Footing the Bill

Edith’s lessons, room and board in New York City were paid for by her father, Edward Vail Ross. Occasionally Edith picked up a performance or concert engagement where she might earn a dollar or two, but this seemed inconsistent and at best provided her with pocket money. While the larger bills were paid for by her father, she was expected to pitch in and help at Mrs. Schirmer’s house where she boarded. There was some household help but in the off hours or when they quit unexpectedly, Edith pulled her weight. “We have all had to pitch in and do our little shares” she writes home. She occasionally served dinner for the few male boarders or would have to answer the door and play hostess if a caller came by when Mrs. Schirmer was out. One evening she describes in her letter home that she had been constantly interrupted by having to respond to the “dumb-waiter”, so it is easy to picture her writing home from the kitchen table.

1896 advertisement for a dumb-waiter

1896 advertisement for a dumb-waiter

Her father, E.V. Ross, worked for the Howe Scale Company, where he had started in the early 1880’s as a simple clerk. Over the years he had worked his way up to the position of Treasurer. He travelled to all of the company’s locations but spent the majority of his time at the Rutland Vermont headquarters. He probably gained his initial clerk position with the connections and help of his mother Elmira Vail Ross whose cousin Isaac Vail in Brandon, Vermont had worked for Howe Scale as an “agent” in the 1860’s.

1896 Howe Scale Company Letterhead

1896 Howe Scale Company Letterhead

Edith’s mother, Helen Sophia Beals Ross, had income as well from money left to her by her father, Barden Beals. This allowed her some independent choices and she could be counted on to purchase gifts for Edith to distribute to her friends at “Birthday Teas” and Christmas parties. Items such as a nicely bound copy of Hamlet, nail polisher, poster prints and rugcraft books were all purchased as gifts for friends. Edith was absorbed in her lessons, networking, securing auditions and performing. When she did remember to shop for gifts she usually headed to Wanamaker’s. Click on these links for a visual on the store in 1936 and the 1956 fire that brought the building down:

About Guenevere Crum

Guenevere Crum is an artist and a great granddaughter of Edith and Paul Eisler. She has been actively sleuthing her Eisler - Vail Ross heritage since 1999.
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3 Responses to Footing the Bill

  1. Pingback: Mrs. Schirmer’s Watchful Eye | edithandpaul

  2. Grace Alfiero says:

    What color nail polisher?

    I’m loving these posts!

    My Best, Grace-Anne Alfiero, MFA President & CEO Arts In Action Consulting Firm Follow me on twitter @ gracealfiero

    • It didn’t say! Actually I don’t think it was any color, but like a brush maybe to clean and shine the nails? I think I am going to have to get myself a nice copy of Hamlet now too, I don’t actually have that book.

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