The Definitive Dwiggins no. 29 addendum—Where’s Oz?

After reading paragraphs 122 and 123 regarding the instructions for enumerators of the Twelfth United States census (1900), I decided to see if I could find another instance of someone counted twice. I had in mind Oswald Cooper (1879–1940), designer of the famous (or, depending on your view, notorious) Cooper Black , who had studied at the Frank Holme School of Illustration at the same time that Dwiggins did. Researching his life and work has—like that of Goudy, Updike, Cleland and others—been an ancillary aspect of my Dwiggins investigations. So, I already knew that there was a record for Cooper in the 1900 census.

The record (shown below) has Cooper residing at 312–314 and 322–324 West Monroe Street*, a boardinghouse run by William McDonagh and his wife Carrie. He is listed (line 25) as an “Art Student.” Thirty other boarders, ranging in age from 18 to 57 and with professions running the gamut from day laborer to lawyer, are also at that compound address. Thus, the boardinghouse is very similar to the one that Dwiggins was in, though larger and structurally different. [1]

West Town (City of Chicago, Ward 8), Twelfth United States Census, Schedule No. 1, Sheet no. 18. Enumeration by Enright on June 12, 1900.

West Town (City of Chicago, Ward 18), Twelfth United States Census, Schedule No. 1, Sheet no. 12. Enumeration by Daniel Enright on June 12, 1900.

Paul Groth, in the Encyclopedia of Chicago, writes,

Until 1930, people with comfortable incomes might move to Chicago and never live anywhere except in a hotel. A room or suite of rooms in a palatial hotel (for the rich) or a middle-priced hotel (for those of middle income) were luxurious, conveniently located, and cheaper than maintaining a private house in the city. Hotels gave Chicago residents an instant social position, and interaction with some of the wealthiest residents of the city….

Midpriced and palace-style hotels probably housed only about one-sixth of Chicago’s hotel residents. Another one-third of the city’s hotel residents lived in a widely varied class of dwellings called “rooming houses.” A rooming house might range from a former single-family house to a three-hundred-room hostelry. Rooming house residents, half of them men, half women, and most of them young, worked as department store clerks, secretaries, salesmen, or in journeymen construction building trades. Such work could not be counted on for every season of the year, so residents had to be within reasonable walking distance of multiple jobs. The Near North Side was the city’s most extensive rooming house district.

For people who were marginally employed in common labor jobs (from digging ditches to living in the off-season from field work or railroad construction) the only available homes were in hotel buildings disparagingly called “cheap lodging houses.” Typically, half of a city’s hotel homes were in such structures. In Chicago, the former Main Stem area on West Madison Street was nationally famous, although there were other cheap lodging house districts in the Near North and in several blocks in the racially segregated South Side. [2]

Cooper’s boardinghouse was not far from Union Station and about a half-hour’s walk from Michigan Avenue and the School of Illustration. Its population must have been highly transient as only eight of the roomers can be found in the 1900 Chicago city directory at any of those multiple addresses. Despite that, it was probably not a “cheap lodging house” since most of the roomers had year-round jobs.

Twelfth United States Census, Schedle No. 1, Sheet no. . Enumberated by on June 8, 1900.

Coffeyville City [Kansas], Twelfth United States Census, Schedule No. 1, Sheet no. 15. Enumerated by Francis M. Benefiel on June 8, 1900.

The second record for Oswald Cooper in the 1900 census took a bit of work to unearth. The biographical information in The Book of Oz edited by Ray DaBoll (Chicago: Society of Typographic Arts, 1949) is skimpy. [3] He was born in Mt. Gilead, Ohio but grew up in Coffeyville, Kansas. I tried both Ohio and Kansas as key states to locate another record for Cooper and thought I had failed with both until I checked the result for “Oswell Cooper” (see above). Under that misspelling Cooper is listed (see line 17) as living with Hanabel [sic] and Anna Cooper at 504 Fifth Street, Coffeyville, Kansas on June 8, 1900. His occupation is “Artist”. [4]

Finding Cooper in two places during the 1900 Census indicates that such discrepancies must have been fairly common and not as odd as I initially thought when I stumbled upon the double Dwiggins entries.

*Chicago streets were renumbered in 1909 so these are not current addresses. To convert them use the street renumbering PDF.
[1] The boardinghouse could be four row houses joined together or two adjoining double-family houses. I have not located any c.1900 photographs of the neighborhood to know what the housing stock was like.
[2] Some of the rooming house areas were also known their prevalence of prostitution and vice. See the excerpt from Sexual Geography and Gender Economy: The Furnished Room Districts of Chicago, 1890–1930 by Joanne Meyerowitz online.
[3] Cooper was born 13 April 1879 contrary to what the Wikipedia entry says. See “A Brief Tabular Biography of Oswald Bruce Cooper” in The Book of Oz Cooper: An Appreciation of Oswald Bruce Cooper (Chicago: The Society of Typographic Arts, 1949), p. 7.
[4] Cooper’s parents were Hannibal and Anna Cooper. In the Fourteenth Census of the United States (1920), they are both listed as living in Chicago with him at 1201 Addison Street. His mother died later that year on December 17; and his father, a carpenter, died October 24, 1923. In the Fourteenth Census Cooper’s profession is listed as “Ornament Letterer.”