Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Krom Lace Cabinet Company

This is a drawing submitted to the U.S. Patent office early in the 20th century.

Here's the second page....

I find the artwork interesting.

Chester F. Krom is listed as the inventor, and his paperwork at the U.S. Patent office explains:

Be it known that I, Chester F. Krom, ....have invented a new and useful Improvements in Display Cabinets, of which the following is a specification.

The general object of this invention is to provide a cabinet adapted for displaying bolts of lace and fine trimmings of all kinds.

It is understood that usually the lace is wound upon card boards for facilitating the handling of the same. This, of course, requires constant handling thereof and subjects the goods to great liability of damage.

So, this storage cabinet would help keep your lace trimmings used for dressmaking all clean. I'm still not sure if the cabinet was for the home or for businesses that sold laces and trimmings.

As early as 1910 newspapers such as The Evening Independent (September 4, 1909) mentioned:

St. Petersburg has still another inventor. C.F. Krom, of Smith & Northrup, has applied for a patent on a lace cabinet.

His attorney has informed him that it is new, and there is nothing like it.

The cabinet stands 20 by 30 inches, and is 10 inches deep. The first model is at the store now and differs slightly from the one sent to Washington for patenting.

The latest one has four compartments with hinged doors for each. Each compartment contains 25 reels. Each reel slides out and admits of winding and unrolling.

The beauty of the cabinet is that it holds three times the amount of lace in far less space. Mr. Krom has been working on his invention for about two months. There is a lace cabinet at the store and as he saw many chances for improvement in arrangement and general makeup he thought he would go to work and make a cabinet of his own.

By 1910, Mr. Krom had moved his family to Douglasville per the 1910 Census. He had found a place to manufacture his cabinet and a few men to invest in his new product.

An article in The Atlanta Constitution titled "A New Concern to Open" and dated September 1, 1910 announced:

The Krom Lace Cabinet Company, a new $10,000 company organized [in Douglasville] several weeks ago, will begin active operations within the next few days. The company will manufacture patent lace cabinets, and already agencies have been planted with the largest houses in "the country" and it will mean a great deal to the town and community. The officers and directors of the company are as follows:  J.T. Duncan, President; C.F. Krom, Vice President; J.R. Duncan, Secretary/Treasurer; and C.O. Dorsett, Manager.

The following ad appeared in a trade magazine in 1912...notice the location is Douglasville.

The Duncan brothers had a large concern on Broad Street at the extreme western end of the business district where they sold all sorts of things. I'm not sure where Krom Lace manufactured their cabinets, but Mr. Krom didn't stay in Douglasville long. By the 1920 census the Krom family had moved to another city. 

I do have to wonder about the cabinets.  I wonder if there are any around anywhere sitting in an antique store gathering dust....and not a soul knows what they were used for. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Douglasville's World War II Submarine

This column first appeared in the Douglas County Sentinel on March 24, 2013....

I've been researching and writing about Douglas County history for a couple of years now, and I'm always amazed regarding what I discover. Folks ask me how I come up with the things I write about, and my answer is always the same.

Douglas County was and is an amazing place!
Most of the time my subject matter simply falls in my lap. Something I read spurs me to write, something someone says, something a reader sends me, and sometimes my writing begins with just a photograph.

The other day I came across a picture of a captured Japanese submarine on the back of a truck being carried through the middle of Villa Rica. I realized that if the submarine was being driven through Villa Rica the chances of it being driven through Douglasville were very high.
Intrigued I decided to dig a little deeper.

I knew the time period for the picture was 1943, so I wanted to pour over the Sentinel issues archived at the library. Unfortunately, the microfilm copies for 1940-1943 are missing, so I turned to the Internet for the rest of the story.
During the early morning of December 7, 1941 it wasn’t just Japanese aircraft bearing down on Pearl Harbor. Five midget submarines were also launched from the Japanese fleet as well.

The submarine that eventually made its way through Villa Rica and Douglasville was 78 feet long and carried the designation of HA-19. There was just enough room for two men – Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki and Chief Warrant Officer Hiyoshi Inagaki.
There were problems with the submarine as soon as it hit the water. At one point it nearly sank. When the men were finally forced to surface, the submarine was spotted by a U.S. patrol, and our men began tracking it.

Sakamaki and Inagaki finally decided to scuttle the submarine and make for shore. Explosives were rigged to destroy the craft in case the men had to abandon it, but when there was no explosion Sakamaki swam down underneath the submarine to determine the problem. He became unconscious from the lack of oxygen and washed ashore near Waimanalo Beach, Oahu.
When Sakamaki finally awoke he found himself the “guest” of the United States. In fact, he is recorded as the very first prisoner of war captured by the United States during World War II.

The submarine was salvaged by Navy and Army personnel, and for the remainder of the war it toured the country as part of a war bond drive. That’s how it ended up being carried through Villa Rica and Douglasville. 
The submarine served as a symbol – a reminder regarding how the United States entered the war and of our loss. The submarine ended up raising millions of dollars for the war effort.

