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New York, Feb. 23, 1886 Yes, I think I shall be happier even travelling to S[an] F[rancisco]. than I should be in having a four months vacation, although there will be very little money in it, after hotel bills are paid. Still it will be better than idleness. Last Summer cost me $650 and I shall not have that much to spend on a vacation for the coming Summer.  I never before realized the worth of $10 per week as I have this season.  It was, I now find, my savings money and it being taken from me I have very little to save from.  ... You certainly ought to be able to come to N.Y. without spending ten dollars for where would you spend it?  Certainly not with your Mother, your Sister or your cousins or your Aunt. As for your sporting friends who have taken or helped you to waste your money in the past. Keep away from them.  [Son Albert Nickinson was 22 at this time.]

"Vacations"  For the years with a number of letters 1886-1898 EJ Phillips worked for most of the year in 1886-1887 and 1890. 1888 and 1889 seemed too have about 8 weeks "vacation" each, 1891 had 20 weeks, 1892 18 weeks, 1893 16 weeks, 1894 20 weeks, 1895  12 weeks.  She only worked for a few months in 1897 (but traveled to 22 cities) and only sporadically in 1898.   

Chicago, June 9, 1887 Keep a dignified presence, never let anyone know how poor you are, for no one has any sympathy for the poor cuss who has no money in his pocket.  

Currency
We have a number of paper forms that went with money orders, from the 1870's sent to Mrs. Zavistowski, obviously for the care of Hattie and Albert.  It seems that bundles of cash were sent. 

Money Order from EJ Nickinson to Christine Zavistowski

"said to contain money valued at $20 which we undertake to forward to the point nearest to destination reached by this company only, perils of Navigation excepted.  And it is hereby expressly agreed that said UNITED STATES EXPRESS COMPANY are not to be held liable for any loss or damage, except as forwarded only; nor for any loss or damage of any box, package or thing for over $50...

New York, Feb. 10, 1886 I will send you money for your next weeks board -- how shall I send it?  In a letter & trust to the honesty of the mail or by Express or money order -- I think I can risk a V in a letter -- do not you?

San Francisco Aug. 29, 1888  If I had five in paper I would put it in this letter, but I cannot get one.  All is gold and silver

EJP to Neppie, Philadelphia, Sept. 10, 1893   I have to use a part of your birthday gift until I get back to draw from the bank [first mention of a bank].

Bimetallism and free silver, William Jennings Bryan Politics  1896 election

Incomes
EJ Phillips certainly mentions money and seems to discuss it fairly frankly, but until the transcription was complete it was hard to know what it all added up to and to put it into context.  1887 seems to have been a particularly tough year, as she tried to get Albert set up to earn his living.

Reliable data on US incomes only became available with the introduction of the federal income tax.  (The 16th amendment was adopted in 1913.)  I found a useful chart in Standing at Armageddon: The United States  1877-1919 on the distribution of wealth in 1890, which came from an 1896 book (An Essay on the Present Distribution of Wealth in the United States).  The poorer class was defined as an annual income under $500 and estimated to contain 5 and a half million families.  The middle class earned between $500 and $5000 with another five and a half million families.

The well to do had incomes between $5000 and $50,000 with 1.375 million families, while the wealthy had incomes of more than $50,000 and included about 125,000 families.  The wealthy and well to do (12% of families) owned 86% of the wealth. 

From what I can estimate, EJP's income, while she was working steadily seems clearly middle class by this definition.  She talks about earning $65/week in 1885 (a reduction of $10/week (from 1884?).  This would work out to about $3000/year.  She does talk about being idle for four months in the summer of 1885, having "three weeks vacation" in 1887, 12 weeks in 1889 (perhaps $2000 for that year), 2 weeks in 1890, 6 months in 1891, 5 months in 1892 and 12 weeks in 1896.  She only worked about 2 months in 1897.  What I’m still not certain of is how many weeks (including travel and rehearsals) she was actually paid for, and clearly salaries considered due were not always readily forthcoming. 

