In 1910, the world didn’t have Oreo cookies, crossword puzzles, Boy – or Girl – Scouts, Pulitzer Prizes, parachutes, assembly lines, traffic lights, or daylight savings time. People had to hand-crank their automobiles to get them started. Women did not have the right to vote. America only had 46 states. Monarchies ruled a Europe that hadn’t yet been torn apart by a world war.
By 1920, that had all changed. People were enjoying their Oreos and crossword puzzles in a post-war world where they had to remember to turn their clocks back every fall…or whatever. Women had the right to vote but no one had the right to drink. Ahh, progress is sweet indeed! Welcome to the Roaring Twenties, folks!
We don’t know much about how Mathilda Wissmann and her children spent the decade between 1910 and 1920. Or even if they ever ate Oreos. We do know that - probably early in the decade – the recently widowed Mathilda put her children in St. Vincent’s Home for Children while she attempted to find work to support her family – a common occurrence during this time period.
But by 1920, the family was back together under one roof at 1514 North Leithgow Street, the same neighborhood where they lived in 1910. They no longer lived with family (Alfred probably married and Edmond returned to Germany at some point) or boarders. The house itself was located a few blocks northeast of their former lodgings on North Fifth Street and a few blocks away from St. Peter’s Church where Anna Wissmann herself stated that she attended school. According to zillow.com, the row-home at 1514 North Leithgow was built in 1920 so it is highly likely that the Wissmanns were the first residents of the house.
46 year old Mathilda, a widow for over 10 years at this point, rented the home and lived there with her 18 year old son Alfred, 16 year old son Alphonse, and 12 year old daughter Anna. Having left the cigar business behind at some point, Mathilda listed her occupation as that of housekeeper. Oldest son Alfred, perhaps following in his father’s footsteps, listed his occupation as a cabinet worker. Alphonse was listed as a student. Anna’s occupation was listed as bookbinder. For years, I thought this was a mistake – that it was Anna who was the student and Alphonse who was the bookbinder. But then Aunt Helen told me that Anna (Nanny) quit school in the middle of 8th grade – she got a good mark in arithmetic so she figured she’d quit while she was ahead. So, I guess the information on the census form is correct! Nanny was a 12 year old bookbinder!
Unfortunately, there is very little information known about the Wissmanns from 1910 to the late 1920s so the 1920 Census is a nice little glimpse into their lives during this time. While we don’t know much about this time period, we know that by 1930, everything will be completely different.
See you on the next Censusational Sunday!
*Why is it so hard to find the Wissmanns on the 1920 Census. Blame it on the people who indexed the records. “Wissmann” isn’t clearly written…it almost looks like “Kissmann”. So, if you’re searching on ancestry.com, take things like this into account!