Email

Limited Use, Discard Thereafter: Finding Pasadena’s Past in Old Receipts

Sep 28, 2014
FCP_9_8_J F Halsted Feb 1902_billhead

The billhead of John F. Halsted, poulterer, fishmonger, and purveyor of canned goods. The Union Market was located at 16 South Fair Oaks.

Rarely do I save grocery receipts. As soon as possible, I shred and recycle those slick strips of white thermal paper that some magical tabulating machine generated with a click and a whir and a generic, “ Thank you. Please visit our website at….” These seemingly bland records of purchase are nonetheless bits of true ephemera, defined by terminology authorities as, “Items created, manufactured, or used for a specific limited use…usually intended to be discarded thereafter.”[1] Undoubtedly they record information that some future historian will find fascinating and useful, but today’s grocery receipts have the shortest of lives. Their appearance is unexceptional and their sometimes cryptic notations quickly fade away. So, except for recalls or timely returns, why keep them? My grocery receipts usually become wads of paper clumping at the bottom of my purse or clogging the cup holder in my car. They are a nuisance and I don’t save them.

There are, however, grocery receipts that I do save and preserve with great care in acid free folders and archival boxes. These are the beautiful and nostalgic turn of the twentieth century Pasadena shop receipts found in the Fenyes family papers. Though meant to be discarded, they somehow survived and after one hundred years were moved from the Fenyes Mansion to the Pasadena Museum of History Archives. Visually pleasing, artistically designed and skillfully printed, these receipts project craftsmanship and pride, and importantly they inform Pasadena’s business history. On engraved billheads, shop owners advertised their goods and services alongside their names, phone numbers and addresses. Over time, as businesses evolved, their receipt headings changed to reflect new locations, services, and owners. Below the printed headings, handwritten entries convey an easygoing civility lost in our world of frenetic bar-code scanning. Goods, quantities and prices are written in graceful scripts rarely seen today. We also get to peek into people’s buying habits. What did they buy and how often? How much did they pay? These slips of old ephemera represent a trove of information about Pasadena businesses, their owners, and their customers. When thoughtfully studied, they also inspire curiosity and elicit questions. Presented here are several of the Fenyes family’s grocery receipts.

 

From their store at 35 South Raymond Avenue, Seely & Pollard Fruit Company delivered apples, oranges, pecans and more to Dr. Fenyes’ home in December 1899.  A few years later the company moved to 91 East Colorado Street, and we might wonder who succeeded Seely & Pollard at the address that today is home to the Church of Scientology of Pasadena.

From their store at 35 South Raymond Avenue, Seely & Pollard Fruit Company delivered apples, oranges, pecans and more to Dr. Fenyes’ home in December 1899. A few years later the company moved to 91 East Colorado Street, and we might wonder who succeeded Seely & Pollard at the address that today is home to the Church of Scientology of Pasadena.

 

The very word confectioner evokes nostalgic thoughts. Imagine all the enticing goodies. What delicious scents and tempting sights filled this shop?  Yet, this receipt also invites curiosity on a practical level.  The second entry begs for a look into the history, invention and manufacture of paper plates.

The very word confectioner evokes nostalgic thoughts. Imagine all the enticing goodies. What delicious scents and tempting sights filled this shop? Yet, this receipt also invites curiosity on a practical level. The second entry begs for a look into the history, invention and manufacture of paper plates.

 

FCP_9_2_City Meat Market Feb 1902_001

The long list of dates in the left hand column shows that in early January 1902 the Fenyes household purchased meat almost daily. But what exactly did they buy? This disappointing lack of detail regarding the types and cuts of meat ordered, might be overlooked when one examines the incredibly detailed depiction of the cold storage room where the meats were butchered and prepared for sale and delivery.

 

This detail from John Breiner’s 1902 billhead shows the cold storage room at 83 East Colorado. Today the premises are occupied by AT&T.

This detail from John Breiner’s 1902 billhead shows the cold storage room at 83 East Colorado. Today the premises are occupied by AT&T.

 

By the end of 1902, J. F. Halsted had moved his business from 16 to 37 South Fair Oaks where it remained until about 1914. But during the last weeks of February 1902, the Fenyes family enjoyed a number of turkeys, chickens, and squabs purchased from Mr. Halsted at the Union Market pictured in the circa 1903 photograph below.

