Monday, April 24, 2017

1874 Letter from B. F. Tisdale to his son Frank Tisdale

September 3, 1874 Letter from B. F. Tisdale in New Orleans to his son Frank in Mobile

Original letter dated September 3, 1874 in envelope. Manuscript writing in ink on 8 1/2" x 11"
Pike, Brother and Co. stationery with faint blue lines. Good condition with some ink bleed through. In possession of Vera Booksh Zimmerman. Transcribed exactly as written.

[Envelope with imprinted return address PIKE, BROTHER & CO. NEW ORLEANS, LA. 
Stamp corner torn off, postmarked New Orleans Sep [illegible]
Addressed to Master Frank Tisdale (Care) Messr. N. W. Perry Co. Mobile, Ala
Postmarked on back Mobile Ala., Sep 4

Folded inside the envelope is one page of stationery imprinted:
NEW ORLEANS, Sept 3rd 187 4

Dear Frank, 
I received your letter and Your Aunt's to us and am pleased to find You have the promise of Your Kind Uncle Frank to interest himself in obtaing [sic] You employment over there. Should he do So You must bend every energy to the task imposed, and only thinking of the future which is always propitious to the honest and industrious Boy, work Your way to Success. I commenced in Mobile 41 Years ago at a very Small Salary (Something more than my Board) and had I Saved a little at intervals when I Could, up to this time, I should not now be delving at my Desk in this One Horse Bank and Town, at a Salary less than enough to Support me & my Family. But retrospection Serves no Good purpose unless to profit by the lessons of the past. Endeavour [sic] to So deport yourself towards Your Elders and Superiors as to Merit their approbation, Control Your temper, let Your manners be that of a gentleman – even, Suave, Courteous, obliging- Avoid the use of bad language or Slang. In all Your reading do You not perceive the inevitable result of the practice of the

[page back]
of the Social Virtues – and that vice and immorality are the Sure Concomitants of disappointment pain that dreary animadversion of the World So hard for the proud man to bear. Many of the Tales You have read have taught You this. I Know it.
Mr. Pike has determined to quit business at once, or as Soon as he can liquidate or wind up his Bank - He has already reduced the Wages of his employees to 150-80-75. Alfred and Blane $150. Tisdale $80 – M. Duralde 75. Ernest Landry 70. How we shall live on the Stipend of $80 God knows. I am Striving to get something to do away from this Treadmill and its Owner. The Times are hard with all. The Citizens Bank Closed her doors Yesterday with $290,000 – owing Depositers [sic] alone, and a portfolio full of poor paper often renewed and Country Mortgages Worth perhaps 20%. Her Stock is Dead. It has paralyzed trade shaken all manner of Securities and is indeed a Wide spread “Calamity.” But this is yet too early for you to understand.
Give my love to Belle & kiss her for all of us. Poor Creatures – The Baby is the Sweetest and best thing in all the World – no trouble - Well as he can be, and Notices Now so much. Dont fail to give my love to all the rest and say to Uncle Frank  I will write to him soon.
This is written in [written in the right margin] a hurry and may be full of mistakes for we are upside Down. Your Aff. Father  [written in the top margin] All Join me in Love and Good Wishes.

B. F. Tisdale wrote  this letter to his son Benjamin Franklin Tisdale Jr. who would have been 14 years old at the time. It was not unusual at that time for boys to start working at such an early age. In the 1877 New Orleans City Directory Frank is listed as working as a clerk for N. D. Wetmore and living at 508 S. Rampart Street in New Orleans. "Uncle Frank" referred to in the first sentence is Marion Franklin Pratt, brother of Frank's mother, Eliza Helen Pratt Tisdale.

The baby B. F. Tisdale mentions is Charles Harry Tisdale, born 30 May 1874 in New Orleans. He was the last child of B. F. and Eliza Pratt Tisdale. Also living in New Orleans with their parents were Willie, Olivia “Lee,” Robert,and Marion Eugene.

B. F. Tisdale describes the bad economic situation in New Orleans in 1874 that has turned his world "upside down." Conditions in the rest of the United States were not much better. Triggered by the international Panic of 1873,  the financial crisis in North America and Europe lasted from 1873 until 1879, "even longer in some countries (France and Britain)." It was called The Great Depression until that name was attached to another economic downturn in the 1930s.

The political situation in New Orleans was also deteriorating. Resentment of the Radical Republicans who had seized power in the state had seethed under the surface for years. Paramilitary White Leagues were formed to oust the carpetbaggers.

Just 11 days after B. F. Tisdale wrote this letter the Battle of Liberty Place erupted at the foot of Canal Street between White League members who supported Democratic Gov. John McEnery in the disputed 1872 gubernatorial election and the Metropolitan police who were loyal to Republican Gov. William Kellogg. The White League held the State House (the old St. Louis Hotel), the Cabildo and Jackson Square for three days before Kellogg was restored to office by federal troops. (

(Coincidentally the monument erected in 1891 to commemorate the battle was removed Monday, April 24, 2017 as I was typing this blog post.)

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Paper in New York reported on the Battle of Liberty Place.