Bachelor Hall – The Chorus Girls – Who Are They?

In my last post, I presented the cast of a performance of Bachelor Hall, a play presented on June 5 and 6, 1907 by the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 — with a notable exception: the chorus girls.

According to the Norwalk Daily Reflector, these young women provided the highlight of the show. Accompanied by the Spencer Orchestra, they sang and danced three songs: “When Love is Young,” “Oh, Be Careful of the Alligator,” and “Be My Little Teddy Bear.” So who were these “chorus girls?” [1]

Once again, my grandmother, Harriott Wickham (who was one of their number), comes through again with a photo I found in her papers. Here are the chorus girls from the play Bachelor Hall, apparently performing “Be My Little Teddy Bear.” Unfortunately, she did not include the names. [2]

 

Chorus Girls

There are eight women in the photo, but the newspapers only reported seven: Lillian Smith, Carrie Spurrier, Ruth Jenkins, Florence Davidson, Cleo Collins, Harriott Wickham, and Irene Bragdon. [3]

Who is who? And which girl is in the photo, but not listed in the cast of characters. Here are individual photos of the seven in clockwise order from upper left as listed in the previous paragraph. See if you can figure out who is in the group photo.

 

I must admit that I am not doing well figuring out who is who. Perhaps it is because in the group photo the girls are smiling. After examining the photo closely, I can be sure of only two: Carrie Spurrier, fifth from left (because of the spectacles); and Irene Bragdon, sixth from left.

What do you think?

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Descriptions of the play and cast are from these newspaper articles: “Bachelor Hall,” Norwalk Reflector, 6/1/1907, page 4, column 5; “Brilliant Success,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 6, 1907 – page 1, column 3; and “Bachelor Hall a Big Hit,” Norwalk Evening Herald, 6/6/1907, page 1, column 6.

[2] The chorus girl photo is from the unpublished collection of Harriott Wickham’s papers in my possession. I clipped the individual photos from the Commencement photo of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, also in Harriott Wickham’s papers.

[3] The links for each cast member of Bachelor Hall lead to that person’s WeRelate person page.

 

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A Play – A Dance – A Test

After introducing missionary Ora Tuttle in my posts Serendipity and The Hermit Kingdom, I’m afraid I must leave off telling the rest of her story for another time. I have uncovered so much information (and surprises) about this interesting woman and her mission that I have not been able to properly research and write about her. I promise, though, that I will return to her soon.

Anyway, we must return to our main story, from which I have strayed: the saga of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. Today marks the beginning of their final two weeks in school, and we have much to talk about. So let’s get started.

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June 1st fell on a Saturday in 1907, and that day the Norwalk newspapers were full of news about the class.

The Norwalk Evening Herald reported the cast of the class play, Bachelor Hall, which was scheduled to be performed on Thursday, June 5 and Friday, June 6. Tickets would go on sale on Tuesday, June 3. The price for general admission was fifteen cents ($3.73 in today’s dollars), reserved seats went for a quarter ($6.22 today). [1]

I’ll report on the reviews for this performance in a later post. Spoiler alert: it received rave reviews.

According to another article in the June 1 issue of Norwalk Evening Herald, the previous evening, the Junior Class of Norwalk High School had held a reception for the Senior Class, complete with strawberry ice, wafers, and dancing. About sixty couples, to include thirteen out-of-town visitors, gathered Link’s Hall, the venue for the event, which was decorated “prettily” with streamers of the Senior Class colors of black and yellow, the Junior colors of black and red. College pennants added to the festive display.

The dance began with a Grand March, led by Junior Class President (and basketball hero) Pitt Curtiss and Miss Irene Curtiss of Findlay (a cousin?). Imagine the scene, if you will. Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in the Netherfield ball scene of the Pride and Prejudice A&E television series comes to my mind.

 

A Grand March

Saratoga Lancers – Promenade [2]

The seniors had reason to celebrate that evening. According to an article in the June 1st issue of the Norwalk Daily Reflector, all twenty-six members of the Class of 1907 had passed their final exams with a comfortable margin [4] . . . wait, did I say twenty-six? There are only twenty-five students in the class commencement photo. Who is missing? We’ll find out in my next post.

