Research Uncovers a Personal Connection

1, July 2013

On January 7, 2013, I began my internship at the Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center. My responsibilities included helping librarian Emily Jaycox with her research projects. Her current project revolved around the Work Projects Administration (WPA) in St. Louis. She had a list of people who worked for the project in the 1930s and wanted to find out more about who some of these people were and what they had contributed to the WPA. Emily showed me how to research in the city directories. Listed along with names were job titles and addresses. I really enjoyed looking through the directories, and when I had the time, I looked for family members who might have lived in the area who also may have worked for the WPA. I never imagined you could find so much information in these books.

I began my research in the 1930 directory and followed the people on the WPA list through 1940. It was interesting not only to see the progression of their jobs but also whether they moved and how often. Some of them maintained their same job and address through the 10-year span, whereas others changed job titles and homes. As I contemplated this information—and considered the reasons for some to change jobs and homes while others did not—I felt it was likely that the difference was age. The people who did not move or change jobs were probably older and well established in their work and home lives. One of the people on the WPA list was a man named Harry Hammerman. I searched online for his name and found a website that referenced a house he built in Ladue that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The online article also provided that Hammerman graduated from Washington University's architectural school in 1930 and the name of the company where he first gained employment. The job information matched my research in the city directory. Emily steered me toward the Library's collection of Washington University yearbooks for the 1930s, where I located a picture of Hammerman. It is gratifying to find information this way when only starting out with a name.

Roaring River State ParkAuthor's son standing in Roaring River State Park in Cassville, Missouri. Courtesy of Lisa Noblett.

During my internship, Emily received a request from a man in Ohio who was conducting similar research on the WPA and was looking for information about Federal Project Number One. He thought there might be some information about the project in Gateway Heritage (now known as Gateway) magazine. Emily picked out a few volumes that may have contained the information he was looking for. I was unable to find the information; however, in the process I found several interesting stories about Missouri that I have personal connections with. As a child, I practically lived at Roaring River State Park in Cassville, Missouri, and I came across an article in one of the issues about how the state park came into existence. The park was a project of the WPA, and the lodge I spent much of my childhood in was a product of this program. The article showed a picture of a couple sitting by the spring that feeds the river. I have a picture of my son in this exact spot. This is why I love to study history. There is always something you did not know just waiting for you to discover.

—Lisa Noblett, MHM Intern, spring 2013