A house divided


ow cool is that? While aimlessly Googling information on my most recent obsession house, I came across the 1940 census, whose 72-year embargo ended this spring. With a little luck and determination, sure enough, I was able to find who was living in my house for its Golden Jubilee. And the results were something of a surprise to me.

I’ve suspected for a while that the house was a rental at some point in its life because of code-complying modifications like the sealed transom windows above the bedroom doors. And the sixteenth United State Census confirmed my suspicion. But I’m a little surprised to learn that in 1940, the house was rented by two families. I really don’t know how it could have been split up (however, given the difference in rent, one family may have been renting only a bedroom or two). There’s no indication that the house was split and then restored to a single-family dwelling.

The first family listed on the schedule is 37-year-old Floyd Nowland, his 34-year-old wife Lillian and their eight-year-old son, Edward. Dad worked 50 hours a week as a bartender. Mom raised Edward, who was in the second grade. Floyd quit school after the 8th grade, and Lillian made it through junior year. They paid their $18 rent ($295 today) rent with Floyd’s $1,100 ($18,000) a year income.

The Nowlands apparently lived with the Rolfs. Adelma was a 32-year-old divorcée with two kids: Lynne, an eight-year-old second-grader and John, 6. They payed $35 ($570) in rent, compared to the Nowlands’ $18. Adelma probably had a college degree, presumably in architecture, and worked 50 hours a week in a park, I think (the cursive is tough to read) for most of the previous year, earning $1,050 ($17,200).

I’m quite aware of how geeky this is, but I get a kick out of it. I think it’s interesting to see how these people lived, and would love to know more (like how Adelma raised two kids on a small salary, nearly half of which she put into rent). But the total rent of about 850 of today’s dollars rings true.

Pretty cool to see. Take a look for yourself:

I know the image above is too small to read. Click on it for a full-sized version that is only negligibly easier to decipher.

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