Floods and Schallers VII

The great move to America.

As I’ve intimated before, the family of Cornelius Robert Schaller ended up moving to the United States. A scrawled note by one of his granddaughters (perhaps my grandmother) records the family memory that they came over in 1876 or 1878, but this appears to be wrong, for we find the family as a whole in Omaha, Nebraska, in the 1870 U.S. census:

So we see Cornelius Robert (père), age 39, born in England, a white male, U.S. citizen, listed as a Land Agent. Then comes Ellen, his wife, age 37; daughter Ellen, age 17; C.P. (Cassandra Paulina), age 14; Isabella (for Cebella, but proof that the “C” was soft), age 12; Alice (evidently Florence May), age 6; and on the next page, Cornelius Robert (fils), age 2. I will note the disjunction that now, in the U.S. census, it was required to report race. We’ll see an ugly reflection of anti-miscegenation law in a Nebraska marriage license in a later post.

Why is Cebella now Isabella, and Florence Alice? I think the likeliest answer is that the census taker took the information from Schaller orally, and his accent got in the way of Nebraskan ears hearing correctly. Shame on the census taker for not double-checking: but 66% correct was good enough for government work in those days, I guess.

There was still some back and forth later. In the 28 August 1872 passenger list of the good ship China, Cornelius Robert, age 41 (“Agent,” U.S. citizen) and Ellen, age 19 (“Lady,” U.S. citizen) are found arriving in New York City, evidently having traveled back to Old Blighty for a spell, perhaps to finalize some loose ends.

Passenger list extract, The China, arrived 28 August 1872 Ellis Island. ancestry dot com.

Cornelius Robert returned to England at least once more on a business trip, for we find him at the age of 60 in the 1891 U.K. census as a boarder way up in the north of England in Rochdale, in the township of Castleton. He’s listed as born in America (so, a U.S. citizen), and his profession is given as “Commissioner for the U.S. State of Nebraska, America.” Rochdale (short ‘o’, by the way) was an industrial revolution hot spot very prominent for its dark satanic mills, suited for a commissioner looking for business for Nebraska.

Ivy Hill Cemetery, Alexandria, VA

Christina and I spent about an hour in Ivy Hill this afternoon (30 June 2019) before dinner. This was our first visit, merely a quick survey. There aren’t mausolea, and the monuments are not terribly interesting or provocative. A closer look may correct this superficial impression. The grounds are pretty well tended and really pretty, which is a plus. There follow some things Christina and I noticed.

Anita Howard or her commemorators wanted you to know that she was inestimably fine. Not only does she have the DAR (founded 1890) marker, which is pretty common in this cemetery, but she’s played a decisive trump card. In the belief that “there is nothing like a dame,” she forefronts her membership in the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, founded in 1891. No simple American Revolutionary ancestor here—pah! These ladies “are descended from an ancestor ‘who came to reside in an American Colony before 1776, and whose services were rendered during the Colonial Period,'” to quote the Wikipedia page dedicated to them.

The Society of Colonial Dames has its headquarters in the beautiful Dumbarton House, a stone’s throw from the more famous Dumbarton Oaks, and to give them their due, they have done signal work in preserving historic houses. Nevertheless, Anita gives us valuable insight into how these societies with restrictive membership served as chess pieces in social competition. In the Mount Hebron Cemetery in Winchester, Virginia, I have seen a similarly ambitious grave, of the excellent Marie C. Bowman:

Monument of Marie C. Bowman, Mount Hebron Cemetery, Winchester, VA. Photo: author.

In this case, the deceased (or her commemorators) make what is for this cemetery a common claim to rise above the riffraff, membership in the UDC, the United Daughters of the Confederacy. But this was evidently still too common, and Marie wanted to establish her membership in the 1% with a badge of the DAR. The discovery of this kind of invidious competition makes cemetery prospectors like me fling our picks in the air like Yukon Cornelius striking a vein of peppermint.

Returning to Arlington, the monument of the Humes presents another variant of this competition which I’ve never seen before. William Haywood Hume was proud of his membership in the Freemasons, which is reasonably common, though he (or his commemorator) opted for the bronze badge instead of the incised symbol. But moving beyond that, there is the SAR (Sons of the American Revolution) badge which is balanced with Jean Emmons McCarty Hume’s DAR badge. I’ve never seen an SAR badge before, and I had a look on the pedia of wiki.

Unsurprisingly, the SAR consists of those who are lineally descended from someone who aided the American cause during the revolution. Interestingly, this can include people from France and other foreign nations. The wiki page, which I presume to have been written by someone sympathetic to the society, is at pains to distinguish the more democratic SAR (founded 1889) from the Sons of the Revolution (founded 1876) “an aristocratic social and hereditary organization” and “exclusive social club.” If you’re a member of one, you can’t be a member of the other.

