Maplewood History: Getting Plastered

If the title of this post makes you think of the recently past New Year’s Eve, I understand.  There was a time when I would have thought the same thing. But this post has nothing to do with Cousin Hugo’s or Schlafly’s or Foley’s or the Crow’s Nest or the Side Project or any of the other fine Maplewood establishments where you may have spent last Saturday evening. 

I am making a joke because had any of the customers of the above seemed headed in the direction the title implies, I’m reasonably certain the proprietors would have gently counseled them before putting them in a cab and sending them home. That’s awfully wordy but I’ve gotta get this thing out.

Imagine that you live in Maplewood and the year is 1912. You have the new Maplewood Business Directory and you want to get plastered. Who would you call? I don’t know because the 1912 Maplewood Business Directory doesn’t list any plasterers. In which case you’d be perfectly justified going to any of the eight saloons listed. You’d have no other choice.

By 1915, it would be a different story.  Jens (anglicized to James) Lauritson had set up shop and it wasn’t long before he and his son, Elmer John Lauritson were plastering for anyone who could afford their service.  Anyone who has ever hung and taped drywall can understand how much more difficult it would be to plaster the same building. First in would be the lathers.  They would nail the wooden lath over all the walls and ceilings.  The plasterers came next. I believe a good plaster job consisted of three coats. The carpenters in those days seemed to be much less concerned with plumb and level than they are now. It was up to the plasters to compensate for slightly out of plumb walls.

Plastering was a difficult job.  The Lauritsons were apparently very successful. A couple of their descendants (Opal Lauritson Andrews and more recently Ellen Bishop) have generously provided us with some of the photographs and records they left behind.  Ladies, we thank you for sharing these with all of us.

Information with this photo says that Jim Lauritson is on the right and Henry Knochelman is on the left. From the Renaissance Society collection now at the Maplewood Public Library.

Sophie Lauritson and her daughter, Opal. Sophie lived to be 100 years and 3 weeks old. Her daughter became Mrs. Andrews. Ellen Bishop had this to say in an email, “I believe my Aunt Opal (Lauritson) Andrews gave the Renaissance Society those images in ’83. She is the baby in the image, with her mother, Sophie Lauritson. Opal and Elmer John were brother and sister. Sophie came from Germany at the age of 14 as a nanny. She lived with her nanny family in Lafayette Square in a house that was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Her husband, Jens Lauritson, came from Copenhagen, Denmark at the age of 19. He went by James. They later met and married here in St. Louis.” From the Renaissance Society collection now at the Maplewood Public Library.

The family car, I reckon. These first three photos are believed to have been provided to the Renaissance Society by Opal for the 75th anniversary of Maplewood in 1983. From the Renaissance Society collection now at the Maplewood Public Library.

Receipt for a Ford Roadster. I doubt that this receipt is for the car in the previous photo. It is interesting that the dealer was located in the 7400 block of Manchester. I suspect these are earlier owners of the dealership that came to be called Cavalier. Courtesy of Ellen Bishop.

Lauritson’s ad in the 1915 Maplewood Champion newspaper. Notice the top ad for the cigars. From the reference room at the Headquarters branch of the St. Louis County Library.

Ellen Bishop was kind enough to send photos of this cigar box where some of her family memorabilia had been stored. She pointed out to me that the box was from the advertiser just above the Laurtison ad in the Champion. Cool.

1919 bicycle license. Courtesy of Ellen Bishop.

The Apprentice card for Lauritson’s son, Elmer. Courtesy of Ellen Bishop.

Ellen was kind enough to send images like this one from 1924 of many of the Lauritson’s union cards. She said this in an email, “I have included the Union cards that I found in the cigar box. I found it interesting that the earlier cards were brightly colored and made out of a thick paper. The ones made in the late 30’s were on a much thinner paper and only one sided. Sadly, I don’t have any cards from the early 30’s. I also included the Apprentice Working Cards from the early 20’s that allowed Elmer to work in his dad’s shop. Elmer was born in 1906.”  Courtesy of Ellen Bishop.

15 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Getting Plastered

  1. seeing that old union card and other stuff does make me wonder what I should be keeping and what I can toss out. I still have several things that belong to both me and to my father including old union cards, pins, and such that I have wondered who is ever going to be interested in it but me?
    None of it is related to Maplewood since I am a relative newcomer here of only 30 years but it does make me wonder about keeping or not keeping stuff since most of it find it interesting to see it posted here.

    • Mark, Scarcity has a lot to do with what makes some of that stuff interesting. I don’t have any advice for you other than we can’t save everything. Try to figure out what is the most valuable and pitch the rest. I should listen to my own advice. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I want to thank Tom Bakersmith who shared a thought. Although his message has disappeared somewhere into cyberspace I believe I can accurately convey his message. Correct me if I don’t get this right, Tom. Tom was concerned that our city manager might get a revenue enhancing idea from the image of the 1919 bicycle license. So before this idea gets any traction, as a regular bicycle rider, I want to say I’m ag’in it. Also I consulted my online inflation calculator to see just how much a 1919 dollar is worth today. The answer is $14.33.

    • You are welcome, Ellen. I couldn’t have done it without you and folks like you who have generously shared their family photos and documents. Many people have told me they enjoyed this post.

  3. Another interesting article, Doug. My grandfather & father, Herman L. Beermann Sr. and Jr. were both members of the Wood and Metal Lathers Union Local 73 in St. Louis. My grandfather was the forman on the St. Louis zoo project, late 1920’s, that used metal lath to construct the realistic red rock enclosures for the hoofed animals. I am very proud of my ancestors.

    • You have good reason to be proud of them, Rita. Those Union men worked very hard. They left a legacy of well-built beautiful buildings, bridges, roads, zoos, you-name-it. The assault on the unions today is particularly disturbing to me. It is a little over 49 years ago that I joined the United Auto Workers union. The work was very hard but the UAW has come to my aid countless times in my life. They protect their retirees as well as their active members. My life has been immeasurably better and most secure because of my membership in the organization. They have negotiated benefits for all of the members that we could never have done on our own. They created the American middle class as we know it today. Thank you very much for your comments.