Luther and Eugenia Signature

CHILDHOOD (1892 - 1904)

PHOTO CREDIT: F. Dundas Todd © 1893

1893 Columbian Exposition Entrance

This is a view of the statue of Columbus at the entrance to the Administration Building at the World's Columbian Exposition from a 6 1/2" x 5" souvenir photo booklet. The booklet contains 90 pages with images front and back for a total of 180 photos from the Columbian Exposition. The front and back covers of the booklet are missing.

The link is to a scholarly thesis that provides a description of the fair, its history, and its legacy. The following paragraph is from the introductory page:

"So, take a step back in time, to an era when bicycles were a novelty, telephones a rarity, and phonographs an absolute revelation. To a time when the hustle and bustle of a consumer society, the immigration problem, economic instability, and feelings of cultural inferiority were foremost in Americans' minds. Does it sound familiar? Perhaps, in our investigation of this watershed event in American history--this celebration of early modernity--we can find ourselves in and learn from the messages of, and reactions to, the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893."

Luther Alonzo Maxwell was born in 1892, the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Columbus in the West Indies. Preparations for the World's Colombian Exposition were being made in Chicago. The United States and the world were on the threshold of a new age of electricity and gasoline - an age of unprecedented personal transportation. Electricity had already revolutionized communications through the telegraph and telephone and steam had revolutionized transportation. But even after 100 years, flight in lighter-than-air craft was still a rare thing. The power of gasoline would soon make flight relatively common. Steam was also providing power for farm and industrial processes that made possible efficiencies that had never been known before. More electricity was used for the Colombian exposition in 1893 than in all the rest of Chicago combined. However, electricity did not become available at Luther's home for 55 more years and he never really took advantage of the personal power of gasoline although he once owned a T-Model. He never flew in an airplane. He did eventually get to enjoy some of the simple things introduced at the Fair such as Juicy Fruit gum. Apparently carbonated sodas and hamburgers were presented to a mass market for the first time at the Exposition food booths although there is some dispute over the time and place that hamburgers, as we know them, originated.

Another new thing was introduced to American society at that time. The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag was written the month Luther was born and was published in The Youth's Companion magazine. It was written by an American Baptist minister for use in commemorating the first official Columbus Day. On Columbus Day 1892 it was recited by millions of public school students: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisable, with liberty and justice for all."

When Luther was about 30, words were added to identify the "Flag" as "the flag of the United States" and the words "of America" were added a few months later.

When Luther was about 62, the phrase "under God" was added to distinguish us from the "Godless" communists! The law making "under God" part of the pledge of allegiance was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The special order relieving 2nd Lt. Luther Maxwell and his fellow officers from duty in 1918 was signed by Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Alvus and Mary Ann Maxwell lived in a little log cabin in Lanty, Arkansas, when Luther was born on August 22, 1892. Mary Ann went to her mother, Belfame's, nearby home for the birth. Alvus and Mary Ann already had a son, Marvin, who was a year and two months old. The Maxwells eventually moved about two miles west of Lanty to a location a mile or two north of Bull Mountain a little way from what is now State Highway 95. They lived near the old McElroy school house which was about a half mile from the highway. The school building was moved to a site on the highway and is now used as a church meeting place. A cemetery is directly across the highway from the building.

Luther's brother, Noah, was born in 1894 probably at that location. Then Lucinda Bell, named for her grandmothers, was born in 1896, but died the following year. Luther was only 3 years old when Lucinda Bell was born and 5 when she died but remembered her well and referred to her occasionally in later life.

Maxwell Family This family portrait was made just a short time after Dove was born on February 17, 1898. Mary Ann had just turned 29 and Alvus was 28. Marvin, standing by his mother, was 7. Luther, standing by his father, was 6. Noah was 4. The location for this photograph is not clear. No one remembers whether Dove was born before or after they moved to the top of Bull Mountain. The siding visible at the edges of this photograph doesn't seem to match the siding of the house on the hill, but it isn't really clear. The photograph was probably taken at their home wherever it was.

Luther probably started school in the fall of 1898. I think that he had been anxious to start school, because he once told me that the start of school was delayed at the request of the parents until the crops could be brought in. That sounds like something someone who was anxious to get started to school would have remembered.

Meanwhile in Old Hickory, about eight miles from the Maxwells, Luther's future bride, Eugenia Francis Houston, was born May 21, 1899, to John Hawkins Houston (6-22-59/6-2-36) and Josie (10-23-61/6-3-33). Hawk was 40 and Josie was 38. Luther was almost seven, but it is unlikely that the Maxwells knew the Houstons.