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Bachelor Hall,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, June 1, 1907, page 4, column 5. The script of Bachelor Hall is available on Google Books at this link.

[2] This photo on page 61 of a 1900 instruction book on dancing by Marguerite Wilson. An excellent description of the Grand March begins on page 21.

[3] “Juniors Honor Senior Class,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, June 1, 1907, page 1, column 5.

[4] “Everybody Passed,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 1, 1907, page 1, column 5.

 

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The Hermit Kingdom

In my last post, Serendipity, I introduced Ora Tuttle of Norwalk, Ohio, who in 1907, at the age of 27, realized her life-long dream of serving as a missionary in a foreign land. And where would she be going? The mysterious “Hermit Kingdom” of Korea.

The headline in the May 24, 1907 issue of the Norwalk Daily Reflector announcing Ora’s assignment caught my eye for several reasons, chief of which was my fascination with Korean history and culture.

Korea Tiled Roofs

I first went to Korea in 1975, as a young Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division north of the capital of Seoul. On the bus ride from the airport to my unit, I stared out the window, transfixed by the high-hipped tiled roofs of the traditional homes. How did the inhabitants of those exotic dwellings spend their days? What customs did they observe? How did they relate to one another. What thoughts occupied their minds? I was hooked.

At that time, the country still struggled to recover from the horrors of the Korean War, and a large part of the population lived an agrarian life not unlike that of their ancestors one-hundred years before. I only spent a year in the country, and had little time to study the culture.

By the time I returned in 1986, to an assignment in Seoul, the nation’s economy had grown dramatically. Many old houses had been torn down and replaced by high-rise apartments. But my fascination with the old days remained. Now I had the time, and resources to travel and study, and I immersed myself in the culture, learning the language, and visiting every historical site I could find in an attempt to understand the country’s culture and history.

Gyeongbokgung Station

Gyeonbukgung Subway Station

In the newspaper, one day in 1986, I noticed an announcement of an exhibit of photographs of “old Korea” was being displayed at the Gyeongbokgung subway station in the northern part of the city. I headed there to see what it was about. What I found staggered me. In alcoves set in the walls of the station were photos depicting a land I had only imagined from visiting the traces of the old days that remained in the capital.

The exhibition promoted a book Korea 100 Years Ago in Photographs, published by the Catholic Publishing House. I bought a copy and studied the photos for months. What a treasure trove of images! There were, of course, the obligatory photos of famous people and important events, but the bulk of these images depicted the daily lives of ordinary people. And that was what drew me in.

Pounding Grain

This is my favorite photo in Korea 100 Years Ago in Photographs. Lifted from a daguerreotype glass plate from 1890, the vivid colors of their dresses gives life to these two, now long dead girls. Gazing at them, I feel an almost unbearable ache in my breast. Note that the English caption is brief to the point of being nearly useless. My limited language skills were sorely tested and my Korean- English dictionary got quite a workout as I perused this book.

 

This was the land that Ora Tuttle encountered when she arrived in Korea over one-hundred years ago. In fact, it is possible that she took some of the photos in this book — most were taken by missionaries. Her life in this land was so different from her previous life in Norwalk, Ohio, I wonder how she coped. But cope she did — for many years — as we will discover in future posts. How?

From childhood, Ora had prepared herself for the trials of living and working in a foreign land. In my next post, we’ll explore what inspired her to take on this challenge, and how she prepared for what would become her life’s work.

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Serendipity

Ora Tuttle Goes to KoreaIn late May, 1907, a letter from the Chicago Training School for Home and Foreign Missions addressed to Miss Ora Tuttle of Norwalk, Ohio, arrived at her sister’s home in nearby Fostoria. Ever since she had graduated from that school, Ora had been at her sister’s home, anxiously awaiting word of where she would be assigned. Did she hesitate before opening the envelope? Did she say a prayer? Or did she tear it open the moment it came into her hands? No matter which of those things she did, we know that she read the letter, and learned that she had been assigned to mission in the mysterious “Hermit Kingdom” of Korea. [1]

Ora Tuttle was twenty-seven years old, and had been preparing all her life for this moment. She had grown up in a prosperous family in a good part of Norwalk, and had received an excellent education for a young woman of those days. A graduate of Norwalk High School in 1897 [2], she had attended Ohio Wesleyan University the 1903-1904 school year. [3]

But secular education and career had not been the focus of her life. Her energies had always been devoted to the Methodist-Episcopal church in Norwalk. That is where she had found like-minded friends, and that is where she had realized her purpose in life. From an early age, she believed she had a call from God to serve Him as a missionary in foreign lands.

