On this holiday we celebrate the American worker and his or her contribution to our American life, but the holiday was actually born as a way to appease workers after a brutal crackdown on the workers and the union during the Pullman strike of 1894.

The people who made the Pullman railroad cars lived in a company town. They were paid by the Pullman Company, lived in company housing and had their rent automatically deducted from their paychecks. When the economy crashed in 1893 there were layoffs, and wage cuts, but no decrease in rents.

The workers walked out.  They were soon joined by railroad workers led by the young Socialist leader Eugene Debs. Train service was disrupted.  The mail could not get through. There was rioting and destruction of railroad equipment, sometimes by mobs of non-union workers. 80 million dollars of damage was done and thirty people died.

The strike became a national issue.  Unable to resolve the labor dispute President Grover Cleveland declared the strike a federal crime and sent troops to disband the strike.

Pullman Strikers Confronting the National Guard

Eventually the workers were overpowered and forced to sign a pledge never to unionize again.  Eugene Debs, defended by Clarence Darrow, saw the charge of obstructing the mail dropped, but spent six months in prison for violating a federal injunction.  He continued to organize. When he ran for President in 1920 on a Socialist ticket he won a million votes.

Labor had long pressed Congress for a Labor Day holiday.  The bill was passed by both houses and hit Cleveland’s desk six days after the end of the strike.  The bill was signed into law as a means of appeasing the labor movement.   The new holiday was seen by labor not just as a holiday, but as a day for organizing.

Today we see Labor Day as the holiday that marks the end of summer.  Kids go back to school, parents breathe a sigh of relief, we grill things and try not to think about cold weather and heating bills.

Of course, genealogists think about their ancestors and I am no exception.  Here are some of our great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and their labors.

Samuel Bublick opened a candy store, what we might consider a convenience store in New York City.

Joseph Mason


Joseph Mason worked as a leather cutter making ladies handbags.  He was a wiry little man with arms of steel.

Morris Silverman was a capmaker in New York City.

Morris Silverman










His son Alex would organize for the capmakers union.

Alex Silver

Alex’s son, Stanley would work for the Signal Corp and then as a salesman.  He would be a union steward.

Stanley Silver














I am Stanley’s daughter.


John and Annie Costello homesteaded a farm in Sprague, Washington.

James and Sophie Cole

James and Sophie Cole homesteaded a farm in Primrose, Nebraska.

Edwin Cole





Their son Edwin would cook in a lumber camp, pour cement for the WPA and work as a janitor in a hotel.







Edwin’s son Merwin would become a union organizer, a carpenter and a contractor.

Marian and Merwin Cole


My husband is Merwin’s son






Stanley’s daughter and Merwin’s son got to go to college and now work at jobs that leave them trying to figure out how to get enough exercise. Wow!

Merwin’s son and Stanley’s daughter post exercise




If I had known that the 1940 census would be this interesting I would have started looking at it a lot sooner.

The last piece I posted for this blog was about my husband’s family’s appearance in the 1940 census and a surprise it held.  I made the point that although we think we know everything about people with whom we lived or whom our parents knew well, there are always things we don’t know.

I got quite the surprise when I looked for my family.  My grandparents, my aunts and uncles and older cousins are all in the census, all living in Philadelphia, but there is an extra son in my Aunt Ethel’s family.  Anomalies in the census always raise the question is it real or is it a mistake of the census taker, is it a disinterested lie to get the census taker out the door or an intentional falsehood for who knows what reason.  .

Here are the lines from the census.

There are my aunt and uncle and the two sons I know well, my cousins Marvin and Dan, but between them is Morris who my aunt reported was her son.

Morris isn’t there in the 1930 census, just Marvin and Dan.  I checked with my older cousins, no one remembers another son.

I have spent a little time looking for Morris Kessler, but I haven’t found anyone who seems related to my family.  So, who is Morris?  Is he a real person who lived for some time with my aunt and uncle or was he just another kid hanging out in the house when the census taker arrived?

Here’s how my April 15th went.