By the end of 1902, J. F. Halsted had moved his business from 16 to 37 South Fair Oaks where it remained until about 1914. But during the last weeks of February 1902, the Fenyes family enjoyed a number of turkeys, chickens, and squabs purchased from Mr. Halsted at the Union Market pictured in the circa 1903 photograph below.

 

The white awning seen just above the street car is 16 South Fair Oaks, the location of the Union Market. The large building on the left is San Gabriel Valley Bank, situated on the southeast corner of Colorado Street and Fair Oaks Avenue.  Eva Fenyes had a savings account with this bank between 1905 and 1912.

The white awning seen just above the street car is 16 South Fair Oaks, the location of the Union Market. The large building on the left is San Gabriel Valley Bank, situated on the southeast corner of Colorado Street and Fair Oaks Avenue. Eva Fenyes had a savings account with this bank between 1905 and 1912.

 

The oval portrait of a forlorn and beseeching fanciful cow might offend some 21st century sensibilities, but in 1902 the Fenyes family ordered meat almost daily. Would this have been typical for the average Pasadena household? Today Tenno Sushi & Seafood Grill occupies 124 East Colorado, Chase Bank is numbered 132, and 130 no longer exists as a separate address.

The oval portrait of a forlorn and beseeching fanciful cow might offend some 21st century sensibilities, but in 1902 the Fenyes family ordered meat almost daily. Would this have been typical for the average Pasadena household? Today Tenno Sushi & Seafood Grill occupies 124 East Colorado, Chase Bank is numbered 132, and 130 no longer exists as a separate address.

 

In 1902 the monthly ice consumption for the Fenyes household ranged from 780 lbs. in March to 1455 lbs. in October. At the time the family was living in their Moorish style mansion at 251 South Orange Grove Avenue, and this receipt might raise questions about the food storage and preparation practices in households along Millionaire’s Row.

In 1902, the monthly ice consumption for the Fenyes household ranged from 780 lbs. in March to 1455 lbs. in October. At the time, the family was living in their Moorish style mansion at 251 South Orange Grove Avenue, and this receipt might raise questions about the food storage and preparation practices in households along Millionaire’s Row.

 

FCP_9_14_Newberry & Nash Grocers Dec 1902_001

In early 1898, Eva Fenyes was planning her purchase of this East Colorado Street property. By 1903, J. R. Newberry & Company, proprietors of the grocery store, signed a three year lease with Mrs. Fenyes agreeing to a “…monthly rent of one hundred and twenty-five ($125.00) dollars in Gold Coin of the United States of America, payable monthly in advance on the first day of each and every month….”

 

Lots of ranch fresh eggs, ten dozen in all, were delivered to 251 South Orange Grove Avenue throughout the month of June 1903, all for $2.52.  Thurston’s 1904 Pasadena City Directory describes the location of the Porter Poultry Ranch as “n. s. Mountain, 1st h. e. of N. El Molino av.” which translates to “north side Mountain, first house east of North El Molino Avenue.”

Lots of ranch fresh eggs, ten dozen in all, were delivered to 251 South Orange Grove Avenue throughout the month of June 1903, all for $2.52. Thurston’s 1904 Pasadena City Directory describes the location of the Porter Poultry Ranch as “n. s. Mountain, 1st h. e. of N. El Molino av.” which translates to “north side Mountain, first house east of North El Molino Avenue.”

 

Whatever bakery items the Fenyes household ordered every few days during January 1909, this bill calculates a charge of one penny per piece. Dinner rolls perhaps?

Whatever bakery items the Fenyes household ordered every few days during January 1909, this bill calculates a charge of one penny per piece. Dinner rolls perhaps?

 

Compare this bakery receipt with the receipt above. New owners have expanded the space to include 159 East Colorado. While continuing to use old as well as new receipts, the proprietors kept their customers informed about the ongoing changes. 157 and 159 can no longer be found on East Colorado, but in 1909 the bakery was located between North Broadway Avenue (now Arroyo Parkway) and North Marengo Avenue.

Compare this bakery receipt with the receipt above. New owners have expanded the space to include 159 East Colorado. While continuing to use old as well as new receipts, the proprietors kept their customers informed about the ongoing changes. Numbers 157 and 159 can no longer be found on East Colorado, but in 1909 the bakery was located between North Broadway Avenue (now Arroyo Parkway) and North Marengo Avenue.

