This week's post is brought to you by the mystery that is Israel Spencer Jackson and his first wife, Dora. A few weeks ago, Archivist Melanie did a program with the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War about her current research project, centering around Israel and Dora. After the program, while digging around in some categorized archive files, this document was found:
At first glance, this looks like nothing more than a moth eaten advertisement, and that's not really far off from what it is. Israel was born and raised here in Clarke County (his family lived in Millwood, and he was probably born there), and he never really seemed to have much money, let alone a stable, consistent job. In May 1914 Dora is living in Philadelphia as a domestic servant, and Israel is still here in the county. His letter to Dora dated May 19 gives us no hints that he was considering applying to become a private detective. However, he repeatedly tells Dora, in several of his letters, that he is trying to get a job in Philadelphia, where she is, so they can be together. Note on the Application for Service, above, that you can specify your desired locale. Perhaps he was aiming for Philadelphia.
Ads for the C. T. Ludwig Training School were placed in newspapers all across the country, and any person could obtain more information by simply writing and inquiring. Unlike today, when we constantly receive spam letters, emails, and calls without first asking for the information, C. T. Ludwig required an initial application for information. Israel had to seek out this information.
This mystery concludes with more questions than answers. Why was Israel interested? Why did he not apply? Or did he? How did training work? There are several accounts in the papers of other African-American men, who had completed the course, not being taken seriously by different Police Departments. Is there a reason? Was the certification legitimate, or was it a hoax? A complicated, early pyramid scheme of sorts? At present, we have no answers.
Melanie is the current archivist for the Clarke County Historical Association, in Berryville, Virginia. She is a graduate from Shepherd University, where she earned a degree in History.