Theodore Roosevelt signed the SAR congressional charter, and the pedia lists many US presidents who were members, and a few (Cleveland, Nixon, Clinton, Obama) who were eligible but never joined. Churchill (yes, that one) is claimed as a member (through his mother, I suppose), and Henry Louis Gates, jr., and (gulp) Normal Vincent Peale.

The Waldo monument, which is very recent, exhibits an army veteran badge I’ve not seen before in the form of a folded flag. Garrett Arbogast, who sadly lived not quite a year, merits mention because his commemorators avoided cliché in calling him a “Gentle Conqueror.” The Chauncey monument with its Uraeus is the only example of Egyptian imagery I saw.

Hugh Charles Smith (1804-1854) has an interesting long inscription with an added quote from 1 Corinthians: “From early life a professed follower of our Lord, he met the approaches of death with resignation. In his last hours when suffering the pangs of expiring nature, his language was ‘Not my will, but thine be done.’ For this corruptible must put on incorruption,” etc. The use of quotation marks clarifies that he did not go on for a paragraph during his expiration; his commemorators added the famous “death is swallowed up in victory” quotation. I read this as congruent with what Drew Gilpin Faust describes as ‘the good death’ in This Republic of Suffering.

Saint Paul has also been summoned to the monument of Seabury Denison Smith, who is recalled as having been a member of Company H, 17th Virginia Regiment. Smith was right in the demographic sweet spot for volunteers and draftees in the Civil War, having been born in 1841. At his death in 1892 his participation in the great conflagration appears still to have been (or nostalgically seemed to him) the greatest moment of his life, given his emphasis on his rank and unit and the C.S.A. that heads the tombstone. I sniff a bit of polemic in his quotation of Paul’s “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” It’s quite conventional, but in the Civil War context of this stone the first line comes across as pointed.

Confederate officers are not hard to find in Virginia cemeteries of a certain age. Eli Hamilton Harney, “Major, C.S.A. Attached to the Staff of Gen. Robert E. Lee” is the highest ranking officer I saw in Ivy Hill, and he, too, has a subscript which seems to me polemical in context despite its conventionality: “His work was a benefaction which itself will constitute his worthiest memorial.”

From a major in the C.S.A. to a Sturmbannführer in the SS: Wernher von Braun. No polemics here, and no flashy monument for an ex-Nazi, even if he did historically significant work later for the U.S. space program. The reference to Psalm 19:1 (“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork”) might be understood both as appropriate to a rocketeer, and for a man who converted first to (reportedly heartfelt) evangelical Christianity after the war, and then to Episcopalianism.

The stones on von Braun’s monument are common throughout this cemetery on gentile graves. I had thought it a Jewish custom to leave visitation stones, but it’s clearly more widely spread than I thought. I saw no coins except on this grave, though I’ve seen them elsewhere, most recently numerous pennies in the Oak Hill Cemetery near Rock Creek in the (open, barred) vault where Willie Lincoln (son of the president) was originally interred.

Carroll Mausoleum, Oak Hill Cemetery, Georgetown. Detail: plaque to Willie Lincoln and Lincoln pennies on the floor. Photo: author.

Floods and Schallers IV

Six children, all born live: a demographically lucky Victorian family.

We’ve seen that the Cornelius Schaller family had been augmented by a first child, Ellen, and had, for unknown reasons, moved to New York City. In fact, Ellen was an American citizen, and as we’ll see in detail in Floods and Schallers V, Robert Cornelius became one, too. His wife Ellen did not, and their subsequent children were born U.K. citizens.

This might seem like the cue for a Leonard Bernstein number. But again, unexpectedly, the Schallers moved: back to Old Blighty. We know it because there is a family record of five more children born in London in an arc of time from 1855 to 1868. All are important to the story, but for most of them the documentation must have gone down with collateral branches of the family or just been lost. What I do have is still interesting, because we know where each was born, at home.

By the way, it is worth noting that records only indicate six births, all live. I understand that Merrie Olde England was undergoing the demographic transition at this point, but still, I am surprised that there was no record or other memory of miscarriages or stillbirths. As we shall see, this family was every bit as sentimental as a middle class Victorian family could be, and commemorated their dead with great gusto, as we’ll also see. So I don’t think they’d be silent about lost children.

The children:

Ellen Elizabeth Ann (Nellie), named for her mother, covered in the last post;

Cassandra Paulina (Cassie), 20 November 1855 at 9 Howland Street, Fitzroy Square, London.

