1889-1922: Frank Owen’s Baltimore homes

Sepia Saturday 412: Fifth in a series about my Welsh immigrant great grandfather Francis Hugh Owen, who married into the Irish Dempsey family in Baltimore, Maryland.

One disadvantage of having an urban ancestor like my Welsh great grandfather Francis Hugh “Frank” Owen is the difficulty of doing a door-to-door search in census records when his name can’t be located in an index.

Fortunately, the year after his 1888 marriage to Elizabeth C. Dempsey (the daughter of my Irish immigrant ancestors), Frank started showing up in an alternative urban source: Baltimore city directories — the name-and-address catalogs that predated phone books.

http://mdhsphotographs.tumblr.com/post/75071603938/pratt-street-after-the-great-baltimore-fire-of
Pratt Street after the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, looking west from near Commerce Street (1904). My Welsh immigrant great grandfather Francis Hugh “Frank” Owen and his family lived on West Pratt Street, in the far distance, at the time of this calamitous fire. Source: Maryland Historical Society

West Baltimore residents

Frank’s first Baltimore city directory entry in 1889 gave his address as 642 Portland Ave. and said he worked as a clerk.

This would also have been the first home of Frank and Elizabeth’s oldest child — my Welsh-Irish grandmother Mary Frances (Owen) Charboneau, who was born on 22 March 1889.

From 1889 to 1922, despite numerous moves, Frank and his family remained in the general area north/west of Baltimore’s inner harbor. Frank’s addresses for that time period, from Baltimore city directories and one federal census, are marked on the map below

MAP INSTRUCTIONS: Click on the icon to the left of the map title for a description, sources and addresses/residence years. Click on the colored pins marking each address to see  Frank’s Baltimore city directory details. The northernmost pin is his address in the 1900 Baltimore federal census. Building icons mark the big three straw hat factories where he may have worked.

Where did Frank work?

In the last post, I discussed Frank’s job as a clerk in a straw hat factory. So I wondered whether this map might help me figure out where he worked — at least geographically.

There were many small hat shops in Baltimore during my great-grandfather’s working life. However, Baltimore’s three main manufacturers of straw hats likely provided the bulk of the jobs:

  • Brigham-Hopkins — 413-421 W. Redwood Street
  • M.S. Levy — Paca & Lombard streets
  • Townsend-Grace – 209 W. Fayette Street

So I added these company addresses as building markers to the map above — and Frank really could have worked at any of the big three. All were in reasonable commuting distance from most of his Baltimore homes.

More research ahead

More research would be needed into hat company archives to determine Frank’s exact employer. Are there rosters on which he might appear? What about payroll and other employee records?

However, mapping his addresses and those of the large straw hat manufacturers has given me a place to start.

More on the Owen household in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

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17 thoughts on “1889-1922: Frank Owen’s Baltimore homes”

    1. Yes, it is. Map tools have come a long way and allow analysis and presentation of a wealth of information in a small, interactive space.

  1. I’ve found more useful information in city directories than any other type record. Mapping the possible employers is a great idea. Maybe compare it to trolley lines too? Old city maps are also useful as Baltimore in the 1890s was very different than in the 1920s . There are map archives that have quite detailed maps for many American cities that were prepared by insurance companies. Lots of description about building construction. too.

    1. Good suggestions, Mike. I wonder if there are interactive versions of the older, fire maps that can be annotated and embedded in a blog post. Will have to check that out.

      1. Here’s one overlay using an old German/Austrian? map of Baltimore. http://ntm.georeferencer.com/compare#map/655716228074

        OldMapsOnline.org is a great website though they don’t have the insurance maps. https://bit.ly/2GKbiqA

        This next archive has lots of earlier street maps and you can get a jpg file which could be used for an overlay. http://alabamamaps.ua.edu/historicalmaps/us_states/maryland/Baltimore.htm

        It’s interesting to see that the two homes near Druid Hill Park were on the fringe of Baltimore’s urban development in the 1880-90s.

    1. Could have been either/both, but I suspect the addition of a child every year or so — with ten children in the end — also made moving to larger quarters a regular necessity.

    1. I hope to learn more about this fire, which was a major historic event in Baltimore, but grateful my ancestors’ homes were unaffected.

  2. An interesting research tale, and good luck,with your hunt fir more information on Frank’s employer. I find it can be tricky to trace information on ordinary employees unless records have been deposited with archive centres.

  3. Your research into your great grandfather, Francis Owen, has certainly been diligent. It’s fun to be able to find out so much about your forebears, but you’ve really had to dig after it! Kudos!

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