The Historical Society has a large collection of local-business-related ephemera in the Library collections, the contents of which – though seemingly mundane – provide a detailed glance into the everyday lives of County residents. Let’s take one of those glances today, shall we?
There’s something pleasantly formal about late 19th-early 20th century business correspondence. Even bills for butter have a certain air about them; for example, here’s the heading on a 1904 bill from the Carson Ward Store, Gaithersburg:
“Gaithersburg, Md., July 7, 1904. Mrs. M.A. Hutton, Bought of Carson Ward, Dealer in General Merchandise. Boots, Shoes, Paints, Oils. Country Produce at Market Prices. Specialty, Dynamite.” (Mrs. Hutton owed $2.95 for butter, a whitewashing brush, 8 pounds of Plaster of Paris, and a 10 gallon jar.)
In contrast, here’s a bill produced by the Rockville company of Clagett & Gandy, painters and paperhangers. Though it’s a less expensive version – on which the proprietors must fill in their business name – than Mr. Ward’s, the pre-printed generic form nevertheless has style.
“July 15th, 1927. Mrs. Poole, Autrey Park Md. To Clagett & Gandy, Rockville, Md. To papering two rooms and hall: 66.00. Taking of[f] old paper – Pointing up and sizeing [sic] walls: 25.00. [total] $91.00 Received Payment in full Edw Gandy.” Edward Gandy (1871-1955) and Joseph Clagett (1871-?) were neighbors in east Rockville. Census records identify them as “painters,” and Mr. Gandy’s obituary describes him as “the surviving partner of a 50-year-old painting and paperhanging firm Clagett & Gandy Co.”
The customer, “Mrs. Poole, Autrey Park, Md.”, was Annie Evelyn Jones Poole (1858-1936), widow of John Sprigg Poole (1846-1914). Both were Montgomery County natives, who lived in DC as adults. Although the 1920 and 1930 censuses list Mrs. Poole and her daughters as DC residents, by the late 1910s the ladies had acquired a summer home, just south of Rockville in a neighborhood known as Autrey Park.
Detail of 1890 map – click to view. To orient you: Rockville is off to the left; the “Georgetown and…” road is Rockville Pike; the “fairgrounds” at left is the approximate site of Richard Montgomery High School; “Halpine” at right is near Congressional Shopping Center and Halpine Road.
Autrey Park, and the slightly later Autrey Heights, were two small, late 19th century developments, conveniently located along the Washington-to-Frederick Road (Rockville Pike/Route 355) and the Metropolitan Branch of the B&O Railroad. The detail, above, from the 1890 Real Estate Map of the Metropolitan Branch (by Fava Neff & Co.) shows multiple streets in both Park and Heights, but this may have represented a hopeful (and non-forthcoming) future rather than reality. However, the neighborhood had enough of a presence – probably assisted by the Autrey Park railroad stop on the Metropolitan Line – to maintain name recognition from the 1890s through the 1920s. The name itself comes from Caleb Litton’s 1722 land patent, variously written as Oatry, Oatre or Autra.
Mrs. Poole’s Autrey Park summer home was right on Rockville Pike, on the east side, in the general vicinity of present-day Woodmont Country Club. (Woodmont’s then-owner, Joseph Bradley, insured his home “in Autre [sic] Park” in 1912.) Rockville society columns in the Washington Post note Mrs. Poole’s removal to her summer home as early as 1917. In 1927, the year of our paperhanging bill, the Post informs us on June 19 that “Mrs. J. Sprigg Poole and her daughters, Miss Martha Poole and Miss Katherine Poole, have reopened their home on the Rockville Pike after occupying an apartment in Washington since fall.” On October 16 of that year, “Mrs. J. Sprigg Poole has closed her summer home at Autrey Park and is occupying an apartment in Washington until spring.”
Annie E. Poole, circa 1915. Donated by Martha and Kitty Poole.
Other than these bare facts, I haven’t yet discovered much more about the family’s home (which is no longer standing; for those of you not familiar with Rockville Pike, picture a car dealership there instead). When was the house built? What did it look like? And, relevant to this 1927 bill, how was it decorated?
For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, carefully chosen wallpaper was an important element of an elegant, wealthy home. By 1900, improved production and lower costs put wallpaper within reach of even more homeowners, who papered their walls, closets, attics, bathrooms, and even ceilings. Wallpaper sample books, called things like “Correct Wallpapers for Year 1918,” encouraged the purchase and installation of up-to-date designs.
If only Mr. Gandy had been more specific on his bill! Where was Mrs. Poole’s wallpaper purchased – who designed it – what did it look like? (And what kind of paper did it replace?) Alas for this wallpaper fan, our 1927 Sears catalog reprint notes only that aspiring decorators should send away for a sample book, promising “timely stylish designs . . . stripes, two-tone emboss, Tiffany tints, floral patterns, ornamental panels, brocades, Lincrustas, sanitas and tile papers” – but no actual images of the papers themselves. Thankfully, the online collections of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum can furnish our imaginations with some options (click on the links to view). Did Mrs. Poole choose stripes, a floral pattern, something thematic, or perhaps a scene or a decorative frieze? Bold colors, or subtle? Classically inspired – perhaps a reproduction of an older pattern – or something a little less formal? Was she a William Morris fan, or did her taste skew more modern? Seriously, I’d love to know – if anyone remembers the house, fill me in.
(…Sorry, I can’t resist one more wallpaper option: this pastoral pattern is dated 1927, and seems appropriate for a summer home in what was then the gently-rural suburbs. Perfect!)