Cebella Emily (Bella), named for her maternal grandmother, 7 September 1857 at 68 Welbeck Street, Cavendish Square, London.

Cornelius Washington, 8 October 1862 at The Hermitage, Ravenscourt Park, Hammersmith, London. Baptised at St. Peters Church, Hammersmith.

Florence May (“Mama”), my ancestress, 28th May 1864 at 28 Saint Peters Square, Hammersmith, London. Baptised at St. Peters Church, Hammersmith.

Cornelius Robert (“Robert C.”), 1 July 1868 at Holly Cottage, Surbiton “in the county of Surrey.”

The addresses are somewhat confusing. My two assumptions are that they are residences of the Schallers, and they were always renting. The Charles Street addresses were all, I think, on a now lost Charles Street, renamed as part of Mortimer Street, that ran in front of the Middlesex Hospital (the big street that the hospital’s Google Earth marker sits on). An 1866 receipt explicitly gives Cornelius Schaller’s address as 25 Charles Street, St. James’, which is among the poshest of posh addresses. I frankly doubt it. Among other things, at the time of the 1866 receipt the children were being born miles and miles away in Hammersmith. Here is a map of the central London places:

And here are the Hammersmith places, including the vague “The Hermitage,” which appears to be an old housing development on the NE border of Ravenscourt Park. That’s the Tamesis at the bottom.

Floos-Schaller Hammersmith places. Google Earth.

And here is the 1893-1895 Ordinance Map of The Hermitage:

1893-1895 Ordinance Map, The Hermitage, Ravenscourt Park, Hammersmith, London.

I am not a connoisseur of London addresses, but even I know that all of the Central London ones are reasonably good. The Howland Street and Charles Street addresses are in Camden (old Bloomsbury and St. Pancras, respectively), though they really fall more into the informal city area called Fitzrovia, which spanned more than one borough. The 1840 Tallis street guide indicates that Charles Street was full of tradesmen like the Floods and the Schallers themselves.

The Hammersmith addresses are good ones, and the Surbiton address would have been comparatively rural, in Surrey, ripe for assimilation into Greater London (the Borough of Kingston upon Thames) in 1965. Can anything be inferred from this wealth of different addresses? Were the Schallers moving to more and more rural locations as Cornelius grew older? The trains made even places like Surbiton, way south and west, haunts for the well-to-do.

An appendix. The first child born in London, Cassandra Paulina (1855) was subject to the Compulsory Vaccination Act. The address for the vaccination was 110 Charlotte Street, about a block from the 9 Howland Street residence in Fitzrovia. British History Online states that in 1860 the surgeon John Derbishire resided at 11 Howland Street.

Compulsory Vaccination Act notice upon the birth of Cassandra Paulina Schaller (b. 20 November 1855). Photo: author.

Floods and Schallers VI

The Great Necropolis.

On 12 April 1866 Cornelius Washington Schaller, brother of my great-grandmother Florence May Schaller, died at the age of 3 years, 6 months, and 4 days. Lines of evidence point to the grief that any family would feel at such a wrenching occurrence, evidence that must not be overlooked even though it is in some respects conventional.

In Floods and Schallers V, I published a photo of a remarkable locket containing Washington’s photo, retouched with color, and a piece of his dead body in the form of a lock of his blond hair. Such lockets, adapted from erotic or familiar to funerary commemoration, rose in popularity in 1860s England, and were a common way of evoking the presence of a dead family member. This conventionality, however, is paralleled by the great physical wear on the locket—it was sedulously worn by members of the family who had known the child, presumably his mother at first. It is interesting to find the Schallers among the early adopters of funerary lockets.

But in addition, Cornelius Robert purchased, for the valuable consideration of 25 pounds and 19 shillings (and franked for half a crown) title to an 18 by 15-foot plot, number 35358, in the London Necropolis, run by the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company:

Title Deed, Plot 35358, London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company. 28 August 1866. Photo: author.

To be sure, Cornelius Robert appears to have purchased the plot in need rather than foresight. Who can blame him? Even if he were making a fairly decent yearly wage in the 1860s, that would likely have been between £ 100-200 at best, out of which £ 25 was a large chunk, comparable to a good annual rental on a residence. Nevertheless, we see the Schallers once again among the early adopters of a great endeavour (as they might put it) of Victorian London, the rationalization (or industrialization) of the disposal of the dead. The attempt to establish a single extramural necropolis for all London was a monumental, awesome, progressive, and only partly successful enterprise. Every part of it was larger than life, and the necropolis and its parts have been recognized for their huge importance to art, history, and landscape architecture. Here I’m cribbing a longer version of the story found in the wikipedia site.

