Before Facebook, There was the Cigar Maker’s Journal

This post was first published about ten years ago.

It is pretty amazing when you think about how we keep in touch with friends and family today. It is equally amazing when you think that social networking sites have only been around for a few short years. The “Internet” came about in the early seventies, but was not until the mid-nineties when most of us began to first touch the internet through access to the world-wide web (WWW) and email. Before that people wrote letters to each other, but that only worked if you had someone’s address and there was not a way to search for someone before advent of search engines such as Google. Yet that is not entirely true… Recently while searching Google Books for an ancestor of mine I ran across a primitive form of social networking known as the Cigar Maker’s Journal (Cigar makers’ official journal, Volumes 27-29 published by the Cigar Makers’ International Union of America). This particular set covered the years 1902-1905.

I was searching Google Books for my great-great grandfather, George C. Spiegel, and very surprised that I actually got a hit. George C. Spiegel, also known as George Von Spiegel, was born in 1839 in Sachsen (Saxony), Germany and came to the USA in 1850 when he would have been around ten years old. Where his family first settled is still a mystery, but he, his wife, and young son show up in Savannah, Georgia in the US Census of 1870 where George, Sr’s occupation is listed as Cigar Maker. Sometime between 1871 and 1872, the family moved to Dallas, Texas. In the post-civil war days of the early 1870’s Dallas was a boom-town – the first railroad having arrived there from Houston 1872 and in 1873 the major north-south (Houston and Texas Central Railroad) and east-west (Texas and Pacific Railway) Texas railroad routes intersecting there changed Dallas from a sleepy little north Texas town into the giant metropolis that it is today.

From city directories dating from the late nineteenth century I know that the Spiegel family lived at 343 San Jacinto Street, Dallas, Texas and a search for that address in Google Earth shows that the address no longer exists and is buried somewhere under where the 75 and 366 freeways converge.

In the early years of the twentieth century all of George’s children were grown, married and moved away. His daughter, Helen (Nellie) married my great-grandfather, James M. Dobbs, Sr. in NYC 1901 and then shortly after the birth of my grandfather, James M. Dobbs, Jr., Helen and family moved to College Park outside of Atlanta.

Helen had three brothers, George Spiegel, Charles, and August and two half-brothers Hans and Eddie.At least two of those brothers (George and August) followed their father into the cigar making business. From what I found in the Cigar Maker’s Journal it appears that George, Sr. lost contact with his sons was attempting to find them by posting inquiries in the Journal.

From the Cigar Makers’ Journal May 15, 1903 edition: “Geo C Spiegel Dallas Tex would like to hear from his son August F whose last letter came from Syracuse about the first of the year”.

I figure that would be the Morgan County, Missouri, Syracuse and not the city in New York.

From the edition of August 15, 1903: “Secretary holding card of GE Spiegel (66774) please notify secretary of Union 238 Texarkana, Ark”

From January 15, 1904: “Union 262 Dallas Tex requests the secretary holding the cards of Geo E and August Spiegel please address their father and inform him of whereabouts and ask them to write.”

From February 15, 1904: “Secretary holding the card of August F Spiegel will confer a favor by Informing his father of his whereabouts. When last heard from was Washington, Mo. Address Geo C Spiegel 149 Pocahontas St Dallas Tex

“Secretary holding the card” refers to the union’s local secretary who keeps track of where each of the members of the local reside.

George, Sr. lived to the age of 85 and died in Dallas, Texas on October 18, 1925. It is not known if my great-great grandfather ever reconnected with his sons. If only he had known about Facebook or LinkedIn he may have had better luck.

One note regarding the street addresses listed as residences for George C. Spiegel: Don’t look for 343 San Jacinto Street or Pocahontas Street on any current map of Dallas, Texas. A search for 343 San Jacinto Street in Google Earth shows that the address no longer exists and is buried somewhere under where I-45 and Woodall Rodgers Freeway converge. Pocahontas Street no longer exists on any current map of Dallas. Using historic overlays in Google Earth, I determined that the street is today buried under I-30 , a little north of the Dallas Heritage Village.

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