Sakamaki’s name was stricken from Japanese records as if he never existed. He begged his U.S. captors to allow him to commit suicide, but of course, his request wasn’t granted. He spent the entire war on the U.S. mainland as prisoner of war, number one.
At the war’s end Sakamaki was released and returned to Japan where he refused to discuss the war. He eventually became an executive with the Toyota Motor Corporation and served as the president of its Brazilian subsidiary during the 1970s.

Sakamaki eventually wrote a memoir entitled I Attacked Pearl Harbor.
He was reunited with his submarine in 1991 when he traveled to Texas for a historical conference regarding the war. He reportedly cried.

I remain on the hunt for the missing newspaper articles and will keep you updated.
More about the submarine and a few more pictures here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Radio Days

The year 1922 saw the first Reader's Digest published, Babe Ruth signed a contract with the New York Yankees for $52,000, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in our nation's capital and in Douglasville, Georgia folks were crazy over some newfangled gadget called "the radio".

Various sources state that there were about 1,000 homemade radio receivers in the Atlanta area in 1922 even though there were no radio stations in the city, but what many didn't realize was the two major newspapers in town, the Atlanta Constitution and the Journal (both separate entities back then) were in a neck-and-neck race to see which media outlet could get the first radio station on air.

The Journal won by mere days and WSB was on the air in March, 1922 followed by The Atlanta Constitution's station, WGM.

WGM's broadcast was transmitted through the radio plant of the Georgia Railway & Power Company, and the paper devoted an entire page of the paper titled "The Atlanta Constitution Radio Department" where various people and shows that were offered  every day on WGM were discussed. Telegrams and letters the station received were printed to share what listeners were enjoying. There were also articles from time to time regarding the perils of becoming addicted to the radio.

If only those people could see us today glued to our smart phones.

Folks began to gather around the radio and often parties would  be given in homes where the main entertainment was to listen to a particular radio show.

The image below is the front page of The Atlanta Constitution announcing their new radio station:

WGM presented a radio show each week showcasing the musical students of one man, Signor E. Volpi who was described as "Atlanta's noted coach of opera and teacher of voice".

On the night of January 14, 1923, Volpi's program included Miss Charlotte Crumbley and Jimmy Finley who were both singers who were known to national radio audiences.

The program also included dramatic readings performed by Miss Louise Shamblin who hailed from Rome, Georgia but at that time was employed as a teacher of dramatic fine art and expression at Douglas County High School.

Also, The Atlanta Constitution article published on January 15, 1923 reported, "Last night's program was arranged for the particular pleasure of Miss Catherine Geer and radio party of Douglasville, Georgia. The party was arranged through the courtesy of Mrs. Floyd House whose radio apparatus received each of the numbers clearly.

Miss Shamblins' debut to radio fans was a distinct triumph and no more talented or accomplished reader has appeared at this station.

The appreciation of the party was expressed by long distance messages and in the following telegram received just as the program ended:

We are enjoying the program immensely, thanks!   Catherine Geer and party"

It should not escape our notice that Atlanta was a long distance call and a telegram was sent --something no longer needed today.

Catherine Geer was the daughter of M.E. Geer, an executive with the cotton mill. I've written about the Geer home on Strickland Street here.

At the helm of WGM's operations was Clark Howell, Sr., The Atlanta Constitution's owner. By March of 1923, Mr. Howell had allowed the broadcast license for WGM to expire, and the equipment including the transmitting tower was donated to Georgia Tech where Mr. Howell was a trustee. The station continued as WBBF. By 1925, the call letters had changed to WGST.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Then and Now: Cooper Street

One of the first data bases I went to in order to see what they had on file for Douglasville was the Library of Congress.

I happened upon a series of photographs taken during the late 1930s/early 1940s of three houses along Cooper Street.

Here are two views of 6286 Cooper Street in Douglasville, Georgia from the front:

And a view from the rear:

The pictures were taken by Michael Wyatt, a photographer working with the Historic American Buildings Survey which like most government programs is often referred to by an acronym - HABS.

The survey was first proposed by Charles E. Peterson, a landscape architect with the National Parks Service during the Great Depression.

Basically, the survey was a program to create jobs for out of work architects, draftsmen, and photographers. It was their job to survey and document America's architectural heritage, and I'm glad they did.

The survey was the beginning of a movement towards historic preservation in the United States. We also ended up with an archive of primary source material that is invaluable today for all types of research including the work I do. We also ended up with a wealth of open source documents and photographs showing how cities, towns and communities all across the United States looked at the time.

The collection is housed at the Library of Congress, but can be accessed online utilizing the link I gave above.

Today HABS is an ongoing program and is administered by the Heritage Documentation Program, a division of the National Parks Service.

Michael Wyatt documented the homes along Cooper Street because they were an "extant [or surviving (at the time)] example of worker housing constructed as part of a mill village complex."

