Items of Family History

Cover of “Items of Family History,” with cloth ties.

It’s a question many have pondered in middle age: how do I pass along my family history to my children and grandchildren? Nowadays one might type up some stories on Microsoft Word and enter data into ancestry.com, but if you were a rich San Franciscan at the turn of the twentieth century, you might commission a local publisher to print a book. That’s what William Alston Hayne II did, and the result was Items of Family History (1902).

Hayne (1855-1937) was born in South Carolina to a wealthy family, but they lost everything in the Civil War. The family moved to California, and there, in his forties, William fell in love with Maud Eloise Chase Bourn (1867-1948). The Bourns were also wealthy, and Hayne was embarrassed that he had little money to contribute to the match. Impulsively, he joined the throngs of fortune-seekers in the Nome Gold Rush so that he could marry Maud as a man of means, but he soon returned with the same empty pockets he had left with. Fortunately, on 27 December 1899, Maud married him anyway.

Title page of “Items of Family History”

The Bourns were rolling in money: Maud’s brother was William Bowers Bourn II, who in the 1880s had revitalized the family’s struggling Empire Mine in the Sierra foothills town of Grass Valley. He was founder and president of the San Francisco Gas Company, and in the 1890s arranged a merger with the Edison Light and Power Company; that combined entity would later become Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). He was also an investor in San Francisco’s Spring Valley Water Company, and was regularly criticized by the San Francisco press as gouging the people with his high water rates. Bourn was good friends with architect Willis Polk, who first designed the Bourn Mansion on Webster St. in San Francisco, and then later their grand Filoli estate on the peninsula. Bourn served as president of the Pacific Union Club, and contributed much time and money to the planning of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. During World War I, he was president of a group called Friends of France, and also co-created the American League of California, with the goal of providing money and manpower to the Allies in Europe. In 1920, in recognition of his service, France awarded him l’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur.

Colophon of “Items of Family History”

But back to our little book, which is concerned only with the ancestry of William Hayne. There are five short chapters, one for each of five pedigree lines: Hayne (his father), Alston (father’s mother), Motte (father’s mother’s mother), Stiles (mother), and Duncan (mother’s mother). No author is named, so either Hayne wrote the copy himself, or hired a ghostwriter. Earlier versions of the Paul Elder checklist credited Pauline Stiles, author of the Elder publication New Footprints in Old Places, as the author, and as Hayne’s mother’s maiden name was Stiles there was a possible connection. However, I have investigated William’s and Pauline’s pedigrees and can find no common ancestors, so I now believe the author attribution to be incorrect.

Only twenty-four copies were printed, the second-smallest Elder print run known after The Passing of an Oak. Presumably, Hayne printed just enough copies to give to children, grandchildren, and other relatives. The book is very finely made, with gold-embossed grey paper over boards, and high-quality laid paper. It was printed at the Twentieth Century Press, almost certainly typeset and printed by John Henry Nash.

Our thanks to Alan Thomsen for the opportunity to photograph his copy of Items of Family History.

“Items of Family History,” page 3
“Items of Family History,” page 5
“Items of Family History,” page 19
“Items of Family History,” page 21
“Items of Family History,” page 29
“Items of Family History,” page 31
“Items of Family History,” page 35
“Items of Family History,” page 37
“Items of Family History,” page 49
“Items of Family History,” page 51

The Little Brown Hen Hears the Song of the Nightingale

Cover of “The Little Brown Hen Hears the Song of the Nightingale”

This slender volume gets my vote for the gentlest, loveliest title in the Paul Elder catalog. The Little Brown Hen Hears the Song of the Nightingale (1908) was written by Jasmine Van Dresser and illustrated by her husband William. The book contains two short bedtime stories for children: the title tale and “The Little Apple Tree Bears a Golden Harvest.”

“The Little Brown Hen Hears the Song of the Nightingale” is the story of an ornery goose and a gentle hen; the moral is “it isn’t always those with the loudest voices that have the best things to say.” The second tale teaches how Nature is interconnected, and how good things come to those who wait. William Van Dresser’s illustrations are very nice indeed, and he also supplied a custom decorated border for each story. His frontispiece is a mystery: a woman stands in the moonlight, holding out her cupped hands; this scene does not appear in either story. There is a brief introduction by Margaret Beecher White, noting that “it is the duty of all good, useful stories to give a message to their readers,” and that “the two dainty stories contained in this little volume each carries its message of truth.”