On June 1st, eleven days after Eugenia was born to the Houstons, Luther's little brother, Virgil, was born to Alvus and Mary Ann.

While I'm thinking of family stories, I'll add two that Grandma Maxwell always told. Her Houston ancestors came to America before the Civil war, but I don't now how long before. The family consisted of a man and wife and several children. Yellow fever broke out on the ship and the parents asked the Captain to promise to see that the children were settled somewhere together if anything happened to the parents. Unfortunately both the parents and the Captain died of the fever before reaching shore and the children were scattered. The members of the branch of the family from which she descended didn't know what happened to the others. Grandma was also told that the family women hid the men under leaves in a ditch when the soldiers came to get them during the Civil War. I don't remember whether they were to be drafted or whether the soldiers were the enemy coming to capture them. I haven't asked anyone to confirm these stories until recently and so far I haven't found anyone else who remembers them.

Lanty is about 10 miles north of Morrilton, the county seat of Conway County. Although travel along the dirt country roads was difficult, Luther probably got to go to 'town' when he was a little boy. Imagine how exited and amazed he must have been the first time he saw a train pull into the Morrilton station. With an engine that looked as big as a small house and running on its own power at speeds faster that any horse could run, the train must have seemed to be the epitome of modern civilization. The railroad had been providing transportation of goods and passengers for Morrilton for about twenty years when Luther was a boy, but the budding petroleum and auto industries were set to revolutionize transportation and the world economy. However, the effects of that revolution were not to be seen for another twenty years.

Luther turned eight years old during the last year of the century. The family had probably moved to the old home place by 1900. During that year Alvus turned 30, Mary Ann was 31 and would have her 32nd birthday at the end of the year. Marvin was nine, Luther was eight, Noah was six, Dove was two, and Virgil was one. Luther's grandmother Belfame Harrington was a 60-year old widow living in Lanty with a son about Luther's age. His Maxwell grandparents, Jack and Lucinda, were 58 and 54 respectively and lived in Carroll County in north Arkansas.

In those days New Years Day was celebrated by blowing up anvils, firing guns into the air, ringing church bells, and noise making in general. Grandpa was old enough to remember that the end of the century was celebrated with a little more enthusiasm than the usual New Year.

Young Luther Sister Kate was born February 24, 1901, the first year of the new century. She was the final child of Alvus and Mary Ann. This portrait of Luther may have been taken near his ninth birthday on August 22, 1901. He should have started the third grade that fall.

Toys were simple in those days. Most boys probably had a rubber ball, a top, and some marbles. Homemade toys were fun also. Buttons and loops of string provided a lot of entertainment. By looping string around the fingers and manipulating the fingers in a specified sequence, intricate spiderweb-like patterns could be created much to the amazement of friends who didn't know how. It was also fun to loop a string through the holes of a large button and make the button spin by pulling the ends of the loops, which were looped over the index fingers. The string would windup and then unwind as the pressure on the string was increased and relaxed. A strong string would last many cycles before wearing out from all the friction. I think they used sling shots some, but rubber strips may not have been readily available for 'bean flips.' I also think that bicycles were too expensive for country folks. The condition of roads and trails probably limited the utility of bicycles in the country anyway.

The Wright brothers made their historic flight in 1903 after Luther turned 11. As I recall, he gave me the impression that by the time he saw an airplane, he was so well informed about them that it was not a really exciting thing.

Another society-changing event of 1903 was the introduction of the 'story' movie, The Great Train Robbery. Systems for photographing and viewing 'moving pictures' had been developed in France and the United States at the end of the 19th century, but this short movie attracted the attention of the public and society was changed in ways we are still trying to understand.

Pen Nib Ad By his 12th birthday on August 22, 1904, Luther probably had completed the 6th grade. Schools were so irregular back then that it is hard to say whether that would be equivalent to six full years of school today. The subjects certainly were different. For example, penmanship was an important skill at that time and the copy of Luther's penmanship at the beginning of this article illustrates the flourishes that they were taught in school. There were no ballpoint pens back then and fountain pens had only been in production for about twenty years. Steel 'nibs' to insert into the pen handles had been in use for a century and were readily available to most people. The nibs had nice tips shaped to help create the flourishes. Calligraphy would be the current manifestation of that art. The ad for Stimpson's SCIENTIFIC Steel Pens shown at left is from DEMOREST'S MONTHLY MAGAZINE, Vol. 3, for January 1867. The pens were patented March 20th, 1866. The price was $2/gross (144) with a liberal discount to the trade.


Family and Final Teaching Career


View My Guestbook Free Guestbook by Guestpage Sign My Guestbook
View My Guestbook Add Me! Sign My Guestbook
Get Your Free Guestbook