 

According to bills receipted before March 1910, “Hoeppner & Company” identified themselves as “Agents for the Los Angeles Brewing Co.”  Thereafter the business transferred to “Herman Hoeppner” who identified himself as “Agent for Local and Eastern Beers.” It was an ill-fated change.

According to bills receipted before March 1910, “Hoeppner & Company” identified themselves as “Agents for the Los Angeles Brewing Co.” Thereafter, the business transferred to “Herman Hoeppner” who identified himself as “Agent for Local and Eastern Beers.” It was an ill-fated change.

 

On October 14, 1910, Herman Hoeppner was arrested and charged with violating Pasadena’s city charter. The Los Angeles Herald reported that, “… ‘pickets’ for the police department have been watching the store room at Fair Oaks avenue and Bellevue drive, where it is alleged a carload of liquor is in storage and kept on sale, and that instead of the beer being sold in Los Angeles and delivered there, the whole transaction is carried out in Pasadena…According to the city charter and ordinances no liquor is allowed to be sold in Pasadena except at drug stores on doctors’ prescriptions or at restaurants or hotels which carry a license to sell beer or wine with meals costing 20 cents or more. Sales at such places are restricted to the midday meal between the hours of 11:30 and 1:30 o’clock and the evening meal between the hours of 5:30 and 7:30 o’clock.”[4]

And so we see that the study of ephemeral grocery receipts can lead to surprising and informative discoveries about Pasadena’s past. Many more business receipts in the Fenyes papers, dating from 1890 to 1930, are available for study and discovery at Pasadena Museum of History Research Library and Archives.

 

Many thanks to PMH volunteer Bob Bennett for his always indispensible research.

All images are courtesy of the Archives, Pasadena Museum of History. (Receipts, Fenyes-Curtin-Paloheimo Papers, Boxes 9 and 10. Photograph, circa 1903, Main Photo Collection T12-47)

 

~~~

FloatTents_sml

Anna T. Kelly, Float Tents, Rose Bowl, oil on canvas.
2009 Museum Purchase Award.

 

Pasadena Museum of History presents “Contemporary Masters, Artistic Eden IV,” which opens Wednesday, October 1st.

Contemporary Masters, Artistic Eden IV is the fourth biennial fine art exhibition featuring scenes of the greater San Gabriel Valley by nationally recognized representational artists in the Kathryn Beynon Foundation Exhibition Hall. Hundreds of representational artists have been invited to create artworks reflecting scenes of Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley for this singular juried event, which will be jointly curated by the sponsoring galleries: Fremont Gallery, Galerie Gabrie, Segil Fine Art Source, Silvana Gallery, and Tirage Fine Art Gallery.  Artworks will be available for acquisition through the sponsoring galleries after the close of the exhibition.

In the early years of California Impressionism, the unique and spectacular beauty of the greater Pasadena area was the frequent subject of beautiful artworks, many of which are now in museum collections nationwide. This exhibition recognizes and sustains the area’s rich artistic heritage. (PMH.org)

Pasadena Museum of History, 470 W. Walnut St., Pasadena 91103. Tel.: 626.577.1660. Admission: $7 (members and children under 12 are free). Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. PasadenaHistory.org.

 

247.-pasadena-train-station.14x20watercolor-300x202

Joseph Stoddard, Pasadena Train Station, watercolor.
2012 Museum Purchase Award.

~~~

[1]Getty Research Institute, Art & Architecture Thesaurus® Online, Accessed September 2014.

[2] Notes regarding Wetherby & Kayser property, Daggett & Daggett Real Estate and Financial Brokers, 28 January 1898. FCP Papers. FCP.16.4. PMH Archives.

[3] Newberry Lease, 24 October 1903. FCP Papers, FCP.16.5.  PMH Archives.

[4] “Plan Vigorous War on Liquor Law Violators: Pasadena’s Legal and Police Departments Will Fight Selling of Beer by Agencies,” Los Angeles Herald, 15 October 1910.  Accessed online, California Digital Newspaper Collection, University of California, Riverside.




Discussion



Fiore

Flintridge Books

Lyd and Mo Photography

Louis Jane Studios

Homage Pasadena

Search