The lack of inflation (in fact deflation) would seem to support my assumption that her salary stayed fairly constant, though I suspect it went down in the 1890;s.  (See the chart from The Value of A Dollar.)  In 1894 the leading lady (Olive Oliver) in Lady Windermere's Fan got $40/week but EJP lamented that no one was offering her $100/week.  

Certainly a number of people around her earned much less.  Teachers, though socially middle class, earned only $250/year in the late 19th century.  In 1886 EJP told Albert that $10/week in  Middletown  ($500/year) was worth $20-25 in New York  ($1000-1300).  In 1887 Everett Root was earning $3/week at Marshall Fields in Chicago  ($150/year).  The same year Will Law in Philadelphia made $10/week ($500/year) and paid the servants $3/week ($150/year) but his prospects for marriage seemed quite far off. 

By comparison EJP's first salary (from the 1850's) was $8/week, for 9 months ($285/year) out of which she had to buy stage clothes and pay board ($2.50/week or $90/year).  

1870 Census records for Rockland County, New York show Antonio and Christine Zavistowski, daughters Emeline and Alice and EJ Nickinson and Hattie and Albert.  Dollar figures are given for real and personal value and only Antonio [$500 personal] and Christine [$15,000 real and $5,000 personal] have listings. 

In 1887 Uncle [Zavistowski] was frequently earning $5/day in the livery business (maybe $1000/year.)  May Robson in 1888 was paid $25/week by Palmer ($1250/year) and went to the Lyceum Company at $35/week (at most a $500/year increase). In 1888 JH Stoddart earned $150/week ($175 when traveling), about $7500/year which enabled him to support a family and buy a large farm in New Jersey. 

Household accounts
I have two small account books for 1866-1868 and 1870-1875.  They combine lists of cities EJ Phillips was traveling to, and expenses, including sums of money sent to the children.  There are also a number of money orders, many sent to Mrs. Zavistowski in Philadelphia and in Suffern NY. and some listings of salary received. More to come... 

Notebook recording  family expenses 1874 - 1877

Board for children $8.00 per week 1874

Some living expenses can be approximated from the letters. In 1886 rent of the New York flat was $45/month ($540/year, though it seems to have been given up that spring).  In 1887 board in New York was $20/week (about $1000/year).  In 1888 Hattie and John paid $17/month rent ($200/year) and in 1890 Albert and Neppie paid $15/month.  

Stage clothes were not cheap

Once I started charting expenses I began to wonder just how comprehensively she reported other expenditures. In 1886 a carriage in New York was $2.  Insurance on the flat (unspecified period of time) was 77 cents.  In 1888 a trunk was $22, a telegram from San Francisco to New York was $1.15.   In 1892 Elizabeth Ellen Dolman's funeral and doctor's bills were $152 and in 1895 reefers for a five year old (EP Nickinson) were $5-14.  One acre lots in Denver sold for $200 in 1889 and were worth $500 in 1891. 

Housekeeping 1890

Salaries
A NY Times article Jan 30 1885  discusses theatrical salaries and appears under the headline "STARS AT UNION-SQUARE A RADICAL CHANGE BY SHOOK & COLLIER

Boston, May 26, 1886  I cannot tell you yet whether we go to Utica or not -- if not -- we lose a full weeks salary, which at the present time is not pleasant to think of.

Boston, May 27, 1886  Have to buy four dresses for the new play and have nothing to buy them with. Next week I get only 2 night's salary, scarcely 20 dollars but even that is better than none. It will pay any expenses between here and Chicago   Where I shall stop in Chicago will depend upon how cheap the hotels are. So at first direct your letters to McVickers Theatre. I am not playing this week, only rehearsing.

Boston, May 30, 1886  We are to be in Chicago seven weeks. I hear the lowest terms at Palmer House (where I wanted to stop, it being near the theatre) is $3 per day rather more than present salary will warrant me paying. So I do not know where I shall stop. 