It seems that the growth of London in the first half of the nineteenth century was causing intolerable pressure for space on the traditional London burial sites around churches. This was made acute enough by the great cholera epidemic of 1848-1849 that they resorted to expedients such as digging up and scattering bones from older burials to make room for new ones, or even stuffing dismembered cadavers into graves so that several could be packed more efficiently into each. Nothing could stop the flow (so to speak) of the dead in a city heading towards two and a half million, so one can understand exigent means being adopted.

When you contrast that undignified method of disposal with the increasing sentimentality of the Victorian sensibility, you can see why by 1851 a mixture of sanitary and sentimental reasons led the government to act. In a wonderful example of Victorian industrial thinking, the railroad was pressed into service. The dead from all over London would be conveyed (by river, if need be) to a railroad station very near the present day Waterloo Station. From there, the London and Southwestern Railway would convey them en masse to a site at Brookwood, which is near Woking, Surrey, some 23 miles southwest of London. Apparently the great brick arches of the viaduct that brought the trains into the station (I think they’re all gone now) served as a sort of receiving vault to store bodies for shipment, which took place in the evening and the early morning.

London and Brookwood Cemetery, with nearby Woking. Google Maps.

Woking, it should be recalled, is where H.G. Wells lived and witnessed the great Martian invasion of 1895. Luckily some archival footage has been preserved:

War of the Worlds archival footage. Wikimedia Commons.

The cemetery was assuredly of use in disposing of the remains of the Martians’ poison gas victims. But to return to our main story, the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Act [of Parliament] 1852 established the cemetery and the corporation, and after purchasing land, the trains began to roll in 1854. To the eyes of the early corporation, the 2200-acre site would handle burials from all London for centuries. Wonderfully, the path leading into the cemetery was lined with Giant Sequoia trees imported from the U.S.:

Giant Sequoia Tres lining path at Brookwood Cemetery. Photo: Faeden1. Wikimedia Commons.

They needn’t have worried about space, as demand for plots and funerals were never as high as they had projected. This was partly the result of hiccups in starting the enterprise up that led to competition stealing a march. The idea of Industrially efficient disposal of the dead outside London was simply in the air in the early 1850s.

As a result, the corporation operated at the edge of insolvency despite multiple attempts to alleviate it through sales of unused corporation-owned land near the cemetery. Part eventually became a golf course! A prison! A lunatic asylum! The corporation and cemetery labored on, losing its dedicated railroad facilities thanks to German bombardment in 1941. In 1959 a hostile takeover ended the independent existence of the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company, and the assets (land apart from the actual cemetery) were liquidated.

In 1910 the cemetery grudgingly started accepting cremation burials from the U.K.’s only crematorium in Woking. The corporation adapted an unused mausoleum (of Lord Cadogan) as a columbarium:

Brookwood Cemetery columbarium. Photo: Jack1956. Wikipedia.

You have to give it to Cadogan, it was flash to make your mausoleum into a miniature St. Paul’s!

In the 1970s and 1980s, the cemetery had little upkeep, becoming overgrown:

Brookwood Cemetery, Romantic overgrowth. Photo: Ron Strutt. Wikimedia Commons.

Luckily, the cemetery was named a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is a Grade I site on the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. It has thus received some attention, money, and upkeep. I’m glad to see the Zoroastrian Burial Ground is looking pristine in the 2017 photograph by Scott Wylie below:

Zoroastrian Burial Ground, Brookwood Cemetery. Photo: Scott Wylie. Wikimedia Commons.

The Schaller title deed bears the seal of the corporation, which is unfortunately difficult to parse even in person. Luckily the seal is given as a line drawing on wikipedia:

Floods and Schallers V

Made with real bits of Schaller—so you know it’s good.

If the subtitle of this post provokes you, it’s worth considering that it is a reference to the movie Anchorman. In episode four of the Flood-Schaller saga (“A New Hope”) we saw that Cornelius Robert and Ellen Schaller had six children we know of, all born live and having survived infancy. This made them quite lucky.

Cornelius Washington Schaller, born in 1862, was the first son and the fourth child overall. He presents problems.

He was born on 8 October 1862 in the Hermitage (in Hammersmith, near Ravenscourt Park, you’ll recall). The 1862 Civil Register (not shown here) records his birth in Kensington, which is a question mark.

Certified copy of Cornelius Washington Schaller birth record. 1862. Photo: author.

