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.