Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Sweet Glimpse of the Past


   Only five words into the NYT article about it, I decided not to address Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.  The article begins “Ending two years of speculation…”  If the Times editors really think that Hillary’s presidential ambitions were speculative, they probably don’t know what speculation is.  So here’s some real speculation.
An unrelated photograph of Mr. John Corea (Credit:

            I have never actually been in Hoboken (as opposed to around, through or over it) to cruise along the scenic Frank Sinatra Drive.  I do frequently travel by train to and fro the City, however, and I do on occasion pick up and read abandoned north Jersey newspapers left on the seats.  So over the past decade I have acquired a journeyman’s knowledge of Hudson County politics.  I know, for example, that Hoboken has an admirable reforming Mayor, Dawn Zimmer, who almost beat the crook who preceded her and whom she did replace when he was indicted for bribery and thrown in the hoosegow.   I also know that around 2009 there was a major scandal in the Hoboken Parking Authority when $600,000 went missing—that is, 2,400,000 quarters!  The local felon du jour for that caper was somebody named John Corea—some papers preferred the spelling Correa—who had been colluding with some Toms River associates of "mob boss Nicodemo 'Little Nicky' Scarfo."
Little Nicky

            With junk like this monopolizing the few remaining storage cells of my brain, you can see why I struggle with my scholarship.  But struggle I do, and as I was consulting a learned tome from my library shelves the other day out from its pages fell someone’s ancient bookmark in the form of an elegantly printed “at home” card, probably from the turn of the twentieth century: “Mrs. E. H. A. Correa / Second Thursdays / 920 Bloomfield Street / Hoboken NJ.”    You know what that means.  You’ve read some Edith Wharton.  Mrs. Correa was “at home” to visitors on the second Thursday of every month.  Drop in for a cup of tea.  What a wonderful whiff of a vanished civility!  And how very far away from “Little Nicky.”

            Not that I’m leaping to conclusions about the name Cor(r)ea, which is unfamiliar to me.  I don’t even know whether to pronounce it like the Asian country or like that Richard Cory who was a gentleman from soul to crown.  But a few moments Binging away yields some interesting facts.  For instance one learns from the indispensable International Insurance Encyclopedia that Emanuel H. A. Correa, born in New York in 1855, was by the dawn of twentieth century a leading executive of the Home Insurance Company.  In an archived copy of The Weekly Underwriter there is the sad news that Mr. Correa died too young on October 24, 1912, with a net worth of $38,606.  That was a while ago.  The Titanic disaster was only six months earlier.  One estimate of the current value of Mr. Correa’s fortune is $17,800,000—quite enough to afford a fine brownstone in such an exclusive suburb as Hoboken!  One deduces that Mr. Correa must have been a man of mild manner and cultivated taste.  We are not surprised to find his unopposed election to the New Jersey Philatelic Association on October 5, 1892.  Is there still a New Jersey Philatelic Association?  Do you still have to be elected to be a member?

            As for the spouse of this admirable man, the lady whose card had been closely preserved for at least the better part of a century between the pages of a Mermaid Series edition of The Two Angry Women of Abington, I have not discovered her given name.  But as Mrs. E. H. A. Correa of 920 Bloomfield Street her good works are lavishly spread upon the social and charitable records of early twentieth-century Hudson County.  I shall conclude this whimsical indulgence with a particularly sweet message she has left us from the grave.
a rare first edition

            In 1907 Christ Hospital in Jersey City, a charitable foundation of the Episcopal Church, published as a fund-raiser something called the Kirmess Cook Book: A Collection of Well-Tested Recipes from the Best Housekeepers of Jersey City and Elsewhere.  The cutesy title is an obeisance to the kind of ye-olde ethnic theme characteristic of do-good undertakings to this very day.  “Kirmess” is a version of the old Dutch word for a certain kind of village church festival, and it will be familiar to lovers of classic Dutch painting.  In 1900 the Dutch influence in New York and northeast Jersey, while waning, was still visible.  Here is the contribution of Mrs. E. H. A. Correa. 

David Teniers the younger


Mrs. E. H. A. Correa, Hoboken, N. J.

Soak one box *Cooper’s gelatine in one quart of California port wine, three cups of sugar, juice of four lemons, one ounce stick cinnamon.  Stand on extreme back of range for one hour, stirring occasionally.  At the end of an hour, add one quart of boiling water, strain and put in a cool place to stiffen.  When cold, serve with whipped cream.

*Peter Cooper (1791-1883) was the inventor of Jello.


Readers should be advised that I shall be attempting my next essay from somewhere on the road in northern Spain.  If you haven't heard anything for three weeks, say, somebody probably ought to inform the authorities.

1 comment:

  1. In Louisa May Alcott's short story "An Ivy Spray and Ladies' Slippers," the young women of a Boston dancing school are preparing for a kirmess. For over 30 years I have had some vague combination of a recital and a cotillion in my mind. (I am bad at research, which is why I left NYU with the lovely parting gift of an MA). Now, thanks to you, that part of my brain is finally at definitive rest.