Yet Cornelius (Robert) Schaller is recorded as arriving alone in Massachusetts on 21 March 1863 on the good ship Europa (see below). For context, Grant was then besieging Vicksburg, and Queen Victoria’s son Albert Edward (the future king) had just married princess Alexandra of Denmark. Perhaps it was a business trip; presumably he chose a Massachusetts port to stay well north of the U.S. Civil War even though his connections were in New York City. He obtained a certified copy of the christening record for his daughter Ellen in New York City (see the image in Floods and Schallers III) on 15 June 1863. I don’t know when he returned, but the London Gazette (of 20 November 1863) reports that a partnership of James Neal Brooks, James Beal, and Cos. R. Schaller (“Auctioneers, Estate and Land Agents”) had been dissolved amicably, with Beal taking care of debts owed and receivable. That dissolution was dated to 1 November 1863. Even this is no proof that he had returned, but my working assumption is that he had, for my ancestress, Florence May, was born on 20 May 1864, strongly suggesting his presence in London on or about 20 August 1863.

Passenger Manifest (extract), the Europa, arr. 21 March 1863 in Massachusetts.

That appears to have been his second trip to the U.S. His first daughter, Ellen, was, as you’ll recall, born an American citizen in November 1852 during the first trip. To pursue the story of Cornelius Washington we need to reconsider that first trip for a moment. Below is the passenger manifesto for the incoming ship, the Victoria (arr. NYC 14 May 1852), and it is unremarkable (wife Ellen must have been about two months pregnant):

Passenger manifesto (extract) of The Victoria, arr. NYC 14 May 1852.

But see below the passenger manifesto of the American Eagle, on which he returned from New York to London on 14 August 1854. His “Native Country” is given as New York, whereas Ellen, his wife, is registered as being of England. The new baby evidently did not merit notice.

Passenger list of the American Eagle (extract), arr. London from New York City 14 August 1854.

What the 1854 manifest suggests is confirmed by the 1861 UK census (see below), where Cornelius Robert is listed as “American Naturalized U.S.” Wife Ellen (six months pregnant with Cassandra) is noted as being from London, whereas daughter Ellen, as expected, is said to be from “America New York.” The other children then alive, Cassandra and Cebella, are listed as being from London.

1861 U.K. Census (extract).

Given that Cornelius Robert had to perform some legal duties and is styled here and there throughout the documents as “Attorney”, one might wonder how he could practice law in the U.K. as an American citizen. The answer appears to be that until 1868 or 1870 neither the U.S. nor the U.K. took obligatory notice of other citizenship its citizens claimed to have. Only about 1870 were mechanisms for recognition of other citizenship (and renunciation of home citizenship) put into effect.

You see how weird this is. Cornelius and his daughter claim to be U.S. citizens, whereas the rest are all U.K. citizens, and the U.K. for its part considers the whole lot to be its own.

Why should Cornelius Robert have become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1853 or 1854? There may have been some practical advantage, but his later choice of middle name for his first-born son stands out like a beacon. This is a family that relentlessly gives names from the family: Emily, Elizabeth, Cebella, Cassandra, Cornelius: again and again they hark back to ancestors’ names. Yet no Washington is discoverable in the contemporary or (to the extent records exist) earlier family. While it was not a mechanical requirement, there was a predilection for naming first-born sons for their fathers. Cornelius Robert, son of James, is a possible exception—but I do not know if he was a first son or not.

In my opinion, what we see with the name Washington is the iceberg tip of Cornelius Robert’s pro-American sentiment emerging. The first U.S. president’s name, displacing another good, homonymity, seems a proxy for strong affect toward the U.S. And it was not unimportant to Cornelius Robert to name a son for himself: his second son and sixth child was, in 1868. I do wish I knew why he took Ellen to New York City in 1852—it would certainly help.

However that may be, a few months shy of his fourth birthday, on 12 April 1866, Cornelius Washington died of unrecorded causes. The family passed down several pieces of Victorian mourning jewelry, which may in part have been worn after Washington’s death. One gold-plated locket certainly was, and it is a study in typical Victorian mourning practices.

The photo and lock of hair snipped from the corpse are de rigueur. I like the complex engraving, and the bluish-white enamel dashes on the reverse, largely worn off, must originally have ‘popped.’ I’m surprised not to find a cross, but the star is a common symbol on such jewelry, as are the flowers. The Latin motto (or an English translation) is extremely common.

The green patina shows the locket is only plated. This is not a sin, but it points toward a desire for show (gold!) balanced by a need for frugality, which tells you something about the family. Everything about the locket, such as the broken glass, indicates long wear, over decades. The gold plating has even worn through in places on the reverse. I knew my grandmother and her sister slightly, and everything I know points to them—among Cornelius Robert’s granddaughters—as having been immensely sentimental and still (in the 1960s) very aggressively Victorian in their aesthetic.