Title page and frontispiece of “Little Brown Hen”

Jasmine Edson Stone was born in 1875 in St. Louis, Missouri. She graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia and was working as an actress in New York City when she met her future husband. By 1915, the Van Dressers, along with their sons Cleland and Peter, became well-known actors in New York City, most notably performing everyday dramatic scenes of an American family for soldiers at nearby military bases. Jasmine wrote the screenplays, noting there was nothing more dramatic than the life of parents dealing with the needs of children. She was a member of the Authors Guild (then called the Authors League of America) and wrote many children’s books in her career, with such titles as Jimsey, The Wonderful Hammer, The Story of Silky, The Kitty With the Black Nose, and The Little Pink Pig and the Big Road. Jasmine and William spent their final years in Boca Raton, Florida. She died in 1948, and is buried in Solebury, Pennsylvania.

Endpapers of “Little Brown Hen”

William Thatcher Van Dresser was born in 1871 in Memphis, Tennessee. He was a talented athlete, and spent four years as a semi-pro baseball player, mostly in the Southern Association and Texas League. When his team folded in 1896, he headed north to pursue a career in art. By 1900, he was living in on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. In 1903 he and Jasmine were married; Cleland was born in 1904, and Peter in 1908. William’s reputation as a commercial artist was growing, and he was a popular artist for magazine covers. He also began illustrating books, including today’s spotlight and the Jack London novel The Little Lady of the Big House. Later he was commissioned to paint portraits of Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt. William died in 1950, and is buried in Tampa, Florida.

Title page for the “Little Brown Hen” story

Margaret Humphrey Beecher White (1868-1948) was an author on Christian Science topics. She was granddaughter of the prominent minister Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, and grand-niece of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Thanks very much to Kris Rutherford for historical information on the Van Dressers.


Sources:
William Van Dresser’s Sketchy Side,” by Kris Rutherford, 12 July 2016
Jasmine Van Dresser burial site
William Van Dresser burial site

Decorative border for “Little Brown Hen”
Page 9 of “Little Brown Hen”
Title page for “Little Apple Tree” story
Decorative border for “Little Apple Tree”
Page 23 of “Little Brown Hen”

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Vest Pocket Helps

Cover of “Supremacy of God’s Law,” along with a quarter for scale.

Vest Pocket Helps (1913) win the contest for the smallest known Paul Elder “books.” At 2½ x 3½ inches and only ten or twelve pages of text, they’re each a very slim piece. But then, that’s why they’re called Vest Pocket Helps: so that they will easily fit into your vest pocket. Back in the era when daily attire (at least, a man’s daily attire) always included a vest pocket, it was a self-explanatory title.

Each book contains several short passages on Christian themes. The books credit no author, but the copyright page indicates that “these pages have been compiled from random readings.” The compiler was presumably not Paul Elder (who would surely have credited himself, as he did on earlier publications, such as Mosaic Essays), but more likely one of Elder’s favorite compilers of religion-themed books, such as Agness Greene Foster.

Title page of “Supremacy of God’s Law”

There were eight titles in the series, conveniently listed on the copyright page. The books were sold for 10¢ each, or 80¢ for the set of eight “gathered and tied with linen tape.”

The series was incorrectly titled Vest Pocket Tracts in the printed editions of the checklist.

Page 1 of “Supremacy of God’s Law”
Pages 4-5 of “Supremacy of God’s Law”
Cover of “God’s Ever Presence”
Title page of “God’s Ever Presence”

How To Fly

Cover of “How to Fly”

A young heiress! A suave French pilot! Intrigue! Romance! Plot twists! But wait, didn’t you say that title of this book was How To Fly? Yes I did, and I hope you’ll find this one of the most exciting stories on this website.

How To Fly (1917), by Captain D. Gordon E. Re Vley, is an introductory treatise on how to fly an airplane, written in those heady early days of powered flight, just fourteen years after the Wright Brothers’ inaugural flight at Kitty Hawk. In 1917, World War I was still raging in Europe, and famous fighter aces such as Eddie Rickenbacker and “Red Baron” Manfred von Richthofen engaged in dogfights over Belgium and France. Pilots in the early days of flight had much the same acclaim and allure as astronauts did in the early days of the Space Age.