To prepare herself for her calling, Ora had joined societies at her church that supported missions, served on their committees, assiduously studied missionary work, and spoke to any and all about what she had learned and of her dream of becoming a missionary herself.

And now, she was actually going on a mission. She had realized her dream. From this day forward, she would live it.

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Serendipity led me to this story. While browsing the May 23, 1907 issue of the Norwalk Daily Reflector for articles about the June graduation of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, the headline “Miss Ora Tuttle Goes to Korea” caught my eye.

temporary-derangementWhat about this headline captured my attention? First off, the name Tuttle rang a bell, although I wasn’t sure why. Then I remembered. In January, I posted a series of posts titled Temporary Derangement about the Tuttle ancestry of Sarah Barnett of the Class of 1907. That story culminated in a bit of narrative non-fiction about the December 1906 suicide of Sarah’s grandmother, Calista Harris, nee Tuttle. Was Ora Tuttle a distant cousin of Mrs. Harris? If so, how did the woman’s suicide affect her?

Emperor Sunjong

Sunjong – Last Emperor of Korea

That Ora Tuttle was heading to Korea aroused my curiosity, too. I lived in Korea for eight years intermittently from 1975 to 1999, first as a soldier and later as a businessman, and I developed a deep interest in Korean culture and history, especially of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the last years of an independent Korean monarchy before Japan annexed the peninsula in 1910.

In the Daily Reflector article, I noticed that Ora would be a Methodist missionary in Korea, another point of connection for me. Although baptized in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Norwalk, Ohio, I was raised a Methodist.

So there you are. As often happens in historical and genealogical research, looking for one thing leads you to something unexpected — and fascinating. I am now securely hooked by Ora’s story, and want to learn more about her. What events in her early life led this daughter of the Firelands to missionary work? How did she fare in that strange and mysterious land? What was her ultimate fate?

I’ll explore the answers to all these questions in my next series of posts, beginning with how I became interested the history and culture of the “Hermit Kingdom.”

Footnotes:

[1] “Miss Ora Tuttle Goes to Korea,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, May 23, 1907, page 1, column 4.

[2] “The High School,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, September 4, 1895, page 3, column 4.

[3] “Gone to College,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, September 15, 1903, page 7, column 2.

[4] “History of Epworth League Read at Banquet Last Night,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, April 18, 1907, page 2, column 1.

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Oratorical Contest for a Future U.S. Senator

Many Go to Bowling Green

At three p.m. on Friday, May 10, 1907, 110 years ago today, a crowd of fifteen Norwalk High School students clamored aboard a special rail car bound for an oratorical contest at Bowling Green, Ohio. Among them was one of their own, Stephen Young, Junior, Norwalk High School Class of 1907, who would compete against fourteen students from other Ohio High Schools.

stephen-young-commencement-photo-1907

Stephen Young, Jr.

Stephen was scheduled last in the program. His subject was “The Darker Side.” He came in fourth, missing out on the princely  sum of ten dollars for first prize (and eight and seven dollars for second and third place). According to an article in the Norwalk Evening Herald the following day, “those from [Norwalk] who heard the orations speak of his efforts in high terms.”

The students arrived back in Norwalk in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Were they really impressed with their classmates performance? Was Stephen upset that he did not win the contest? Did it drive him to improve, and compete again?

Stephen Young, Junior, Norwalk High School Class of 1907, in his career, would not succeed in all his endeavors. In fact, in politics, he failed more often than he succeeded. But he did rise to heights not achieved by his classmates. As a soldier, he would serve his country against Pancho Villa in Mexico and in two world wars. As a statesman, he would be elected to the Ohio Legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. We’ll learn more about his career in future posts.

 

Sources:

“Oratorical Contest,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, March 10, 1907, page 1, column 2.

“Many Go to Bowling Green,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, May 10, 1907, page 4, column 3.

