A basket hanging on the door knob

I enjoy reading old biographies.

The politics don’t matter; regardless of the era, it’s always the same problems and the same solutions and the same objections by the same vested interests, all in a never ending cycle of greed and selfishness.  I skim those parts.

The joy comes from learning about the things they did for fun.

This excerpt from Al Smith’s autobiography talks about how they used to spend New Year’s Day.  (It was written in 1929, so keep in mind that what was “thirty-five or forty years” to him is 120 or 125 years to us.)

We carried on all the usual social obligations of young men.  The mention of New Year’s calls will awaken memories in some of the old-timers in New York of the custom of calling on friends on New Year’s Day.  The business of preparing and printing New Year’s calling cards was an industry all in itself, and a man’s affluence and standing were judged by the elaborate card he was able to leave with his friends when he called to pay his respects on the first day of the new year.  The custom was so universal in lower New York thirty-five or forty years ago that the people who, as the result of sickness or death in the family, did not keep what was called “open house” on New Year’s Day left a basket hanging on the door knob to receive cards of would-be callers.



  1. markonit

    …a different way of keeping up appearances and with the Jones’


  2. V. Alarcón-Córdoba

    When I saw Meet John Doe for the first time as a politically conscious adult in the 2000s, I was amused at how politics haven’t changed a bit. Businessmen controlled Congress in the 40s, as they does now.


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