Chicago, July 9, 1886   We shall leave here on Sunday or Monday for our Western trip.  That is the 25th or 26th of July, no salary while traveling.  Open 2nd of August in San Francisco.  I shall send you the $50 next week.  Salary day is Wed.  It is after 1 PM when salaries are paid, so shall not probably send before Thursday.  You will get it on the 17th and then we are free from the Johnsons, and I hope forever.   

Chicago, July 21, 1886  "I get no salary next week - and it will cost about $3 per day for my expenses on the road."  Tomorrow I shall send by PO order to you $15 - that will have to do you until I get my 1st weeks salary in San F'co, which will be the 11th of August.  They pay salaries (due on Monday) on Wednesdays.  I wish I could send you more dear - but my salary seems, nay is, so small for the heavy expenses I have, that it is impossible for me to do so. I have not returned Miss Greenwald's money she so kindly offered & that is not right.  I owe nothing but for storage, payable on my return to New York.  I get no salary next week - and it will cost about $3 per day for my expenses on the road..

San Francisco, Aug. 9, 1886   I borrowed money I sent you this morning, as salary is not to be paid until Wednesday, and as it takes a week to reach you.  You must remember my salary is very small when divided into three parts. I cannot under present circumstances save a cent.  I have received eleven weeks and 2 nights salary since I left  New York - and I am in debt for storage, $22.50 and borrowed $20 from Miss Greenwald.  

New York, Oct. 28, 1886  I got my salary yesterday, but only a few of us did.  I shall not send you any tonight, for I have to get shoes, stockings, flowers, bonnet, gloves &c &c to Jim the Penman and when I get through, I will see how much I have left to send you.

New York, Nov. 4, 1886  No salary for me this week, the theatre having been closed last week.  We all feel very sore about it but what can we do? Fortunately I have just enough to pay my board this week, I having been very careful of spending for the play, or I should have been without. 

New York, Nov. 10, 1886  I asked AM [Palmer] for increase in salary -- but he said he couldn't afford it just now, would give me more soon as he was able, and he would do it without being asked. He is to give me extra however when I play this new part [Priest and Painter, later called Foregone Conclusion]

New York, Jan 9, 1887  What we are going to do for money I do not know.  I am about beside myself. 

New York, Feb. 9, 1887  Do not rely on much from me, for I spend all.  The money goes and I seem to get nothing for it. it will be bad for me, for I have not been able to save a dollar, nor have I any new clothes. So do not, for pity's sake, run in debt, for I shall not have any money to help you out. Do not think that I write this way to annoy you. I am only stating facts so that you may know how I am situated and not depend upon me to again help you out of debt.  I am willing, but my purse is empty. 

New York  April 4, 1887  Remember the money I gave you was the saving of years.  The $100 you had in the Bank for me, I had saved five years before you put it in the bank.  The four months I was idle in the summer of 1885 [when the Union Square Company was disbanded] took everything for our support except that $100.  Then I began on a reduction of $10 per week salary. Your affairs followed, and how can you suppose that I have any money?  In the theatre, when subscriptions are being taken up for flowers or charities - where I used to give $5, I now give $1 or 2.  I am looked at in astonishment, but I have to bear it. Salary not raised I am sorry to say - but the present might be less.  And I am grateful to get what I do.  Of course you know I do not like the long trip to S[an].F[ranciso]., but it is either that or no work.  

New York, Apr. 7, 1887  I will enclose $5 in this to bring you here.  Then I shall have barely enough to take us to Phila & back out of this week's salary.  Did want a new bonnet but will have to do without.

Boston undated [1888]  My first salary was eight dollars per week, and I had to buy stage clothes out of it 

Chicago, June 9, 1887   I congratulate on your success of at last obtaining employment and sincerely hope it will be a pleasant position for you. As far as the salary  - you can, if you so determine, save money on it.  Many men support families on a smaller amount. 

Boston Oct. 1, 1887 Your present salary [in Middletown] is better than twenty in New York. 

New York, Dec 2, 1887 The more I work, the longer my engagements, the poorer I get, and do not have much of a good time either! 

Boston, June 8, 1888 Not yet got salary, and hear that we are not to be paid until we get to N.Y.. But I hope it is not true.

