Jerry Smith, White House Servant, and FLOTUS Julia Grant

Cavalry Charger

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#1
1549767516360.png

Jeremiah Smith, long time White House employee.

"Jeremiah Smith was a free Negro, born in Anne Arundel County, MD in 1835. Very little is known of him, except that he grew into an imposing figure of manhood, with the manners of a courtier.

During the Civil War, he served as a teamster in the Union Army, where perhaps he made the acquaintance of General Grant.

Then he obtained a position in the Grant White House.

Smith was first engaged as a White House footman, and accompanied Mrs. Grant on her rounds of “calls,” a popular tradition in Washington for several decades. Dressed in his finest navy blue livery with silver trim, it was his responsibility to help the First Lady from the carriage and escort her to the door of whichever home she was visiting. If the lady was “at home,” he would wait until Mrs. Grant was ready to leave (about fifteen minutes), and then escort her back to the carriage. If the lady was not “at home,” Jerry would take Mrs. G’s calling card from a silver case, and leave it with whoever answered the door.

Julia Grant was a genuinely nice lady, and took a somewhat maternal interest in all the servants. When the Grants were in the White House, Washington real estate prices were low, and some “affordable housing” was available for the newly freed Negroes. Julia strongly urged all her Negro servants to purchase these houses as insurance for their old age: they would always have a place to live.

Jerry Smith was slow to respond to Mrs. Grant’s urging, and she became worried about the footman she had grown to like. She is said to have scolded him, adding that if he did not make arrangements to purchase a house immediately, she would buy one for him, and withhold some of his monthly wages to pay for it.

Jerry bought the house".

1549686806194.png


“Official Duster” Jerry Smith, photographed in 1889 by Frances G. Johnston

https://www.blogarama.com/frame?siteId=279290&postid=19379851

The link provides more on Jeremiah's story, telling of the impressive man he was. This thread is as much about him as it is about Julia Grant.

Edit: To include inverted commas (") for the piece which is taken from the link provided.
 
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Pat Young

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#2
Jeremiah Smith was a free Negro, born in Anne Arundel County, MD in 1835. Very little is known of him, except that he grew into an imposing figure of manhood, with the manners of a courtier.

During the Civil War, he served as a teamster in the Union Army, where perhaps he made the acquaintance of General Grant.

. View attachment 286987 Jeremiah Smith, long time White House employee.

That is about as scant as we know

Then he obtained a position in the Grant White House.

Smith was first engaged as a White House footman, and accompanied Mrs. Grant on her rounds of “calls,” a popular tradition in Washington for several decades. Dressed in his finest navy blue livery with silver trim, it was his responsibility to help the First Lady from the carriage and escort her to the door of whichever home she was visiting. If the lady was “at home,” he would wait until Mrs. Grant was ready to leave (about fifteen minutes), and then escort her back to the carriage. If the lady was not “at home,” Jerry would take Mrs. G’s calling card from a silver case, and leave it with whoever answered the door.

Julia Grant was a genuinely nice lady, and took a somewhat maternal interest in all the servants. When the Grants were in the White House, Washington real estate prices were low, and some “affordable housing” was available for the newly freed Negroes. Julia strongly urged all her Negro servants to purchase these houses as insurance for their old age: they would always have a place to live.

Jerry Smith was slow to respond to Mrs. Grant’s urging, and she became worried about the footman she had grown to like. She is said to have scolded him, adding that if he did not make arrangements to purchase a house immediately, she would buy one for him, and withhold some of his monthly wages to pay for it.

Jerry bought the house.

View attachment 287047

“Official Duster” Jerry Smith, photographed in 1889 by Frances G. Johnston

https://www.blogarama.com/frame?siteId=279290&postid=19379851

The link provides more on Jeremiah's story, telling of the impressive man he was. This thread is as much about him as it is about Julia Grant.
African Americans provided the human infrastructure for the White House.
 

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#6
Just like anywhere else in the country the South has separate and distinct cultures.
The whole pace of life, the tempo and rhythm of work and it's accordant luxury of relaxation was different in the south. Not sure if they varied so much in the big harbors, where major shipping lanes were located, but definitely as one moves to the interior.
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Lubliner

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#8
Are you from the south?
Born in Lynchburg, orphaned into Richmond, and adopted on the Virginia Peninsula, where I was raised. It is a southern way, and I was brought up in a higher station than what I had been birthed from. Unfortunately, I didn't take to the mold, and prefer the trappings of swamp, field, woodland, and creeks than car polish; fortunately....just a matter of perspective.
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Lubliner