Astoundingly, should you wish to find more bits of Schaller, it might just be possible. A fascinating document, a deed to a burial plot almost certainly purchased for disposal of Washington’s body, survives:

But I’ll write about the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum in episode VI.

Floods and Schallers III

Cornelius and Ellen Elizabeth Ann

As we saw in the last post, Cornelius Robert Schaller, bachelor, had married Ellen Elizabeth Ann Flood, spinster, on 6 January 1852, cementing their fathers’ business partnership. By 1856, we saw that Cornelius and his counterpart, James Flood, junior, appear to have become the principles in the Flood and Schaller business by succession or gift, inasmuch as they were publicly listed as bankrupt partners in that year. I believe that the following locket photograph is of Cornelius Robert:

Possible photo of Cornelius Robert Schaller (b. 1830).
Possible photo of Cornelius Robert Schaller (b. 1830). Photo: author.

There is little surprise that the couple’s first child arrived not long thereafter, on 6 November 1852. What is astonishing, as the story plays out, is that Ellen Elizabeth Ann, the daughter, was not English but American: she was born in New York City. A note in Cornelius Robert’s hand gives the New York address as 201 West 15th St., New York. A New Yorker might tell me whether that qualifies as Greenwich Village or Chelsea. Whatever building they lived in is long since gone.

201 W. 15th Street, New York City.
201 W. 15th St., NYC, top center. Fittingly close to Babycastles. Google Maps.

The baptismal registry of the Church of the Redeemer in Yorkville (on 84th St., basically across 2nd Ave. from the fabulous Heidelberg Restaurant), conserved among the New York City Episcopalian records, lists her and her parents at a baptism on 2 April 1854. I’m always surprised when I see these months-long delays before baptism in an age when children died like flies, but there it is. Interestingly, the church appears to have been organized only in 1852.

Excerpt from 1854 Redeemer Church baptismal registry.
Baptismal registry of the Episcopalian Church of the Redeemer, Yorkville, NYC, for 1854. Excerpt. Photo: ancestry dot com.

A certification obtained in 1863 by consulting the very book excerpted above makes things look even worse! The sloppy certifier has for a start given the year of the baptism as 1863 instead of 1854.

1863 certification of baptism of Ellen Elizabeth Schaller.
Careless certification of the baptism of Ellen Elizabeth Ann Schaller, given 1863. Photo: author.

Curious is the rector’s attempt to write GOD (“Church of GOD”, “GOD Parents”) in cursive. The God parents are James and Isabella Maria Roberts, who are question marks at this point. A bit of context suggests itself here: the battle of Gettysburg was but 20 days in the future.

Passenger manifest excerpt showing arrival of Cornelius Robert and Ellen Elizabeth Schaller in NYC, USA, 1872.
Passenger manifest, 1872. Excerpt showing Cornelius Schaller, age 41, and daughter Ellen Elizabeth Schaller, age 19. Photo: Ancestry dot com.

Amongst the collected immigration records from Ellis Island and Castle Clinton in New York City is the passenger manifest of the ship that carried them to the USA in 1872. It corroborates that Cornelius Robert was born in England, whereas Ellen Elizabeth Ann had been born in the United States. Presumably she served, in this definitive arrival of the Schallers, as one of those now-famous ‘anchor babies.’

The Floods and Schallers II

The family business

Flood-Schaller Business Card
Flood and Schaller Business Card. Date unknown, probably before 1855.

The story begins with a business alliance between two London families in the reign of George III. One had as its patriarch James Flood, a cabinet maker. His wife appears to have been Cebella. The head of the other was Joseph Schaller, a ladies’ shoemaker. His wife was Ellen Elizabeth Schaller.

A miraculously preserved business card advertises their partnership as “Auctioneers, Surveyors, Estate Agents, and Valuers.” In a word, they liquidated estates, and if we believe the card, the business was established in the final year of the rule of George III, 1810. We’ll recall that the future George IV ruled as Prince Regent from 1811 until his father’s death in 1820.

A close reading of the card suggests that among other things they repaired and then staged properties for resale, like Regency Property Brothers. The breadth of services they rendered also suggests agile contractors, though a shoemaker and cabinet maker might well have started out personally providing some of the work they advertise. I infer that the card represents a stage where these entrepreneurs had accreted a lot of services to an original core of offerings.

The card itself is a study in the quality of even ephemeral work at the time. The text appears to sit on a six- or seven-lobed couch with cushions and pillows leaning on a central pillar, tassels here and there. The astonishing variety of “fonts” no doubt pleased the Victorian eye and, I suppose, advertised the agility of the engraver, who’s maintained a pleasing symmetry.