Philadelphia, Pa, June 21, 1888  I do not intend spending another $100 for that play [Heart of Hearts], even if I had it to spend.   There may be a good deal of trouble over it.  But no matter.  I have been too long with him [AM Palmer], I guess.  He has given $25 per week more to [Alessandro] Salvini for the California trip, without his asking for it, yet he lets me go on the same small salary, and knows I spend most of what I get for his plays, and I am tired of his treatment of me, compared with the way he treats others. Mr. [James H] Stoddart gets $25 more per week when he travels.  Making $175 per week.  I have to spend 50 for the stage. 

Pittsburg, May 4, 1891, All the members of the company not in the cast of Alabama received notice this morning that their season ended on the 16th of May in Buffalo.  Alabama will be run in Chicago for three weeks - and I think it will be the only play done on the California trip.  So unless something transpires I shall be idle for several months. I am sorry but cannot help it - such is the state of the drama at present time.  I do not like losing my salary for three weeks in Chicago, but am glad to escape going to California - as I at present do not feel well or strong enough for the journey.  

Boston, May 19, 1889  And my purse is very thin taking into account my long vacation.  After 1st of June it will be 13 weeks before I again receive salary. 

Hartford, Nov. 8, 1892 I do not like our play and do not like my part but the salary is good and I like it. The travelling is pretty severe on your young Mother, but I hope I shall be able to stand it.  I am with a very nice party of people, all respectable and well-behaved and I am happy with them. 

Hattie to Neppie, Philadelphia, Oct. 10, 1893  She [EJP] does & always has [fretted] when she is away from her children.  She worries how they may be getting on & when she is home she worries because her salary isn't coming in.  Summer vacations have never done her any good for that reason.  .. I am in hopes that as Mama gets a little more rest & (a few more salaries) she'll begin to feel better. 

Milwaukee, Nov. 8, 1893  I do not know how my affairs are going to turn out.  The Palmer Co open in San F'co on Xmas day and my name is on the list and has been rumoured in the papers as going with them, but so far nothing has been said to me by either Palmer or Frohman about the matter.  If they do want me, I shall kick considerably against going, for the Company is to play new plays almost every week for three months which means daily rehearsals, eight performances and getting dresses ready for each new play.  I do not think my strength would hold out and there certainly would not be any money in it for me at present salary.  If they are willing to double my salary then I may accept, if asked! 

Newark NJ, April 3, 1894  I expect my season to close in Chicago about the 12th of May, for I think there are plenty [of others] anxious to go on for the "Duchess" [in Lady Windermere's Fan] for half my salary.  Nothing further has been said to me, and I do not think they will be likely to keep me at present salary. 

Boston, April 7,1895  I am also going to try to get a few weeks engagement, if possible, for it seems cruel to lose the weeks of April & May doing nothing, when I need so much more money than I have, and I feel more able to work now, than at anytime this Season.

Portland, Sept. 15, 1896 But then the hardest part of the travel will be over, but by that time it will have been pretty severe.  And I imagine rather exhaustive to the treasury.  But we have our salaries up to date and have no right to criticise our management. 

Philadelphia, Apr. 5, 1897  No one has offered me a hundred per week yet for this or next season.  I wish they would come along for I am tired of being idle.

Theatrical salaries 1858 from Rede's Guide to the Stage http://books.google.com/books?id=W3oXAAAAYAAJ&dq=rede's+guide+to+the+stage+1858&source=gbs_navlinks_s   has theatrical salaries by city and theatres. 

Advertising
Theater programs often have many ads  Newspapers also a nice source of images.

