From the Diaries of Cornelius N. Weygandt

Like most upper middle class Philadelphians in the last half of the nineteenth century, Cornelius N. and Lucy E. (Thomas) Weygandt took advantage of the large pool of migrant and immigrant labor to hire inexpensive, live-in domestic employees. The Weygandts employed two “domestic servants” in 1870; three in 1880; and five in 1900. By 1900 the Weygandts had three employees living with them in their house on West Upsal Street and two more employees living in other buildings on the grounds (a gardener and a coachman; the gardener was married, however, and lived primarily with his family, which was located nearby). The household staff, all Irish immigrant women, consisted of a cook, Bridget Devine, and two maids, Mary Tolan and Elizabeth Goodwin, who served meals and helped with housekeeping and sewing. The coachman – and in the years before he was married, the gardener – occupied the carriage house. They too were Irish immigrants.

1900 was a year of change in the Weygandt family household. Cornelius and Lucy became empty-nesters when the younger of their two children, Cornelius or “Corney” (age 28), married Sarah Roberts and moved to “Hillside,” on Wissahickon Avenue near Westview Street. Planning for the marriage and the newlyweds’ move to a new home occupied much of the time of both sets of parents. These events, however, were made much more complicated by trouble with the household staff.

The equilibrium of the household was also upset when their long-time gardener, Lawrence Kelley, was forced to retire. Kelley, who had served the Weygandts for more than twenty years, was 72 in 1900 (four years older than Cornelius N. Weygandt). His age and gradually declining health forced him to give up a job which required regular and sometimes exhausting physical labor. The search for a replacement and the events that unfolded provided a rare insight into the world of servants during this period and revealed the issues that were important for the people at that time, such as ethnicity, age, gender, marital status, class and personal appearance.

PART 1

Saturday, 27 October 1900
… caught the 6.34 train for Germantown, arriving home at a few minutes after seven.  Supper with Lucy soon afterwards.  When I met Lucy at Broad St. station today she was in a state of excitement and shock, over a communication she had had this morning from Mrs. David Freed to the effect that our seamstress, Mary, is in the family way, and intends probably to put the fatherhood of the child upon our Corney.  Mrs. F. heard this from one of her maids who had it from one of ours.  And our maid says that she and our other maid believes that John Sayre, our former coachman, is the man, and seen his familiarities with Mary, kisses, etc.  Of course we believe Corney to be innocent.  Lucy has suspected that something was wrong with Mary for some weeks past, but she has never thought her capable of such malignity as to charge an innocent person with the crime of adultery about the time of his marriage. …

Sunday, 28 October 1900
… At about 10.20 Lucy went to Sophie’s, to get her to come to our house as a witness at a talk that she expects to have with Bridget and Elizabeth, about Mary’s wrongdoings.  Poor Lucy is very much upset & worried, but I think there is a hope that Mary may turn out not utterly bad. – No doubt John Sayre is malignant enough to put Mary up to charging the crime on Corney.  Practically discharged by us for impudence, he is most probably revengeful.  Sophie & Lucy came in at soon after eleven and had a talk with Bridget and Elizabeth about Mary’s condition.  B. & E. feel sure that Mary is enceinte, and they think that John Sayre is the man in the case.  Mary has been very affectionate with John and John has been familiar with Mary.  But nothing was said about accusing anyone in the house except that Bridget said that if that were attempted, she would tell all that she knows.  Lucy and Sophie reported to me in the library after the talk with the girls.  And John & little Lucy came in at a quarter of one and remained a little while.  They declined staying to dinner.  John thinks that Corney ought to be told at once of the possible scandal.  Dinner with Lucy, of vegetable soup, roast beef, vegetables, etc., with chocolate corn starch, and seckel pears for dessert.  Diarized a little after dinner.  A cloudy afternoon.  Drove out at 2½ P.M. with Lucy in the large trap with the pair; and called for Corney and Sarah and took them with us.  First to the Monastery and grounds on the Wissahickon above Carpenters Lane; a charming site, now adorned by Autumn foliage.  Then on Wissahickon Drive, Paper Mill Lane, Ship Lane, the high road at ridges to Ship Lane with its extensive view across the Schuylkill valley, another road at right angles to the last, overlooking a beautiful fruit farm valley … The views and foliage on Shawmont [Road] were lovely.  We got home by 5½, and had supper at about six.  Mary waited on us at the table.  Lucy took Sarah upstairs, after supper, and I then told Corney about Mary’s condition, and possibility of her charging him with being the cause of it.  He received the intelligence with more composure than I had expected of him, feeling sure that his reputation is so good in this respect that such a story would not be believed, etc.  He thinks that Mary should be sent away at once.  And he will tell Sarah.  I cautioned him to be very discreet about the matter & to urge Sarah to be so; for the charge may not be made against him, and no hint of its possibility should come from him, nor Sarah, etc.  Lucy and Sarah came down by and by and we had some general chat in the library.  Corney & Sarah went home at about nine.  I played Russian solitaire afterwards.  Lucy napped in a chair.  I went to bed at about 11¼.  Lucy went up earlier. …

