shopping lower east side

An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Forty

Above, “‘Imported Americans’ shopping from push-carts on the Lower East Side, New York City,” Underwood & Underwood, Library of Congress

an ostrich-plumed hat

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Thirty-Nine

Emma Dumpke Daschel, December 1912

December 31, 1912

My dearest Hedda,

Having you make the trip to St. Louis for our wedding meant so much to both of us, but particularly to me. To suddenly be thrust in the midst of Heinrich’s huge family was overwhelming; although his relatives could not have embraced me more warmly.

You comprise my whole “American family,” and I know I would have been unable to cope without your repeated assurances that this marriage is right for me. Thank goodness! I could not possibly be happier.

I feared you risked triggering the beer baron’s ire by attending my wedding. I am shocked that, instead, Otto suggested you no longer hide our shared deed in the public records under the name of that bartender indebted to him.

You must by now realize you took on an unnecessary expense to hire that Detective Shoaf to watch Otto to ensure he not commit suicide due to the “great despair” brought on by my departure. His false display of grief is only to gain your sympathy, the same way he used his wife’s infirmity to ensnare me. His offer to purchase my half of the house for you indicates he is indeed fully recovered, cured by the amazingly rapid transferal of his affections to you.

Of course, I am willing to sell you my half, but please wait until spring. And please be cautious. Do not leap blindly into his lair. His generosity comes with an extremely high price tag. His gentlemanly façade is merely that.

I feel somewhat relieved you bought lots in the new Harlandale subdivision. The investment can serve as an emergency escape for you, so you are not restricted to residing in the house he bought for us.

We are settling into our apartment in New York. Heine keeps apologizing, saying I thought I was marrying a successful attorney only to have him abandon his flourishing career to teach. But he detested practicing law and is so much happier now.

While Heinrich is at school, I scour vendors’ carts and secondhand shops, trying to pick up bargains. The great advantage of a small apartment is that it does not take much to fill it.

We live in a third of the space of our house on Hunstock Avenue, but we will always have plenty of room for you. We came across this ingenious space-saving invention – a Murphy bed. It is a full-size, comfortable bed, but it disappears completely when not occupied, folding neatly upright, covers and all, inside a handsome cabinet on the wall.

“Curator Finds Murphy Bed’s Place in American History,” Smithsonian Magazine

Work is plentiful. I actually had hoped employment would be more difficult to locate. I have had six interviews and have five offers. By Monday, I must decide what course to take. 

With your skills and experience, you could move back to New York so easily. I know I convinced you to move to San Antonio only for me to wind up back in New York myself.

If you are not willing to move here, we so wish you would come visit. 

Write soon, and Happy New Year!

               Love,

                              Emmy

Footnotes

On that same day in October of 1912 that the deed was filed at the courthouse for the women’s joint purchase of the Hunstock properties, Hedda paid $430 for several lots on Pacific Avenue, the southernmost street in the new development of Harlandale. Where she obtained this money or why she invested it in additional real estate was not disclosed.

While the relationships among the characters in this drama and how they led to the fatal shooting of Otto Koehler might always remain a mystery subject to interpretation of court testimonies, Emma Dumpke is the most mysterious of all.

Who is she? Her name in legal documents and in newspapers appears as Dumpke, Dunke and Dumpke, and spellings of her married name are just as varied. Frankly, the Author cannot track down anything about her at all. The Author came across a “Miss,” scribbled-through somewhat to perhaps edit it to “Mrs.,” Emma C. Dumke, born around 1877, who married a William Arthur Hartman in Jackson, Missouri, in November of 1907, but the Author lost both of them.

The strangest reference to her surfaced in a Jefferson City, Missouri, newspaper shortly after the 1914 shooting. The paper claimed that “Mrs. Emma Daschel, the wife of the late Gus Daschel,” was arrested in San Antonio. Was this a case of mistaken identity based on the initial reports from San Antonio? Again, the Author was frustrated. She found nothing about Gus Daschel beyond that.

There also was no mention at the time of the shooting or the trial indicating the newly married Mrs. Daschel was newly widowed. Hedda even claimed she signed a telegram to Emma under a neighbor’s name so Emma’s husband would think Hedda’s need for assistance was critical. Emma’s husband’s first name does not appear in the newspapers in San Antonio, although Hedda did mention in testimony he was a lawyer. That should have made him a little easier to track down, but, alas, no luck.

Unconvinced that the Jefferson City Emma and the San Antonio one were one and the same, the Author christened her husband Heinrich and launched him on a new career as a teacher. As far as their move to New York from St. Louis, that is not completely arbitrary. In testimony, Hedda said Emmy was among the friends she visited in New York in the fall of 1914. The Author also feared that if she left Emma living in St. Louis, the Author would be tempted to veer off into more Busch family stories.

William Lawrence Murphy applied for a patent for the bed that bears his name in 1900. Living in a one-room apartment, he was stimulated by a desire to entertain friends, particularly a female opera singer, at home. Hosting them in a room with a bed would not have been appropriate so he worked with a blacksmith on this innovative solution that rapidly gained popularity among apartment dwellers in New York City. Oh, and Murphy got the girl.

Continue to Chapter Forty-One

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