The business address given on the card did not survive World War II and London development; it was a middle-class address then in swinging Fitzrovia. In fact, Charles Street is no longer there, nor was it even in the time of the 1893-1896 Ordinance Map. However, the Museum of London ‘London Street Views 1840’ site has dedicated space to interpreting a complicated situation. We needn’t follow the detailed argument here.

Charles Street, Middlesex Hospital, 1893-1896 Ordinance Map of London.
Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury, London. Google Maps.

Looking at the older map, you see Middlesex Hospital, and Mortimer Street, which takes a bend then runs in front of it. The Google Maps extract shows Wells Street at center, with good access to the Cartoon Museum. On this map, Mortimer is labeled A5204, and the hospital has been torn down (in 2008). Older street directories, however, indicate that the section of Mortimer running between Wells and Cleveland Street on the north (thus including the façade of the hospital), and between Newman and Wells on the south was in fact Charles Street Middlesex Hospital. Looking back for a moment to the 1893-96 map, you can see a dotted line running roughly parallel and close to the bent end of Newman. That line actually shows how far east Charles extended.

In this case, we can place the Floods and the Schallers in 1840, for which we have addresses. James Flood was at number 8 Charles Street, the second door on the north side of Charles east of the intersection with Nassau Street on the 1896 map. Schaller was across the street at 19 Charles Street, which was the fourth property on the south side east of the intersection with Wells. The business address at number 11 was the third property on the north side, west of the intersection with Nassau Street, though it was not yet there in 1840.

An advertisement for Flood and Schaller auctions and sales in 1855 lists a second address, at 11 Crawley Street, near Oakley Square.

Flood-Schaller adverts 1855
London Daily News, 23 May 1855, page 8. Flood and Schaller advertising.

I cannot find a Crawley Street on the modern map of London, but Oakley Square is still there very near the Mornington Crescent Underground station in the old St. Pancras Borough. Here is a map, with Oakley Square bounded by Oakley Square Street and the A400.

Oakley Square, old Saint Pancras Borough.
Oakley Square, London, in old St. Pancras Borough, modern Camden.

UPDATE: My esteemed friend Dr. Danny Jones has consulted a digitized mid-1890s historical map from the National Library of Scotland, discovering a Crawley Mews that once ran within the block just south of Oakley Square. The Camden Historical Society publishes a web page of renamed and demolished streets, and it turns out that Crawley Street is now known as Eversholt Street, which is the long street running diagonally from upper left to lower right in the map extract below.

Joseph Schaller is listed among the dead for 1851 in the Civil Register Death Index:

Joseph Schaller Entry in Civil Register Death Index 1851. ancestry dot com.

The business partnership continued with Joseph’s son, Cornelius Robert, in his place and was solemnized in the new generation by the marriage of Flood’s daughter Ellen Elizabeth to Cornelius Robert on 6 January 1852. Since Joseph had died, we naturally see the Floods listed as the witnesses:

Schaller-Flood marriage certificate
Marriage Certificate of Cornelius Robert Schaller, “Bachelor,” and Ellen Elizabeth Flood, “Spinster,” in St. Mary-le-Bone Parish Church, 6 January 1852.

And because it will be useful in many later posts, here is a copy of Cornelius Robert’s baptismal certificate, establishing his birthdate as 17 October 1830. It’s worth noting that the address is given in 1831 as Charles Street:

CR Schaller baptism certificate 1831.
Baptism certificate of Cornelius Robert Schaller in St. George Parish, 1831.

The final reference I have to the business appears to show it quite reasonably having passed to the sons of both 1810 principals by 1856. It is a notice in the North Wales Chronicle of an annulled bankruptcy of James Flood, junior, and Cornelius Robert Schaller. An annulment implies that after a declaration of bankruptcy, Flood and Schaller had satisfied their creditors, so it is not evidence that they ended up in the poorhouse. In fact the Schallers, at any rate, seem to have gone on and done well enough, to judge by their later London addresses.

Flood-Schaller bankrupcy annulment 1856.
North Wales Chronicle for 10 May 1856. Annulled bankruptcy of Flood Jr. and Cornelius Robert Schaller.