Early playbills provided the dual purpose of serving as an advertisement for a performance as well as a program. By the mid-nineteenth century, printers began producing playbills on larger sheets of paper. Playbills eventually became poster size, which made them unwieldy for use as a program. This necessitated the printing of separate, smaller programs to be handed out to the audience upon entering the theatre. In 1884, in New York, Frank Vance Strauss elaborated on this idea, creating the multi-page Strauss Magazine Theatre Program, later entitled The Playbill, providing a theatrical program in a magazine format. http://www.lib.virginia.edu/speccol/exhibits/theatre/playbills.html

A distinction is generally made between playbills and programs, although they often serve the same purpose: distributing information within a theater. Technically, the playbill is a long, narrow theater announcement, and was frequently, but not always, posted. Most playbills are printed on one side. In contrast, a program is a printed document composed of one or more folded sheets printed on both sides. By the late nineteenth century, the long, narrow playbill was largely supplanted by the folded program.

In the 1870s, many theaters published their own programs, but it was also commonplace for publishers or printers to supply programs for theaters. These published programs were financed by a multitude of large and small paid advertisements secured by the publisher. These ads sometimes obscured information about the actual performance.

In 1884, a man named Frank V. Strauss began to gather ads for the Madison Square Theatre in New York City and soon began printing programs for many theaters. He founded the first company devoted primarily to the publishing of theater programs. The title of the programs he published was "The Playbill," which is still in widespread use for theater programs, and is an exclusive registered trademark.  Theater Playbills and Programs, American Memory, Library of Congress http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/vshtml/vsprge.html  

1865 Cincinnati photographers' advertising on reverse of photos of Albert and Hattie

We have a surprising number of photographs, both because they were a necessary professional expense for EJ Phillips, and because they were becoming more affordable and ubiquitous.  19th century Photography and technology 

The cult of celebrity is not a 20th century phenomenon. In the latter part of the 19th century innovations in the use of photography as advertising spurned a new avenue of celebrity likeness-based souvenirs. Portraits of personalities from the stage who were previously portrayed in engravings and traditional portraiture were now available to an interested public in a more realistic and affordable form – the cigar/cigarette card included as an incentive in the purchase of a smoking product and cabinet photographs sold as souvenirs by theatrical promoters. THE NINETEENTH CENTURY ACTOR PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION, 1868-1897 & n.d., Smithsonian Institution, Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., December 2003 http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives/d6779a.htm 

Albert's career 
Getting Albert established in a job and settled was particularly a concern in 1886-1887.  

Chicago, June 9, 1886  I think the Texas scheme a very good one if you had the money to carry it out -- but there lies the difficulty.

New York  Jany 9th 1887  Sorry you had to spend any money in repairing your press.  It has already cost too much, and if it is beginning to break down that will be so much more less.  Try and get $250 for it before any more money is spent on it. What we are going to do for money I do not know.  I am about beside myself.  New plays being talked about and no money for dresses.  Hattie no dresses! I no dresses! Oh dear! Oh dear! Do be careful of the amounts I send you, and do not spend anymore on uniforms, billiards, &c. Think that if I cannot dress the parts I may be cast for, I shall have to take a back seat, and somebody else will be put in my place.  I have to state these disagreeable facts to you, Albert, for you are so thoughtless, and are so easily led by companions who have not your welfare at heart, but only their own pleasure.    

New York Feb 9, 1887 Do not rely on much from me, for I spend all.  The money goes and I seem to get nothing for it  

 New York April 2, 1887  For the trouble that has overtaken you I am primarily to blame!  And I humbly ask your pardon!  Had I taken the advice of all our friends when you entered J & CJ's store, you would today be a self respected man.

Everybody told me and advised me to take your money or make you pay your own expenses.  Had I done so - you would not have been able to have seen and indulged in all the extravagances of this City!  I am to blame for it!  I have made you a selfish spendthrift - and an ungrateful man! 

Today or yesterday, I should still continue the same course if I had the means, but I am a monument of my own weakness and folly, and your affliction.

That Mrs. G[arretson] will help you I doubt, for you will find that no one will help those who do not help themselves.  And should she advance what you want, what prospect have you of ever repaying her?  You are only stepping deeper into the mire.  Take a spade, a broom, a hoe and earn your honest bread - rather than cringe to people who will scorn you for your indebtedness. 