Monday, 29 October 1900
… I went home in the 4.53 train.  Found Corney in the library with his Mother, talking over Mary’s condition, and probably future action.  Doctor Johnson was seen by Lucy this morning, and he has been attending Mary, and has not noticed that she is enceinte!  Which surprised me very much.  Corney thinks that Mary should be sent away at once.  And he will consult Tom Gates about the matter.  Gates is a friend of Corney, in lawyer John G. Johnson’s office.  I took supper with Lucy; did not eat much.  Played Russian solitaire afterwards – At soon after 8. Lucy and I walked over to Hilllside, to see Corney but he was out seeing Tom Gates.  We took a lantern with us to light the way.  Sarah was alone, and we had some chat with her until Corney came in.  Corney came in with good news from Gates, who thinks it improbable that Mary will make the charge against Corney, as she has not done so already.  Moreover, the relations of Mary to John Sayre, as known by our maids, would probably prevent such a charge against an innocent man.  But Gates says that Mary must be sent away at once, and no reason assigned for the change by Lucy.  Lucy and I left at soon after 9, and got home with our lantern, at about 9½.  Corney had been at our house while we were away, to give us the news from Gates.  It was very damp tonight on our way to and from Hillside.  Played Russian solitaire on getting in.  To bed at soon after 11.

Tuesday, 30 October 1900
… Breakfast with Lucy.  Diarized afterwards.  Lucy expects to send Mary away today, and to have Sophie present as a witness at the time.  I went to town in the 8.42 train. … I went out in the 9.17 [P.M.] train.  It was raining when I got to Upsal, and Edward met me with the wagon.  I found John Harris at our house, and he was sent home in the wagon.  Lucy had taken tea with Sophie & John, and had been brought home by John.  Lucy notified Mary, after luncheon today, that she would not need her any longer, and that she might leave on Friday with a weeks wages & board to be paid beyond that time.  But Mary left tonight, so Lucy was informed after I had come home.  Mary asked Lucy why she was dispensing with her services, but Lucy declined to go into the subject.  Lucy had a hard thing to do, to send Mary away after nearly nine years of faithful & intelligent service, without giving any reason thereof.  And she likes Mary, and is very sorry for her.  Of course, Lucy could not assign the reason she things she has, viz. that Mary is in the family way.  We went to bed at about eleven.  The rain was about over.

Wednesday, 31 October 1900
… We begin house cleaning today.  And of course Lucy will miss Mary dreadfully.  Breakfast with Lucy before 8. … Lucy was at home.  She paid Mary in full today to a week beyond Friday.  And Mary asked her as to a reference, and Lucy told her that she would be glad to commend her for her faithful, long service, and intelligent, too.  Theora and Sally Lewis called on Lucy today, and took luncheon at our house.  Mrs. Lewis is as rudely inquisitive as of old. …

Thursday, 1 November 1900
… Lucy was very tired from superintending our house cleaning.  I took super with her.  Spent the evening in reading “The House of the Wizard,” and in playing Russian solitaire.  Lucy went to bed at about ten, and I at 11¼. …

Wednesday, 14 November 1900
…Ladley has been working for us, who is Mary’s brother in law; and he said that Mary has had a serious quarrel with her sister, his wife, and has left their house, and his wife is now ill in bed!  Probably Martha Ladley has taxed Mary with incontinence, and Mary has resented the charge.  Mary has gone to town. …

Friday, 16 November 1900
Rose at 6½.  Temp. 27.  The coldest of this season.  Lucy got out my thick winter clothes.  Breakfast with her before 8.  Lucy expects a new chambermaid this morning – in place of Mary, who is enceinte, and has gone to the city after a quarrel with her sister, Mrs. Ladley.  To town in the 8.32 train. …

Saturday, 17 November 1900
…Our new maid, Maggie Lynch, turned up last evening.  She is comical looking, with a screwed up face.  I first saw her this morning. …