Further research indicates that the business underwent a drumbeat of bankruptcy proceedings and reorganizations in the 1860s. In 1863 we find Brooks, Beal, and Schaller breaking up with Beal paying the debts. In 1866, Brooks and Schaller, both reported to reside at 25 Charles Street, St. James’s Square, were subject to bankruptcy proceedings. In 1869 we find a final bankruptcy lodged against Schaller, again listed at 25 Charles Street, St. James’s Square. Within a year Schaller was on a boat to the USA. I believe that the notation St. James’s Square is a misapprehension by the London Gazette because by then Charles Street at Middlesex Hospital had formally been changed to part of Mortimer Street but Schaller was still giving the Charles Street address. Number 25 would be on the south side, almost directly across the street from the old Flood house.

The Floods and Schallers I

A great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Joseph Schaller, Genevieve Alston Bucher. Prospect Hill Cemetery, Omaha, Nebraska.

Looking through family documents, I’ve come across an interesting tale of the melding of two middle class London families through an arc across the Regency and Victorian eras. This story has the usual drama of social climbing and a whiff of scandal. For reasons I don’t know, several prominent members of the family immigrated to the United States, and then to Nebraska, in 1870. They’re buried in the once tony Prospect Hill Cemetery, only a few miles from where I used to live.

I propose to write a series of posts following the fortunes of this family. Though I’ll use some “objective” internet sources such as passenger manifestos and census documents, I’ll mostly stick to records, some official, which have come down through the family. There is even some material evidence in the form of mourning jewelry and a couple of photographs from lockets.

I will give due credit to others who’ve filled gaps at places like ancestry dot com after I’ve finished my own reconstruction. I’ll keep the posts short so as not to tax the good reader’s patience, and I’ll employ a lot of visuals to lighten the burthen.

Amenities, amen!

There was a time in my life when I felt that my interests, preoccupations, location, and the people I saw every day changed so radically that I was effectively a different person every five years. This is hardly something unique to me; I was just surprised that it seemed to have discrete five-year periods.

In the last couple of months I’ve been noticing that the current period of my life appears to be marked by a handful of amenities that I never sought out but which would be unpleasant to live without now. They are without exception trivial and are no doubt diagnostic of a certain degree of privilege. Most have to do with reducing hassle, and their usefulness could maybe be explained by having moved to a big city. Anyway, here they are:

  1. Concierge who screens visitors.
  2. Heated underground garage.
  3. Car backing up camera.
  4. Car GPS/guidance/maps.
  5. Phone app to pay for parking garages and meters.
  6. Phone app to scan documents.
  7. Phone app to buy movie tickets.
  8. Reserved recliner seats in theater.
  9. TSA Precheck.
  10. Phone app to deposit checks.

You see? There’s nothing here that’s even remotely as important as the big two, people and art. Yet I find myself genuinely grateful for these trivialities every single time I use them, and they have changed my life for the better

Honorable mention:

11. Car remote autostart.

12. Speed limits indicated in car gps.

13. Car door unlocks by touching handle.

14. EZ-Pass.




The name συγγράμματα (syngrammata) is Ancient Greek for “essays.” Or rather, since those people didn’t quite have the genre as we know it, it’s a word that comes reasonably close. And so you may rightly infer that I had a classical education and that I am interested in essays. This blog betrays my interest in writing essays.

My superpower is that I have an eye sensitive to the absurd, the ridiculous, the subversive, the anomalous, the unnoticed, and the outmoded. Look for a potpourri of items in this space that have struck my eye in passing, or which I’ve set aside in the past. My kryptonite is an unwillingness to be nailed down to one systematic topic.

Why essays and not poetry or narrative? I fell in love with the modern voice of George R. Stewart, having bought a copy of his U.S. 40 at a used book sale at the Athenaeum in Providence—literally across the street from Brown’s Classics department. If you know Stewart, who was an English prof at Berkeley, you probably know him for his post-holocaust novel Earth Abides or from his classic study of American place naming, Names on the Land.

In cross-country trips with his family following U.S. 40, which runs (or ran) from Atlantic City to San Francisco, Stewart’s eye was caught time and again by interesting facets of the landscape he passed through. He selected 92 photos he’d taken and published them with a short essay accompanying each. Nothing was beneath his observation, and no landscape, however unpromising at first sight, failed to provoke his interest. He brought his keen intelligence to explicating the landscape with a geographer’s insight, a historian’s knowledge and an artist’s eye. His voice was authoritative but never professorial. In some way, almost every essay I’ve written is indebted to his work, even while falling short.

But on top of that, I have learned a great deal about writing from other great essayists. Paul Fussell’s moral outrage (I think of his “Thank God for the Atom Bomb“), Orwell’s honesty, Bronowski on “Knowledge and Certainty,” Didion on the Central Park jogger case, Coates on reparations: they and many others serve as a (probably unapproachable) model for me. I hope to repay your visit here with something to interest you, and I hope you’ll leave comments to help me improve my writing.