Your stock has cost $1000.  Surely some one will buy it for $150.  Take it and leave Middletown .  You can board with Aunty until you get something to do.4 weeks tomorrow I go to Boston for four weeks.  After that I have no certainty of anything.  Members of the Company who have tried to find out from AMP[almer] what he intends to do - have not received a definite reply.  He does not seem to know what he is going to do.  

And then what becomes of me and you?  I have no money!  Don't think I am telling you an untruth.  I am not!  As you, "tricked the old lady by losing your hat xing the ferry, in order to get a new sealskin cap" so you have tricked her until all is gone.  Are you the happier for it?  Alas!  NO.  And I suffer more for you than for myself.  May you at last see your errors and mend - and with God's help become a wiser better man. 

For the trouble that has overtaken you I am primarily to blame!  And I humbly ask your pardon!  Had I taken the advice of all our friends when you entered J & CJ's store, you would today be a self respected man.

Everybody told me and advised me to take your money or make you pay your own expenses.  Had I done so - you would not have been able to have seen and indulged in all the extravagances of this City!  I am to blame for it!  I have made you a selfish spendthrift - and an ungrateful man! 

Today or yesterday, I should still continue the same course if I had the means, but I am a monument of my own weakness and folly, and your affliction.

See also San Francisco letters of  Aug. 9 and 10, 1886

The figures I was most curious to compute when the transcription was essentially complete (Jan. 1997) were the sums going to Albert.  Her Vs ($5) to Albert in 1886 added up to about $190, reached $275 (plus the $200 note) in 1887 (on top of the $1000 for the printing press earlier in 1885?) and just $96 in 1888.  I only realized when first re-reading the letters chronologically that the same V was often referred to in two to four letters, making them seem more numerous than they were.  But EJP's gifts were clearly generous.  

The engagement and wedding year -- 1889 saw Albert getting $100 for furniture (as John Dolman's family had given him when he married Hattie) and $20 in cash.  1890 (with Edward's arrival) added up to $80, 1891 yielded $70, 1892 and 1893 were both $120, $65 in 1894, $56 in 1895 and in 1896 $183.  In 1897 the sum dropped to $11 and 1898 yielded a $5 valentine for Ted. 

French china in from Macys in 1890 ranged from $70-150 set.  Twelve piece china chamber sets were $5-15 and towels $4/dozen.  The watch Hattie gave John in 1890 was $65 and Mr. Woodruff's fishing tackle was worth $1000.  

Economics
After first season losses [1872], the theatre showed profits for ten years, and Union Square companies made lucrative tours after 1877.  When company actors were not occupied in New York, "[AM] Palmer sent them forth, in the belief they were better at work than lounging around New York, thereby making money for the other managers, for his artists, and for himself. [Durham 1986] 

Al Hayman note on theatrical financing

Henry George 
Boston, Sept, 9, 1887 Have you ever read Henry George’sProgress and Poverty”? If not I will send it to you.  It ought to be read by every thinking man & woman. I have not quite finished it but will by the time you let me know if you have read it or not. You will perhaps find it rather dry reading at first, but I think you will get interested in it, and as I have done become a convert to his theory 

But I fear great deeds will have to be done before his principles can be put into practice. Those who hold the land also hold the power! But the “Bastille” was destroyed. The American Revolution took place and also the Civil War and who can say what men may yet do for the good of their fellow beings. 

Certainly something is needed for Poverty and Crime are daily increasing. Human beings are not naturally so bad, until driven by want and in desperation so those dreadful deeds that fill our daily papers with such tales and pictures of horror! That are anything but edifying to young or old. 

Progress and Poverty: an inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase in want with increase of wealth was first published in 1880.  Henry George (1839-1897) American economist, founder of the single tax movement, was a candidate for mayor of New York City in 1886.  

Chicago July 2, 1887  I am glad you are keeping well and the employees are quiet.  The strikes here and the anarchist troubles have made the City very dull.  People who have money are afraid to risk it in any business.  Thousands of men are walking about doing nothing.  How it will all end remains to be seen.   

