cigar and confectionary shop on Washington Street, near the Monihon Building.  It’s possible that he came to Arizona for his health, considering that he died of consumption on April 12, 1894.

Louis’s brother Max traveled to Phoenix to see him properly buried in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery and to close out his business affairs.  When Beth Israel Cemetery opened in 1903, the family had his remains moved there and a fine marble monument erected in his memory.

Fast forward to January 2019, when Tim Kovacs was visiting the Beth Israel Cemetery.  While there, he happened upon a broken marker on which he recognized the place name Kovacs Vagas—a Hungarian village about 33 miles from where his own ancestors originated.

On February 9, 2021, Tim received a surprising message from Geri Roth Jacobson, Louis Roth’s great-niece.  She had spent thirty years looking for a grave marker for her “Uncle Leo” in California, but to no avail.  Only by luck had she come upon his memorial on Find A Grave.

Because Roth had originally been buried in the IOOF Cemetery, Geri appealed to the Pioneers’ Cemetery Association for help with repairs, and its preservation team responded.  The restoration was a success and, on December 21, 2022, Geri and a contingent of relatives from California visited the grave for the first time ever to view the results.

- By Tim Kovacs and Donna Carr


Friday, May 3, 2024

The Art of Window Displays

Library of Congress

The art of the 18oo's window display was a captivating blend of creativity and commerce, designed to attract and entice passersby into shops. These displays were meticulously crafted, often changing with the seasons or special occasions, to showcase the latest merchandise in the most appealing way. Shopkeepers and visual merchandisers used an array of techniques, including layered arrangements, dramatic lighting, and eye-catching props, to create visually stunning scenes. Mannequins dressed in the latest fashions, alongside carefully placed products, told a story that appealed to the desires and imaginations of potential customers. The window display was not just a marketing tool but a form of artistic expression, reflecting the shopkeeper's ingenuity and understanding of consumer psychology. This practice transformed shop windows into miniature stages, turning shopping into an engaging and enticing experience.


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

The Job of the Shopkeeper


Shopkeepers in the 1890s played a pivotal role in their communities, acting as the primary suppliers of goods ranging from basic necessities to luxury items. Their shops were often family-run businesses, where every member contributed to the daily operations. These stores were more than just places to buy items; they served as social hubs where locals exchanged news and gossip. Shopkeepers had to be versatile, often extending credit to trusted customers and sometimes bartering goods. With the advent of catalog shopping from companies like Sears, Roebuck and Co., shopkeepers faced new competition but also found opportunities to expand their inventories through wholesale purchases. Their adaptability and community presence made them indispensable figures in the fabric of 1890s society.