Herbert Matthews Autobiography

I left home while the family lived at Clinton, Illinois.  It was adventure in Blood at the age of 13, however my stays away from home were of short duration until Mothers Death, when I was about 17 years of age.  Family Parentage on the Fathers side was Scotch Irish and dated away back to Baltimore in 17th Century or thereabouts, at any rate Fathers relatives fought in the Revolutionary war.

My mother came to America from Stockholm Sweden when 8 weeks old and settled in Mississippi from there they journeyed northward to Sheffield Indiana where my Grandparents lived several years, later moving to northern Michigan Baldwin Michigan then later to Charlevoix where some of my mothers relatives live today.

My wanderlust activities began about the [time] Pres. Wm McKinley was President of the United States, My dad took me out of school when I was in the 7th grade and forced me to work and help support a large family, but the money earned was not used the [way] dad said it would be, he squandered it in inventions and patent attorneys fees which disgusted me, and in consequence caused me to leave home and hide out a great deal of the time. I have served sometime in various capacities in Department Stores in Chicago Ills, Seigel, Coopers,  The Boston Store, The Fair Store, Cap Factory in Chicago, Rabinger Bros, and Werner, Red Diamond Overall Factory St. Louis Mo.  Sewing Machine, Tin Shop, General Factory Work, Saw Mills, Veneer Mill, RR Round House Section Hand, Teamster, Hotel Work, Bell hop, Kitchen Help, Cook, Case And Martin Pie Factory  Chicago Ills. Worked for the Van nuy News Co Chicago Ills Traveled on Trains selling wares such as Fruit Candy, Magazines, Daily Papers, etc.  Was a Western Union Boy in Chicago.   Spent a year or so in Indpls prior to the time that my folks moved here.  Places worked at then were the Van Camp Packing Co  was a Box Nailer, and General Factory Work. Worked for a Wilmington Del Firm who installed the Stokers, Turbines, and steam fittings in the Mill St Plant of the Indpls Power & Light Co  was a steam fitters helper, was employed at Nordyke & Marmon Co as Line Shaft oiler, later employed in the tin Shop.

Entered the Postal Service on Dec 4th, 1916 at Indianapolis, Indiana.  Introduced to the employees and formally accepted for duty on that date, usually worked on the pick-up table, daubed small parcels, and assisted in sacking out Parcel Post Mail, the Parcel Post Law had only been in effect then about 4 years, all of the Indiana Parcel Post Mail in those days was worked in bins about 3 tiers high and now are outside the door leading into the Inquiry Section, they only occupied about 20 square feet, we used to clean up all the mail on the Indiana Rack by about 10:00 pm the out of town mail was very light then, I mean Parcel Post Mail, there were no Mail Handlers in those days, sacks were dumped by Clerks, there were no rest bars  neither were employees permitted to use stools or lean against tubs etc., standing up was the rule at all the cases, carriers stood for inspection on the steps in front steps of the Federal Bldg., about once each year, to see if shoes were shined, uniforms clean and neat.

Demerits were levied fast and furiously in those days for mis-handling mail, outbound schemes were thrown twice a year, nothing short of 99% on exams. and 100% on junctions, the twice rule applied to city schemes.  there were very few day runs, very little choice on vacations the hourly rate was 35 cts per hr.  40 cts if you were lucky enough to work a regular run, if a regular was late to more than 15 min he was told to take WOP and a sub was assigned at 40 ct time for that tour. Special Delivery Messengers walked or rode bikes. Mail was handled to the trains by horse drawn vehicles, on a contract basis with the Frank Bird Transfer Co. Your present Gen. Supt. of Mails and I made many trips to the Terminal Station to throw off the Mails which went by Interurban in those days. I joined up with the Feds and the Mutual Benefit Association when I received my first Pay, and have been in them ever since, I still expect to maintain my membership in both.

I resigned to join the Military in Aug 7th 1917, but Postmaster Robert E. Springsteen would not have it that way so he asked the Dept to grant me a indefinite Leave during my Military Service that was later done for all employees, on Oct. 10th 1917 he informed me that I had been promoted to Regular Clerk, I was then at Great lakes Ills  Before entering the Postal Service I had served considerable time aboard a British Tramp Steamer owned and operated by the Union Castle Steamship Co of London England, I served aboard that vessel in the capacity as the Captains Stewart, and we plyed between between New York Cape Ports and India, also European ports, such as Antwerp, Rotterdam, Belfast, Glasscow, Southhampton, and London England. After making several trips to these countries I came to Indpls because my parents had located here [since] when joining the Navy they were only allowed one recruit per day from this district, when they saw my qualifications that I had from my former service they decided that I was the man for that day so they immediately dismissed 20 applicants and took me, but I was 8 lbs underweight so I was told to go home and come back the following day, the doctor Thurston prescribed what I should eat before coming back the next day, which consisted of a big dinner plus as many bananas, and Buttermilk that I could eat, I did I ate two Plates of Spare Ribs and Beans, 1 dozen Bananas, 2 quarts of Buttermilk, after arising that morning until 2:00 pm that afternoon, when he weighed me the second time, he pronounced me as one lb over the minimum, I was given Transportation

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Here’s the actual autobiography.

Matthews Herbert L — autobiography

For more on his steamship experience, see his steamship letter.