How To Fly is a small book with flexible covers, fitting easily into a shirt pocket. Re Vley surely did not intend for his book to be a pilot’s sole source of instruction; perhaps he thought publishing the book would gain him a clientele of wealthy students? Early aviation manuals such as this are in demand by collectors, and so a copy of How To Fly can be hard to find.

Title page of “How to Fly”

Enough about the book! What about the intrigue and the young heiress?!  In September 1918, Captain Re Vley met 22-year-old Adele Dorothy Callaghan. On her mother’s side, Adele was part of an important Italian-American family in San Francisco. Her aunt Adelina was married to Egisto Palmieri, the first Italian-American state senator in California. Another aunt, Erminia, was married to Ettore Patrizi, publisher of L’Italia, the largest Italian-language newspaper in the western United States. And her grandmother, Annie Cuneo, was the first woman in the United States to serve on the Board of Directors of a major bank.

Re Vley also had an interesting background. Born in France but raised in England, he became a pilot and rose to the rank of Captain in the British Aviation Corps. He went to California on furlough, and was engaged in experimental aviation work for the US Government. Between his investments and his service pay he was quite well off, and had recently started an airplane manufacturing company.

Captain D. Gordon E. Re Vley, on the frontispiece of “How To Fly”

On 10 October 1918, Re Vley and Callaghan eloped, and were married in Hollister, California. After the wedding, they toured several grand houses in San Mateo, and after Adele indicated the one she liked best, Re Vley purchased it. In the meantime, they secured a flat in the Marble Crest Apartments at 845 Bush St. in San Francisco.

And then one fateful day in early January 1919, Re Vley went out for a walk. While he was out, Adele “thought it would be perfectly lovely,” as she later explained to a judge, “to examine her husband’s luggage and have a peek at some of the strange things that men carry about with them.” What she found in his suitcase shocked her to the core: her husband was not French, he was Russian. His name was not Re Vley, it was Edelman. No, he never was a member of the British Aviation Corps, he wasn’t rich, he didn’t own an airplane manufacturing business, and he hadn’t bought her that mansion in San Mateo. And worst of all, in August 1917, her husband had been arrested for luring a sixteen-year-old girl to his apartment and assaulting her, for which he was tried and convicted, and spent nine months in San Quentin prison. Everything he had told her was a lie.

Adele Dorothy Callaghan (1896-1989)

One can only imagine the scene when “Captain” Re Vley/Edelman returned from his stroll. When the shouting was over, Adele left her husband and sued for annulment, which was granted on 2 April. As you can see in the images below, the local papers delighted in reporting the saga. The day following the annulment, the Oakland Tribune quoted Adele as saying “When a terribly handsome French aviator comes a-wooing, and telling fairy stories, count ten before eloping with him.” What a shame that Adele hadn’t read the San Francisco Examiner article on 20 September 1917—a year and a half earlier—when Re Vley (“also known as Captain Edelman”) had been outed as an impostor by the British Consul General and arrested for assault.

By January 1920, eight months later, Adele Callaghan had married Arthur Cornelius Crowley (1895-1941), and this marriage stuck. Adele outlived her second husband by forty-eight years, passing away in June 1989 at the age of 93. Adele and Arthur are buried in the Palmieri family crypt at the Italian Cemetery in Colma.

After the annulment, Re Vley/Edelman vanishes from history. Who knows what other unsuspecting damsels may have been entrapped by “the dashing young officer”?

Re Vley/Edelman called an impostor. San Francisco Examiner, 20 Sep 1917
Re Vley convicted of assault. San Francisco Examiner, 2 Dec 1917
Adele files for annulment. San Francisco Examiner, 11 Jan 1919
Callaghan cautions young girls after her annulment. Oakland Tribune, 3 Apr 1919
Preface to “How To Fly”
Pages 4-5 of “How To Fly”
Pages 10-11 of “How To Fly”
Pages 98-99 of “How To Fly”
Colophon of “How To Fly”