Haymarket Affair, Library of Congress 1886 http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/award98/ichihtml/hayhome.html
Haymarket Affair
, Chicago Historical Society http://www.chicagohs.org/hadc/chronology.html
The Dramas of Haymarket
, Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University http://www.chicagohistory.org/dramas/
Haymarket Riot
, Wikipedia http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haymarket_Riot

Depression of 1893 David O. Whitten 2010, Economic History Association  http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whitten.panic.1893 
Coxey's Army 
http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coxey's_Army

Pullman Strike
Hattie to Albert,  Philadelphia, July 8, 1894  Mrs. Dolman rec'd a telegram from Walter yesterday afternoon dated Ogden Utah which read "Tied up here.  No mails.  No danger"  So I am afraid the L.W.F. [Lady Windermere's Fan] Co is having a hard time of it in the West.  Walter is a long way from home to be thrown out of work. 

Philadelphia, July 19, 1894  Mrs. Dolman got a letter from Walter this Morning.  He and the Co were detained in Ogden 10 days.  Says there were three thousand travellers detained there who could not go either way.  When Walter's train started it was guarded by U.S. troops.  He is now in Washington State. 

Philadelphia, August 12th, 1894   Walter [Dolman] is in San Francisco.  Opens there tomorrow night for a week.  He had great experience during the strike at Salt Lake and Ogden under guard of the U.S. troops.  He has seen more of life since Easter Monday than he ever saw before.  Love and Kisses from your loving Mother 

The Pullman strike had begun in Chicago in May 1894.  Eugene Debs led the Albert American Railway Union, to boycott  servicing of Pullman railway cars.  US government ordered Debs to call off the strike on July 2, saying the strike was interfering with interstate commerce and the postal service.  On July 3 Pres Cleveland ordered US troops to Chicago on July 3.  They were withdrawn on July 29.  The Pullman strike was declared officially over by the American Railway Union in Aug. 
Pullman Strike
, Chicago, May 1894, Chicago Public Library http://www.chipublib.org/004chicago/disasters/pullman_strike.html 

Thomas Kessner, Capital City: New York City and the Men Behind America's Rise to Economic Dominance, 1860- 1900, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003 provides interesting insights into EJ Phillips' first hand reports. 

Economics of Railroads
In the last third of the nineteenth century, the heyday of the railroad era, close to half a billion acres, a territory only somewhat less than the entire expanse of Europe, were added to the cultivated areas of the nation. ...Marking time by the traditional measure of sun movement meant innumerable clock adjustments as the locomotives traversed the land ... [and] wreaked havoc on railroad scheduling and safety, until finally the roads established a national system of four administratively determined "time zones"... The railroads not only fostered myriad new businesses, including such basic industries as iron, steel, coal, lumber, leather and glass, they also became the largest employer in the land, with brigades of construction workers, maintenance men, operations specialists and clerical staff.  To supervise and direct these vast armies, the railroads developed new techniques of organization and management ... These railroads molded the early history of corporate America. Indeed, the railroads were the early history of corporate America. Until the last decade of the century, these carriers were virtually the only large corporations run as private businesses, For a quarter century, nearly all of the corporate securities traded on the stock exchanges were railroad related securities.  The budding field of corporate law was in large part railroad law. The advances made in accounting and business organization were dictated by the need to keep track of increasingly scattered and complex rail activities. Railroad men were the first business leaders to influence national policy regarding corporations and monopolies. Kessner, "The Rottenness in New York" in  Capital City

"From 1875 to 1897, seven hundred railroad companies representing one hundred thousand miles of track - more than half the nation's total  - defaulted. Mobilizing billions in investor funds, Drexel, Morgan sifted through the best of these roads, selecting more than twenty in all, and acquired precious equities by buying their debts..... But the railroad market proved difficult to tame. The roads continued to build parallel lines and undercut price standards. [JP] Morgan railed at the blind pursuit of railroad growth (throughout the 1880s, more than $5 billion was poured into new railroad ventures, adding close to seventy-five thousand miles of new track), terming it "suicidal" for the $10 billion railroad industry. ... Morgan fashioned a railroad cartel to enforce "reasonable, uniform, and stable rates" and deny financing to any road that violated the agreement. That eliminating competition seemed to violate a key principle of the free enterprise economy did not disturb him.  Such matters concerned ideologues,; Wall Street bankers focused on stability and profits" Kessner, Thomas, "Shaping Modern Capitalism"  Capital City

New York Stock Exchange
Stock certificate Sutro Tunnel California 1880 100 shares $10 each -- one of the many lovely -- and worthless stock certificate we have.