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#10
Yes, much more laid back in the south. Seems more so the further south you go. Those Caribbean Islands very laid back. Ha, but really. I always wondered if the heat had something to do with that.
Attitudes, people are more observant in the south, making it harder to remain unknown. People are more inquisitive here as well, and weigh their judgements of what is more important differently. I used to escape to New York City for short excursions when I was a young man, because I could mingle and disappear. Crocodile Dundee gave me a bit of a laugh when it first showed. For those that did take notice of me were pretty accurate in their assessment. South carries more unfounded rumor. Didn't mean to hijack this thread. In 1962 I was flown to Washington D. C. as a guest of the Congressman in our neighborhood. I was eight years old. So I know the Capitol.
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#11
Didn't mean to hijack this thread.
Always love to hear people's thoughts, and I think mine is that African Americans were a large part of the infrastructure as Pat said, but not just in the White House. No doubt the South garnered much of their labor, and much of that was also for 'free'. Jerry Smith was a free black man, so he had a choice about his labor and by some unknown route ended up at the White House. The information around how this happened is very scanty, but it's obvious he was a very well respected man, and if you read the full article it shows just how well respected he was by those who knew him. He was a servant, but he was honoured on his 25th wedding anniversary by high Statesmen. I'm glad I found his story, and I think it's worth acknowledging.
 

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#13
Always love to hear people's thoughts, and I think mine is that African Americans were a large part of the infrastructure as Pat said, but not just in the White House. No doubt the South garnered much of their labor, and much of that was also for 'free'. Jerry Smith was a free black man, so he had a choice about his labor and by some unknown route ended up at the White House. The information around how this happened is very scanty, but it's obvious he was a very well respected man, and if you read the full article it shows just how well respected he was by those who knew him. He was a servant, but he was honoured on his 25th wedding anniversary by high Statesmen. I'm glad I found his story, and I think it's worth acknowledging.
I believe he had an unmistakable demeanor, bearing, and character, being exposed to house servants as a southern child growing up. Some were live in, and some commuted in about every day, and they were always full of dignity and respect. Doormen up north were noticed with the same quality, and many cooks, waiters, and waitresses were polite, congenial and always helpful. Nowadays, I sometimes wonder over the stigma of servitude, and the thought of never being able to return those favors.
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#15
I believe he had an unmistakable demeanor, bearing, and character, being exposed to house servants as a southern child growing up. Some were live in, and some commuted in about every day, and they were always full of dignity and respect. Doormen up north were noticed with the same quality, and many cooks, waiters, and waitresses were polite, congenial and always helpful. Nowadays, I sometimes wonder over the stigma of servitude, and the thought of never being able to return those favors.
Lubliner.
Just like in any race, culture or professions, there are good people and there are bad people. I grew up with a live in black lady who was like a mother to me. My brother described he as "a saint" but funny thing is her grandchildren, who were my age and schoolmates, told me that "you must have been angels, she would wallop us if we got out of line..." She was a saint us anyway.
 

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#16
they were always full of dignity and respect.
I often think this gets lost in the larger picture, the fact that people carried themselves with dignity and respect. If we take that away from them then, in my opinion, they have little left. In spite of circumstances, and there's no doubt some were extremely difficult circumstances, we give something back to people in acknowledging that.
 

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#17
Just like in any race, culture or professions, there are good people and there are bad people.
I would have to agree.

And I know many current cultures still have live in people who help to carry out the daily tasks. In many ways it seems foreign to us now in Western culture, but this is one way for people to make a living and provide for their families. We all must work. It's just the tasks are different. I think to have had someone like you describe @jack1492 to help care for you must have created a very good impression, and your brother obviously thought the world of her. These are not people you forget. And you definitely respect.
 
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Lubliner

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#18
I would have to agree.

And I know many current cultures still have live in people who help to carry out the daily tasks. In many ways it seems foreign to us now in Western culture, but this is one way for people to make a living and provide for their families. We all must work. It's just the tasks are different. I think to have had someone like you describe @jack1492 to help care for you must have created a very good impression and your brother obviously thought the world of her. These are not people you forget. And you definitely respect.
I must agree, and part of that dignity and respect comes from the desire to do right, and be proper, even if a whooping is deserved. They served us more from the heart, and not the mind of the world's worries; and gave us a bearing to follow.
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#19
I guess that means he was always free since everyone during that time were free.
Sorry, I missed this earlier, but my impression is he was born a free black man prior to the Civil War even though slavery still existed in Maryland at the time. By 1860 nearly 50% of the population of Maryland consisted of free blacks (Peter Kolchin, American Slavery: 1619–1877, New York: Hill and Wang, 1993, pp. 81–82)
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#20
They built the White House, too. It's always struck me as so odd that so much of our foundation, literally and figuratively, was laid by African Americans but there's little discussion on it. You know the uber graceful, marvels of centuries-old architecture on historic homes lists? Gee whiz. They're incredible for the craftsmanship- get a crick in my neck just looking at some of the plaster and wood moldings, thinking someone made that. By hand. We know whose skills and talents were responsible, doesn't always get pointed out.

Somewhere is a thread on our Capitol dome Statue of Freedom- another memorial to black artistry. Crawford's assistant Phillip Reid was a black artisan.

Sorry, @Cavalry Charger , also digressing on your thread! Jerry Smith had a lot of company, only excuse I have!
 



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