Visited grumpy son–bailed him out of relatively minor credit card debt.

Spoke to grumpy daughter-  Navy boyfriend has just left for 9 months in Qatar.

Finished the taxes–more or less.

Grumped a lot.

Had a glass of wine.

Wrote a big check.


A really big check.


Then wrote another one to the state of Connecticut.

Had another glass of wine.

Sat down to write the blog.

We’ll see how it goes.


Yes, I procrastinate filing my income tax, especially in years when I know it will cost me a bunch.

My first personal recollection of tax time is from my childhood.  Every year my dad would finish his taxes somewhere around midnight on April 15th, load the entire family into the car and drive to the main post office in Philadelphia to put the envelope in the mail.  It seemed like fun to us.  I have no idea why he didn’t go alone and leave my mother at home with my brother and I asleep, but he didn’t.  My brother and I looked forward to April 15th every year.

I did the same thing with my kids when we lived in New Haven.We would drive to the Brewery street post office where Uncle Sam himself would receive the envelope from one of us.  It did ease the pain and help us remember why we pay taxes.

There were temporary federal taxes at various times in U.S. history, but with the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment in February, 1913 the income tax became a permanent part of American life.


Later in 1913 Congress levied a one percent tax on net personal incomes above $3,000 with a six percent surtax on incomes of more than $500,000. On November 3, 1913, American citizens received information about the new national income tax including the fact that a married man living with his wife, with an income of $5,000 will pay $10 a year and if his income is $10,000 he will pay $60 a year. There were three pages of forms and one page of instructions.



What about my ancestors? Did they procrastinate?  Did they pay?  Did they cheat?  How did they feel about taxes?  How much did they pay?

Hmm… 1913… all of my grandparents were married adults by 1913, I wonder what they thought about this new tax. I can’t ask them, but I can look back at general reaction in 1913.

This from the Saturday Evening Post, May 13, 1913:

“The income-tax question is one that will not down. For the best of reasons this is true. Way down in the hearts of the masses of mankind there lurks a strong sense of justice, on which is founded the opinion that vast accumulations of wealth in the hands of individuals or corporations should help to support the Government under which they are acquired, by which they are protected and without which they would vanish.

And why not? Why tax the widow’s mite and the orphan’s bread, and not tax these accumulations? Why lay tribute on what we eat and wear, and leave untaxed millions in the hands of those who can never personally consume it, and with whom it is surplus?

If there ever was a time when the concentrated wealth of the land should bear its share of our enormous expenses of government it is now.

There is a necessity of an income tax now that did not exist when our Government was conducted economically. In all the history of the Government of the United States there never was such an era of prodigality as that on which we have fallen. The Prodigal Son in his most prodigal day was parsimonious when compared with some exhibitions of extravagance that have characterized our Government in recent times.”

And this from the Detroit Free Press:

“The conference committee has concluded to report the Senate’s amended provision of the income tax and the measure in that form will almost certainly go to the president and become law.  This is highly unfortunate, for of all possible forms of the income tax the graduated scale is the most vicious.

Under the system now to be the policy of the United States the more diligent and enterprising a man is the more he will be taxed.  If he is satisfied to make little he will be exempted from supporting his government.  If he tries to do better and increase his wealth, part of what he makes will be taken from him, and the more he makes the more will be taken.  It is a penalty on success and a premium on failure.”

My absolute favorite is a cartoon.

Our opinion on economic policy often depends on where we sit on the economic ladder.

My grandparents were close to the bottom of that ladder.  I am sure they paid no income tax in 1914 and I suspect they thought the whole thing was a grand idea.














     Once again I am writing this blog surrounded by construction debris and piles of dust.  Having unearthed my computer from its protective cocoon of plastic wrap has allowed the dust to colonize yet another area of the house and will most likely soon render the computer inoperable. Lest you be thinking that I will soon be living in a house worthy of a photography session in House and Garden let me disabuse you of that notion.  This is more a “we have to do it or the whole think is going to collapse” sort of remodel.  When I attempted to stay home on Thursday having contracted whatever plague is going around I heard the workers under my bedroom window saying, “You think there’s an animal living in there?”  This was followed by the response, “Nah, I think Jack chased it out yesterday.”