Cornelius Macardell, Albert's father-in-law  became active in Wall Street at the beginning of the Civil War and in 1886 was elected to membership in the New York Stock Exchange. A few years ago [reported his  1904 obituary] he sold his seat for $40,000 which was the highest price that had ever been paid for a seat at that time.  

Thomas Kessner in Capital City reports that between 1897 and 1904, in what remains the most intense period of merger activity in American history, 4,277 firms were amalgamated into 257, as Wall Street created trusts in every field. ... Not long before, the stock market had been viewed as a raffish arena for contests between the unwary and their slick cozeners. But the Exchange won back the confidence of investors. On banner days in January of 1899, trading volume exceeded 1.5 million shares, indicating to The New York Times "many gauges of coming and lasting prosperity, supplemented by confidence in the future of securities."  

Kessner describes the depression of 1893 as "the most severe financial collapse in the nation's experience.  It was even more devastating coming as the third economic  crisis in as many decades. In these troubled years, it was far from clear that Morgan and his fellow capitalists would escape responsibility for the economic disaster.. Then, even before the nation recovered from the depression, a gold emergency hit, threatening to undermine the American monetary system and its money markets.  This crisis was hardly over when the 1896 presidential election turned into a referendum on corporate capitalism, as the Democrats joined western populists on an agrarian economic platform that deeply unnerved Wall Street.  This was followed by an imperial war in Cuba and the Philippines, which Morgan opposed. Kessner, Thomas,  "The Age of Morgan" in  Capital City: New York City and the Men Behind America's Rise to Economic Dominance, 1860- 1900, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003

But the Spanish American War did get Albert to San Francisco and Honolulu, a great adventure and a trip he had wanted to make long before.  I'd be interested to know more about the NY Stock Exchange from 1886- 1895 or so -- the period which these letters cover.  Certainly the panic of 1873 and depression of 1893 must have affected EJ Phillips' career. 

Bibliography
Davis, Tracy C. Economics of the British Stage 1800-1914, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000 http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0521571154/102-9481253-0860929?v=glance 
Depew, Chauncey M., One Hundred Years of American Commerce, New York : D.O. Haynes & Co., 1895. http://www.archive.org/stream/onehundredyears00depeuoft/onehundredyears00depeuoft_djvu.txt
Derks, Scott, editor,. Value of a Dollar, Detroit: Gale, c. 1994.  http://www.amazon.com/Value-Dollar-Millennium-Scott-Derks/dp/product-description/1891482491
Fox, Cynthia G. Income Tax Records of the Civil War Years, NARA National Archives and Records Administration, Prologue Quarterly 18(4)  Winter 1986  http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1986/winter/civil-war-tax-records.html  
Harpers Weekly 19th century advertising http://advertising.harpweek.com/
Ingalls, Nell, The Value of Money, Suburban Library Reference Service, IL, 1998 http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/homestead/2004-September/000319.html
Kessner, Thomas, Capital City: New York City and the Men Behind America's Rise to Economic Dominance, 1860- 1900, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003
Leach, William, Land of desire: Merchants, power, and the rise of a new American, New York: Parthenon Books, 1993.
Manzella, Abby, Looking at the Business of Theater 1896-1919, Univ. of Virginia, 2000 http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/INCORP/theatre/theatrehome.html
Painter, Nell Irvin, Standing at Armageddon, the United States 1877-1919, New York: W.W. Norton, c.1987.
Roy, William G, Socializing Capital: the rise of the large industrial corporation in America, Princeton NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1997
Trachtenberg, Alan, The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age, New York: Hill and Wang, 1892, 

Last updated Nov 27, 2011

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