“Contest Goes to Hicksville,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, May 11, 1907, page 1, column 4.

“Oratorical Contest,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, March 11, 1907, page 3, column 6.

Stephen Young person page in the WeRelate Wiki.

Stephen M. Young article in Wikipedia.

 

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Suzan Rose Benedict and a Dark Path to Smith College

As I stated in my last post, I believe Minnie Cleghorn was inspired to introduce women’s physical education at Norwalk High School in part by accounts from fellow teacher Suzan Benedict about her experience at Smith College. I’ll get to that in a later post. But first, there is a question I’d like to explore. Why did Suzan attend such a prestigious college as Smith in the first place? Few young women were so fortunate in the late 1800s, especially those who lived in small towns like Norwalk.

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Suzan Rose Benedict was born in Norwalk, Ohio, the youngest child of David DeForrest Benedict, MD and Harriott Melvina Benedict (née Deaver). The story of her parents early years is told in the Sufferers Land Posts on this website, beginning with Post #30, Jonas Benedict.

During the Civil War, David Benedict served as a surgeon in the Union army, was captured at the Battle of Chickhaumagu and held at Libby Prison until exchanged. He returned to the army for the Battle of Atlanta and after the fall of that city, accompanied Sherman’s army on the March to the Sea. Eighty letters he wrote to his wife during the war survived, and formed the basis of “Little Doctor on the Black Horse,” by his granddaughter Harriott Wickham, on this website. He seemed to have been scarred by the war, and never practiced medicine again, instead going into pharmacy.

Suzan Benedict grew up in the home depicted in the header of this website with her father and mother, five older sisters, and a brother. Apparently, she excelled in high school, but I don’t believe that alone was enough for her parents to allow her to go to Smith College after graduation. None of her sisters went to college. Suzan’s sister Aggie (my great-grandmother) wanted to become a doctor, like her father, but he forbid it, believing women should not go into medicine. He did allow her to become a pharmacist and work in his pharmacy until she married.

Benedict Sisters 001.jpg

The Benedict Sisters. front row: Frances, Suzan, Ellen; back row: Mary, Hattie, Aggie.

Suzan’s brother Fred was a different matter altogether. After graduating high school, he attended his father’s alma mater, Kenyon College. He was the apple of his father’s eye, the family’s hope for the future in Norwalk, the last male descendant of Platt Benedict. And by all accounts, he was a personable fellow, almost too good to be true.

Fred Benedict

Fred Benedict

In March of 1885, Fred caught a bad cold. Perhaps he had been out in the weather. From growing up there, I know that March in Ohio can be raw and miserable. It is more likely, however, he caught it from other young men he lived in close quarters with. In any event, he went home to recover. But he did not recover. Every day a small item in the newspaper reported that his cold had worsened, then that it had turned to pneumonia. On March 11 came the dreaded news–Frederick Benedict had died at 2:30 that morning. [1]

Grief hung over the house, and the town, like a shroud. All were affected in some way, but especially Fred’s father. He was already damaged from his experience in the Civil War, [2] and he never quite recovered from the death of his only son.

Was this, then, the reason that Suzan was allowed to go to Smith College. I think it very well may be. No matter how it happened, in the Fall of 1891 at the age of eighteen, Suzan Rose Benedict began her freshman year at Smith College. [3] How she fared at Smith, and what experiences she had with women’s athletics at the school will be the subject of my next post: Suzan Rose Benedict at Smith College.

Footnotes:

[1] “Death of Fred Benedict,” Norwalk Daily Reflector; 11 Mar 1885; Page: 1 Column: 4. (Updates on Fred’s worsening health were published in the Norwalk Daily Reflector on 5, 9 and 10 March 1885).

[2] Ian Frazier, Family; Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, NY, 1994; 157. (New Yorker columnist Ian Frazier is also a descendant of David Benedict.)

[3] “Students: First Class,” Smith College Official Circular, Number 18, Northampton, MA, October, 1891; 29

Other Sources about Suzan Benedict:

“Suzan Rose Benedict,” Wikipedia.

Judy Green and Jeanne LaDuke, Pioneering Women in American Mathematics: the pre-194 PhD’s; American Mathematical Society, 2009; 141.

