Glimpses of Buckhead, 1930-40

Something I learned about the cultural and economic life in parts of north Atlanta in the 1930s and ‘40s, from online U.S. Census data.

I looked up a 1930 page that includes my uncle John Kiser, when he was 2 ½ years old. He and his twin Martha were born in New York, but now living at 109 17th St., Atlanta, in the household of their parents Dr. William H. Kiser (31, born Georgia, child-specialist doctor) and Ellen F. Kiser (35, b. in Illinois, occupation: none), with older sister Lucy P., 4 ½. The house is an apartment, rented for $150/month.*

record-image_undefined-4.jpgNearby, at 141 17th St., is the house of Robert B. and Nellie H. Troutman, valued at $20,000. He is a lawyer in general practice, and they have a son and a daughter, ages 12 and 7. They also have (“private family”) living at the same address one Francis Hall (25, Servant, Nurse, Negro), and Roberta Jones (34, Servant, Cook, Negro), and adjacent at 147, a Clifford Jones (33, Servant, Butler, Negro).

I notice a lot more live-in African-American servants looking at the 1930 U.S. Census page for the part of West Andrews, Atlanta, where my mother, Emily, was living.

At 6 W. Andrews lived Douglas B. Wright (35, born Texas, occupation “Painter”) and his wife Gertrude (31, born Georgia, occupation “None,” both parents born Massachusetts), and their four Georgia-born children at the time, Walter W., 5; Emily, 3 ½ ; James O.B., 2 ½; and Douglas O., 9 mos. Also in the household, Bu (?) Butler, 50, “servant,” Negro, widowed. (In the 1940 census, Douglas B. Wright reports his occupation as “civil engineer” in “own office.”)

At 18 W. Andrews lived Harry Williams (49, investment banker in stocks & bonds), his wife Marion, 34, their one-year-old son Harry Jr., and two Negro servants, Lula Dovis (?), 33, and Hattie Simmons, 35.

At 16 W. Andrews, office supply manager Robert W. Neel, wife and four children also had a live-in Negro servant, Frances Strickland, 25.

At 10 W. Andrews lived Frank G. North (50, born S. Dakota, “official” in cotton mill supplies), with wife, two daughters and two Negro servants, John and Ida Hall.

At 8 W. Andrews lived “soft drink” official Samuel F. Boykin, 55, his wife Annie, 50, their daughter Frances, 17, a Negro servant, Margaret Gill, 22, and a Negro nurse, Charlotte Scott, 64.

In the 1940 census, there are fewer live-in servants on this part of W. Andrews. Among occupations such as juvenile court judge, salesman and insurance executive, there are two “servants” in two homes, and in a third, a maid and a Butler, who are married.

*In the 1940 census, William Kiser (age listed 36?), is living without family in Hartford, Conn., in what appears to be a housing unit with many occupants, maybe a medical school dorm? Living in the same unit with Dr. Kiser, apparently, are an Ola Jackson, 25, born in Georgia, and her mother, Lillie Jackson, 65, born in Alabama. It’s not clear whether these two are there as helpers to Dr. Kiser.

About Doug Cumming

Writer, W&L journalism professor emeritus
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