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I am still without access to most of my genealogy stuff. I am, however, occasionally able to read other genealogy blogs, although usually long after their original posting, and I saw that Bill West at West in New England had asked folks to write about what they would place in a genealogical time capsule.  This is a post I can write without any actual data, so I’m all over it.  It is also helpful to have missed the requested deadline and have read all the other actually thoughtful and interesting responses.

My first thought is that my time capsule is MINE and will be a twisted reflection of the oft-repeated phrase “history is written by the victors.”  My family history research has made it clear to me that all of my ancestors were liars.  They lied about everything, to my great frustration as a researcher, but who am I to mess with family tradition. So, my time capsule will contain pictures of me and my offspring, but only the best looking ones, with a little help from Photoshop. If it appears to my descendents that the body simply does not match the head, that’s their problem.

It would be nice to include a well-sourced, extremely accurate version of my family history to date.  Unfortunately, such a document does not exist.  What they will get is the poorly sourced, mostly accurate, and occasionally incomprehensible current version. “Hey descendents, if you think you’re so smart, you figure it out.”

I would have to include personal mementos of life in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, including:

1.  One of each of the various pills that have been prescribed for me during my life, only to be withdrawn from the market after we learned that they actually kill people.  No wonder I’m dead.

2.  My favorite recipes. No wonder I’m dead.

3.  All of my exercise equipment.  Oh wait, there isn’t any.  No wonder I’m dead.

4.  My report card from the fourth grade.  My kids didn’t want it, now you’re stuck with it.

5.  All of the TV and internet ads of the 2012 presidential campaign.  Please tell me it doesn’t sound familiar.

6.  The story of my life.  It was fun, really, almost all of it.


Now, how to insure that my time capsule is found in a hundred years or so.









First, be sure to bury it somewhere that will not be under water due to global warming.

Second, put it anywhere but inside this house.  I know this house is going to fall down no matter what we do, hopefully without us inside.

Lastly, provide a series of intricate and painfully difficult to decipher clues to find it.  Intricate, painfully difficult to decipher clues will make it appear that there is actually something valuable inside.  I have no doubt greed will survive the twenty first century.

It’s been fun thinking about my time capsule.  I know that the goal of family historians and time capsules is to preserve the past.  I think I have achieved the more common human result, reinventing the past.


Click on the photos to link to the websites of their creators.



I recently found this clipping from the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin in a box of stuff I was sorting through.


The clipping is dated January 1942. I know this from the reverse side, which features a patriotic advertisement.

Here is a better picture of young Dan.

Whenever I look back on this time in history I am reminded of the hardships that families endured with men away and money and commodities in short supply.  The government needed money to fight the war and the budget deficit was soaring. With rationing and price controls in place personal savings rates were high. The government tapped these personal resources to finance the deficit and the war.  People of every economic status gave generously to finance the war effort.

In April of 1941 Series E savings bonds were initiated. The bonds were renamed Defense Savings Bonds.  People could purchase Defense Saving Stamps and paste them into albums to be exchanged for bonds.  $18.75 would buy a bond that would yield $25 at maturity. Stamps were sold in denominations ranging from ten cents to five dollars.














The newspaper carrier boys’ defense stamp promotion was started by the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin in the September of 1941 and eventually included 900 newspapers and 150,000 carriers across the nation.

My cousin Dan sold 57,000 stamps, making him the ” Nation’s No.1 defense savings stamp salesman.”  I love his statement that “equal credit should go to the thousands of newspaper carriers like himself all over the country who’ve sold 40,000,000 stamps since The Bulletin inaugurated the plan in September.”

It sounds like cousin Dan should have run for public office.  He didn’t.  He moved to California and spent his working life in the growing entertainment industry.  He lives in the Los Angeles area now with his wife of 56 years with children and grandchildren nearby.