The homes date to around 1900, and yes, they were part of the cotton mill village for THE cotton mill that burned in 2012.

I did a drive-by the other day and got a few pictures of the same house. It's a little different, but not much.

As far as I can tell the Cooper Street homes are the only entries in the early days of the HABS survey.
I'll be uploading the original views of the three homes to Facebook in an album soon.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Another Visit with Dr. Massey

Last year I introduced Dr. Massey to you here where I recounted how he's remembered in Georgia history for saving the Georgia Statehouse in Milledgeville from the torch during the Civil War. I also discussed his time living here in the Douglasville area.

Recently, I located an interesting article where Dr. Massey was interviewed on the occasion of his 80th birthday by The Constitution.

The article is an interesting look at Georgia history over Massey's 80 years.

When Dr. Massey first opened his blue eyes to the light on a Morgan County farm, near the city of Madison, he was not blinded by any electric lights or even gas lights; nor did the scratching of matches or the hoot of a locomotive whistles break on his young years, for there were none of these things on the morning of October 15, 1820.

Looking back on his long life, Dr. Massey could remember the night when the stars fell in 1833.

Yes, the stars fell, or at least that's what early pioneers thought was happening.

Dr. Massey advised, "About four o'clock in the morning Uncle John, the faithful old negro man who always made the fire in my father's room every morning, came rushing in calling, 'Master, get up quick! The world is coming to an end. Judgment Day is here and the stars are falling.' My father got up at once and went to the window carrying me. Such a sight I never expect to see again."

Of course, it wasn't the end of the world. What most of North America experienced during the predawn hours of November 13, 1833 was the Earth passing through the tail of the comet Tempel-Tuttle. I've read descriptions from that morning stating the meteor shower looked like "fiery rain" comparing the meteors to "flakes of snow or drops of rain in the midst of a storm."

There are estimations that the rate of meteors was close to 10,000 an hour in 1833.

This blog provides a great article regarding the night the stars fell.

Dr. Massey could remember the frozen Friday of 1835 when the chickens, pigs, and ducks froze to death. Dr. Massey advised, "I remember how the old rooster and turkey gobbler looked after they got well from their combs freezing and dropping off. The stage driver from Madison to Watkinsville froze to death just before he got to the last place"

The winter of 1834-1835 was quite harsh throughout the entire United States. The Savannah River had ice as far upriver as Augusta. There are reports that one hundred year old fig trees along the coast were killed by the cold, and in January, 1835 thirteen to fourteen inches of snow fell in Georgia.

Dr. Massey remembered a time when the railroads had neither headlights nor any whistles and did not run at night.

If lighters disappeared today at least we would still have a match, but Dr. Massey could remember a time BEFORE their invention. He said, "Upon retiring at night the family always covered up a good size chunk of fire about six to ten inches deep in the ashes. Sometimes in the morning the fire would be gone out, and then somebody had to run post-haste to the nearest neighborhood to borrow a piece of fire and run back home to kindle a fire before breakfast could be cooked."

A "piece" of fire...imagine!

If you are like me you doubt that the U.S. Postal Service will still be in business by the time we pass on to our rewards, but Dr. Massey could remember a time BEFORE postage. He explained, "A letter going 50 miles cost 6 1/2 cents postage. It was then called a "thrip". If the letter was going from 50 to 200 miles the postage would be 12 1/2 cents, and the fellow that got the letter had to pay for it. There was no prepayment of postage."

I'm thinking that junk mail would never have been an issue if the folks getting the mail still had to pay for it.

Dr. Massey remembered when folks traveled by stagecoach during the days before railroads were even an idea. The fare was 10 cents per mile, and the stage generally went about 30 miles a day and stopped for the night along the way at regular stations. It took 8-10 days to go to Washington D.C. from Milledgeville, and 10-15 days from Madison, Georgia to New York or Philadelphia."

Dr. Massey could also remember a time when Atlanta didn't exist.

No Atlanta?

Well, yes, I know it's hard to comprehend, but Atlanta hasn't always been there.

Dr. Massey advised, "The first time I came to Atlanta was during the meeting of the Sons of Temperance Convention in 1847. There were 500 of us. Atlanta had accommodations for only 400 visitors in hotels, boarding houses and private homes, all total. At night the other 200 had to go either to Decatur or Marietta. The first night I went to Marietta. It was when they were digging up the stumps and trees in the middle of town for its beautiful public park.

It's hard to imagine a time when Marietta didn't have its lovely square and park The picture below is an early picture of the Marietta Square after the initial construction of the park.

After granting his interview to The Constitution, Dr. Massey lived on for another six years, but his last four were filled with illness. His obituary advises he died on a Thursday afternoon after being confined to a private hospital for several weeks.
One of Georgia's favorite men, one of Atlanta's favorite leaders, and former citizen of Douglasville was gone.
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