Asbury Park and Neptune, New Jersey: 1899-1995.
Unbound. A collection of photographs, ephemera, and eight letters from Asbury Park and Neptune, New Jersey during 1899 to 1995 revolving around Elaine V. Lacey, Katherine Williams, and Mary Porter, all African-American women trying to keep connection with family while working and supporting their families. There is other ephemera such as bank statements, insurance loans, war related information, and more. All letters are near fine with some creasing and age toning, some envelopes have small chips else very good, with 156 sepia, black and white, and color photographs ranging in size from 5” x 3.5” and 3.5” x 2.5” all fine with captions.
A mix of letters, photographs, and other ephemera from 1899 to 1995 about three African American women, Elaine V. Lacey, Katherine Williams, and Mary Porter from Asbury Park and Neptune, New Jersey. The letters are to Lacey and Williams from their various aunts. The letters briefly talk about how the weather is and how their family is doing but they mostly write about difficulties with work and money. A letter from 1927 reads, “Please don’t choke me but really I have been working like a real nigger and the evenings I was at home I was so damn tired I just hopped in bed. Can you image me going to bed at 8:30? Well, I do some nights and damn glad to get there at that time.” Another letter from 1941 expresses how hard it was to make enough money to support a family and keep a house, “I know you don’t know what to think… I do not have any money. Things has been so bad with me. Wesly is not working. I have been sick for a long time. I had to give up my house and had just one room for a long time.”
While the majority of the letters are about the hardships these women faced there are happier memories written in the letters, “Well, have you decided which daddy you are going to latch on to this fall? I have met a very nice fellow here who is suppose to be in love with me,” as well as a small sonnet from a newspaper laid into one of the letters to Elaine, “Opportunity, Master of human destinies am I, Fame, love and fortunes on my foot-steps wait, Cities and fields I walk; I penetrate, Deserts and seas remote, and passing by.” Several of the photos depict Mary Porter and her family from 1941 to 1995. Many of the photos are shots of all the children and different aunts and uncles. One picture shows two women eating ice cream smiling and another shows all the children dressed up for school. Many photos also show Porter’s family out at the beach in Asbury Park, enjoying the sun, and always with smiles on their faces. While most of the photos are of family and are candids, there are a couple photos that are posed and are very well composed. One of the pictures depicts two men leaning against a fancy car, while another shows a women surrounded by bushes wearing all white. Most if not all the photos are labeled with dates and names of the people in them.
The banking statements show just how little things cost during the years 1920-1960. To rent a house, Williams paid only $20 dollars each month but she was averaging about $1 to $5 dollars a week from her bank transactions. There are several pictures of the house in New Jersey and pictures of the children’s schools that they had attended in Neptune and Asbury Park. Other ephemera includes a Registered Pharmacist certificate from the year 1899 and while the person certified is not listed it can be inferred that one of Lacey or Williams family members was a pharmacist during the late 1800s. A chart of different gas and spray types that goes over the smells and symptoms of mustard gas, ethyldichlorarsine, chlorpicrin, diphenylcyanarsine, brombenzlcyanide, white phosphorous, and more. Also laid in is an instruction guide on how to wear and take care of a gas mask in the case of an emergency.
An extensive look back on an African American family from 1899 to 1995 from Neptune and Asbury Park, New Jersey.