 

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Minnie Cleghorn: Oberlin College

1906 NHS Girls Gym Cropped - Copy

Minnie Cleghorn – Norwalk High School Girls’ Gym Class (in center with white blouse)

In my last post, “Athletic Girl,” we learned that English teacher Minnie Cleghorn was responsible for starting a girls’ athletic program at Norwalk High School around the beginning of the twentieth century. In today’s post, we’ll learn more about her, and what might have inspired her to introduce physical education to her female students .

Minnie Cleghorn was born in Birmingham township, Erie County, Ohio to James and Mary Cleghorn in 1863, during the darkest days of the Civil War. Her mother had been born in Canada and immigrated to New York state sometime in the 1840s. James Cleghorn, a stone mason from Massachusetts, traced his ancestry to the Mayflower. His father was also named James, as was his grandfather, who had served in the Revolutionary War. James and Mary wed in Buffalo, New York in 1845, and shortly after that moved to Birmingham, Ohio. They had seven children, three of whom died in infancy. [1] Around 1870, they moved to Wellington in Lorain county where they resided the remainder of their lives. [2]

Although James and Mary were not affluent, they must have had a high regard for education. They enrolled Minnie at Oberlin College just up the road from Wellington for the 1883-1884 school year. As far as I can tell, she was the only of her family to attend college. [3] Did her experience at Oberlin College introduce Minnie to women’s physical education? I think so, and here is why.

Oberlin College 1880

Oberlin College 1880

Founded in 1833, Oberlin College, in 1837 became the first coed college in the U.S. and the second in the world. The college was a leader of the abolitionist movement. It was the first college to admit an African American student, and its students and faculty actively supported the town of Oberlin, which a historian called “the town that started the Civil War,” as a way station on the Underground Railroad. [4]

Women’s basketball began at Oberlin in 1896, six years before the men. This was long after Minnie had left the school, but she still must have been exposed to athletics during the year she spent there. Women’s athletics had a long tradition at Oberlin. [5] The college offered co-ed classes in croquet as early as 1860, [6] and the first gymnasium for women opened in 1881, two years before Minnie arrived. In 1885, a physical education instructor was hired for the women’s athletic program, the first in the nation. [7] Although by then Minnie had returned to Wellington to teach school, it is safe to say, I think, that she stayed in touch with her former classmates at Oberlin, and attended basketball games and other sports events over the years.

Minnie taught in Wellington schools until 1897, when she was hired by the Norwalk School System with a salary of $500 per year, making her one of the highest paid faculty in the system.

Appointed in June 1897 to teach in one of the four grammar schools in the city, [8] by the first day of classes, she had been bumped up to to teach English at the high school. [9]

Teaching mathematics at the Norwalk High School that year was Suzan Rose Benedict, who had received her undergraduate degree from Smith College two years previously. A great-granddaughter of Platt and Sarah Benedict, founders of the town of Norwalk, she lived in the Benedict mansion across the street from the high school with her parents and sisters. I believe that Suzan’s stories of her experiences at Smith may have inspired Minnie to introduce a girls’ athletic program at Nowalk High School. I’ll explain my reasoning for this assertion in my next post.

Sources:

[1] Minnie Cleghorn Personal Page, WeRelate Wiki

[2] “Wellington,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, February 10, 1899, page 4, column 2.

[3] “Students, 1833-1908,” General Catalogue of Oberlin College, 1830-1908; Oberlin, Ohio; April 1, 1909, page 194.

[4] “Oberlin College,” Wikipedia

[5] Marc Horger, “Basketball and Athletic Control at Oberlin College: 1896-1915,” Journal of Sport History; Volume 23, Number 3; Fall 1996; 258-9.

[6] Kenney, Karen, “The Realm of Sports and the Athletic Woman: 1850-1900,” ,” in Her Story in Sport: A Historical Anthology of Women in Sport, Ed. Reet Howell, PhD. (Leisure Press, West Point, NY: 1982), 123.

[7] Marc Horger, “Basketball and Athletic Control at Oberlin College: 1896-1915,” 271.

[8] “Teachers for the Next Year,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 9, 1897, page 3, column 5

[9] “Public Schools,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, September 4, 1897, page 3, column 5

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