Does anyone want to help me with this fun family project? My next task is to find the help-wanted ad Domenic Troisi answered to get his job in Williamsport. Who wants in?!
Does anyone have easy, perhaps free, access to ProQuest or other paid-service online databases of scanned newspapers? (There’s another one called “Historic Newspapers,” or something obvious like that.)
I’ve checked all the freebies I can find online, and I have to go (all the way) into Manhattan to use ProQuest (and other databases) for free at the New York Public Library. (No complaints, at least they have the subscriptions at this library I adore, but there is that subway ride, and then I’m not on my own computer to save files and make screen grabs easily.)
Hint to academics and registered college students: you can often log on to your libraries’ accounts from home. Check it out and let me know….
What clues do we have?
As always, I start with Domenic’s memoir. He wrote:
(An aside: Does Domenic’s proposition sound like “Heads you lose, tails I win” to anyone else but me?)
At the turn of the century, there were hundreds of daily newspapers in New York (not all in English.) They merged or went out of business as the decades progressed. The New York World, was infamous during its Pulitzer ownership, but even this substantial essay doesn’t say where its archives ended up or if it was ever digitized.
It’s possible Penn Garment also advertised the job in other papers: New York City dailies, trade or union newspapers, “immigrant language” newspapers that would have been read by garment workers—Italian and Yiddish, most likely.
And, of course, it’s worth checking the Grit (or whatever the local Williamsport papers were in the 1900s—cousin D.T., I’m looking at you) to see if they advertised the job in Williamsport.
What are we looking for?
Probably a display ad, probably small, with the following key words: Penn Garment Co. or Company, Williamsport, Pa., uniforms, maybe “mail carrier uniforms,” maybe Penn Garment’s address at the time, which was in the Weightman Block building, 754-770 West 4th Street, Williamsport; maybe Mr. A. N. Bloom’s name; maybe the name of the factory owner, Frank Plankenhorn, who was a big shot of Williamsport; probably the job title of a man who would “run a uniform factory”—manager? director? foreman? The ad might also say “cutter” or “pattern maker,” which were the advanced skills Domenic learned at the trade school.
Domenic doesn’t say, and I’ve never been able to nail down exactly when he moved to Williamsport. (Does anyone know for sure?) It was after he graduated from the trade school (February 1913) and after a stint in Jamestown, New York (perhaps the rest of 1913?), but before he volunteered for WWI service (1917, from Williamsport). So I guess 1914 or 1915.
Domenic names two places he boarded in Williamsport during his first year there. Are there local censuses, or a city directory, that might list him in 1914 or 1915 (or even late-1913?), helping us nail down which year he arrived? Is there a local Williamsporter among my relatives who would be willing to take on this side task?
What about the address of the interview—wouldn’t that be in the ad?
You bet. Domenic describes it as “a walk-up office building on Fifth Avenue not far from the New York Library.” There were many such small (five stories or shorter) office buildings along this stretch of Fifth Avenue during this period. Assuming “not far” is the two blocks north or south of the library and includes the two blocks the library itself takes up on the west side of the avenue (across from office buildings on the east side), we should look for an address between 38th and 44th streets: lot numbers 424–529.
So…volunteers? Anybody? Anybody?