J. J. Mahoney, Trainmaster, Chicago & Alton Railroad

Business card. Circa 1900 – 1910, but see the comment below this post.

Price:  $15.00               Size:  About 3 and 5/8 x 2 and 1/4″

A nice piece of history involving the Chicago & Alton Railroad:  the business card for Trainmaster, J. J. Mahoney. What’s a trainmaster you might ask? Here’s a definition from the Houston Chronical:

“The railroad industry employs many professionals that ensure the safety of trains, their passengers and cargo. A trainmaster oversees the safe departure and arrival of trains at a specific train terminal. They work with yardmasters, conductors and engineers to ensure trains arrive and depart in a timely manner. While other railroad professionals work outside on the train or in the railway yard, trainmasters spend a large majority of their time indoors communicating with staff on the trains.”

So, we did some web searching (per usual) for the full name of our trainmaster, but no luck. However, we did find him mentioned in the publication Railway Age Gazette, that was put out for the first half of the year, 1910:

“J. J. Mahoney, assistant superintendent of the Chicago & Alton at Bloomington, Ill., has been appointed superintendent of transportation of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, with office at Newton, Kan. The office of assistant superintendent of the Alton at Bloomington has been abolished.”

And we’ll add this post to our Unusual Occupations category, not that trainmaster is necessarily so unusual but rather in the probability that many (like myself until now) have never heard of this particular job title.

Sources:  Alton Railroad. n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alton_Railroad (accessed September 22, 2017).

Michael, Elvis, “What Is A Railroad Trainmaster?” Houston Chronical. http://work.chron.com/railroad-trainmaster-20446.html (accessed September 30, 2017).

Railway Age Gazette, January 1 – June 30, 1910, Vol. 48, no. 13. p. 916. (Google eBook).

Taking Care Of What He Has

This is the first post in a new category here at Laurel Cottage, under the heading of Unusual Occupations. I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile; there are some eye-catching entries out there on old census records, city directories and that type of thing.

Taking Care occ1

This one could be interpreted a couple of different ways, and shows John J.[?] Duryea, age 57, along with (one assumes) a brother or cousin or some other male relative, S. Duryea, age 56. Their occupations were listed as  “taking care of what he has.”  How funny to see an occupation transcribed as such! This 1880 Federal Census for New York City shows that the two Duryea men were boarding with S. M. Tweed, age 30, occupation printer. Perhaps the Duryeas were caretakers working for Mr. Tweed; on the other hand, perhaps the entries meant they were taking care of their own things, in which case, one might wonder if they were unemployed. The address is given on the census as the Grand Hotel, at 1226 Broadway, and the several census pages for this location show 115 occupants at that time. This building was designated as a city landmark in 1979 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Below is a 1910 photo from Wikipedia showing the hotel on the left.

Grand Hotel in 1910

Taking a quick look at the next available Federal Census, the 1900, shows a listing for a John J. Duryea, age 70 and wife Julia, age 49, living in Middletown, New York. This may or may not be the same John J., but his occupation is listed as landlord. So, that is the third possibility for what was meant on the 1880. That “taking care of what he has” could have meant landlord.

Sources:  Year: 1880; Census Place: New York City, New York, New York; Roll: 880; Family History Film: 1254880; Page: 289C; Enumeration District: 289; Image: 0519. (Ancestry.com)

Grand Hotel (New York City). n.d. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Hotel_%28New_York_City%29. (accessed November 23, 2014).

Year: 1900; Census Place: Middletown, Orange, New York; Roll: 1140; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0025; FHL microfilm: 1241140. (Ancestry.com)

Triplett Loop Setter

Triplett Loop Setter

Business card for James Melvin Triplett (1886-1947), manufacturer of the Triplett Loop Setter, address 607 Shotwell St., San Francisco, California. Card circa 1916.

Price:  $10.00

Well, the first question is – What is a loop setter? One might imagine it had something to do with textiles, but it is actually a term from the old movie industry. One of the entries under the heading of recently patented inventions in the Scientific American, published in 1914, is for Triplett’s Loop Setter:

“Loop Setter, – J. M. Triplett, 6 North Columbia St., Wenatchee, Washington. This invention relates to moving picture apparatus and provides means for setting the loop of the film without interfering with the operating of the machine. The mechanism is of a simple nature under the immediate control of the operator. It is adapted for use in connection with any standard moving picture machine.”

Wow, if you’d like to get sidetracked, look through this 1914 publication. There are articles, photos, advertisements, classified ads, and of course, other patent listings like the one above. The entry three up from this one is for a “torpedo steering mechanism.”

James M. Triplett married Anna A. Kreth in 1909 or 1910, according to the 1910 Federal Census for San Francisco. The interesting thing about this census is that James’ occupation is given as Baseball Player (currently employed). His name is not showing up in any online references for minor league players, though. Too bad, as that would be another very interesting line of research – what team he played on, etc. On the 1910, he and wife, Anna, are living with Anna’s mom, widowed head of household, Anna A. Kreth, and the widow Anna’s older daughter (the younger Anna’s sister) Aline (Caroline) Watson and Aline’s husband, Albert Watson. Aline and Albert are listed here respectively, as theater actress and actor. So, it would seem that James might have gotten his start in the movie film industry through his wife’s sister and brother-in-law. (No references were found for Aline and Albert Watson, but maybe they used stage names.)

James Triplett was born either in 1885 or ’86 (his WWI Draft Registration Card shows he gave 1886 as the year but the California Death Index shows ’85.) A Washington State Census for Kent in 1892, shows him with his parents and siblings. The 1900 Federal Census shows San Jose, CA with mother and some of the siblings, married brother as head of household. The 1910, 1920 and 1940 show San Francisco: the 1910 is mentioned above; the 1920 shows James and Anna with their two young daughters, James working as a machinist and owner of a stage manufacturing company, with them is Albert Watson and his wife Caroline (Aline), Albert is now listed as bookkeeper for stage manufacturing company, (so probably working for James); the 1940 shows James’ occupation as motion picture operator, with wife, Anna, their two daughters and Caroline (Aline) Watson, widowed. James was the son of Silas D. Triplett and Rebecca N. Mothersead (mother’s maiden name according to family trees on Ancestry.com)

Another reference to the Triplett Loop Setter is found online indicating:

“THE LAEMMLE FILM SERVICE, Minneapolis, U. S. A. NOW READY FOR DELIVERY “Triplett’s Loop Setter” For Power’s, Edison and Motiograph Machines. ALL MODELS. Do away with operators’ “Bugaboo” by installing “Trip- lett’s Loop …”

The above is found in The Moving Picture World, Vol. 22. This is full (and extremely long) text re the film industry in 1914. The full reference is in there somewhere but (good grief!) who has time to search for it? Like the Scientific American publication, this one from the film industry of it’s day is fascinating and diversionary, showing all kinds of film-related entries, including descriptions of the plots of movies, with great names like, “Hello Mabel”, “A Law Unto Herself”, “The Phantom Light”, “When Slippery Slim Met the Champion” and “The Family That Did Too Much For Nellie”. The description on this last one is, “How a family discovered that it didn’t pay to Doll Up the cook in Glad Rags.”

Sources:  Scientific American, Vol. CX, No. 25, June 20, 1914; Page 509. Munn & Co., Inc. Publishers, New York, N.Y. (Google eBooks)



Ancestry.com. Washington State and Territorial Censuses, 1857-1892 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: Washington. Washington Territorial Census Rolls, 1857-1892. Olympia, Washington: Washington State Archives. M1, 20 rolls.

Year: 1900; Census Place: San Jose Ward 2, Santa Clara, California; Roll: 111; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0067; FHL microfilm: 1240111. (Ancestry.com) Year 1910; Census Place: San Francisco Assembly District 32, San Francisco, California; Roll: T624_96; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0058; FHL microfilm: 1374109. Year: 1920; Census Place: San Francisco Assembly District 26, San Francisco, California; Roll: T625_135; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 111; Image: 399. Year: 1940; Census Place: San Francisco, San Francisco, California; Roll: T627_302; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 38-108. (Ancestry.com)

San Francisco City Directory for 1916. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989

Registration State: California; Registration County: San Francisco; Roll: 1544243; Draft Board: 6. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.

Ancestry.com. California, Death Index, 1940-1997 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000. Original data: State of California. California Death Index, 1940-1997. Sacramento, CA, USA: State of California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics.

Moving Picture World (Volume 22) Oct-Dec 1914. http://archive.org/stream/movingpicturewor22newy/movingpicturewor22newy_djvu.txt