Turn of the Century Immigration: Domestic Servants at Idylease

Idylease Immigrants
Thanks to Holly Perry Romano for contacting me with the Idylease Census Record from 1910

The thirteenth Census of The United States in 1910 lists 14 employees at Idylease. Predominantly from Ireland, the staff also boasted workers from Canada, Denmark, Sweden, England & Norway.

After the Famine struck Ireland in 1847, millions of Irish immigrants landed on America’s shores. Many of them were women, young and unmarried. In fact, it was far easier for a single woman to get a job in America than a man–because there was a huge demand for domestic servants. Irish female immigrants, in particular, were almost exclusively domestics. They became chamber maids, cooks, and the caretakers of children. Turn of the century Americans disdained this type of work and felt these domestic tasks where fit only for servants.

In a letter written by Dr. Edgar Day who was the operator of Idylease in 1903, he wrote about his preference for Irish servants, “The thing is very simple: the Irish girls are industrious, willing, cheerful, and honest–they work hard, and they are very strictly moral. I should say that is quite reason enough to place them in my employ.”

But, if you think most immigrants who came to the United States in the late 1800s started at the bottom and toiled their way to the top, you’re mistaken.

In fact, when they first arrived in the United States the average immigrant did not make substantially less money than those who were already here and they also tended to advance on the job at the same rate as well, according to the report, A Nation of Immigrants: Assimilation and Economic Outcomes in the Age of Mass Migration.

“Many people have this image in mind that immigrants of the past started out at the bottom of the ladder and worked their way up pretty quickly,” said Leah Platt Boustan, an associate professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles, who worked on the report. “But what our data suggests is that immigrants in the past already arrived looking pretty good relative to natives so there wasn’t much of a gap on average to close.”

Those who came from developed countries such as England, Scotland, France and Germany generally went straight into higher-paying jobs, while those from less developed countries — Scandinavia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Poland and Russia — landed jobs that paid less.


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A Story Behind an Old Photo at Idylease

Idylease History
1903 Photograph at Idylease by Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore

In spite of the tech savvy time we live, the closest thing we have to recapturing time is the photograph. The photograph allows us to peer into the past and allows us to witness a still glimpse of a moment in time. With a photograph taken over 110 years ago, the task of identifying those personalities can be nearly impossible. One day the brief glimpses of us during our lives will be observed much in the same way. Henry Cartier-Bresson once said: “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again”.

An old picture contains the faces of people we wish we might know better. For most, the faces and posture of the individuals are observed and then we move on to the next. The goal with this particular photograph that was taken at Idylease in 1903 was to identify those persons that were “frozen” in time. As an added bonus, even the photographer was able to be identified. This all would have been impossible where it not for Leonore Drake who wrote my father Dr. Arthur Zampella in 1966 to explain.

August 1966

Dear Dr Arthur Zampella,

The portrait of the founding members of the Newfoundland Health Association who owned and built Idylease was photographed by Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore who lived and owned “Deer Haven” on Greenpond Road. He lived in a rather unusual bungalow type house which he photographed and wrote about for “Country Life” magazine while it was being built.

I thought it might interest you to identify the people in the picture.

At the extreme left ifs Alice Day, Dr. Day’s daughter who was the bookkeeper at Idylease. Slightly in front of her is Mrs Caswell who was from Brooklyn. Next, with a bow in her hair is Mrs Day, Dr. Day’s wife, who was head of the housekeeping department at Idylease.

Standing next to her is Mrs. Egna Winters who lived on Union Valley Road. Her house was on the right hand side just before the sharp bend beyond the lefthand road going to “Miami Beach”.

The two children we cannot identify, they may have been the children of the photographer Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore who would refer to Mrs. Winters as their mother.

The two girls in white are Christine and Jennie Eckhart daughter of Will Eckhart whose house stood across from the Stellar place which stands just above Idylease with the stone well in the front yard that still yields water.

The gentleman seated on the right side is Dr Edgar Arthur Day. The tallest gentleman is Dr. Marks. The man to his left with the bald head is my father Dr. Daniel Drake. Back then he wore a mustache to make himself look older! The picture does not recall him as we remember, but my brother believes it is him, chiefly because of the moustache. However, he did not wear one later in life.

The picture was taken in the summer of 1903. My mother & brother and I did not make the journey the day the photograph was taken. We traveled to Idylease in November of that year, but my father was there from the time they had opened earlier in the spring. In his spare moments, he was studying to take the examinations to allow him to practice in New Jersey. He already had the diploma and license to practice medicine in New York State.

Dr. Day died in March of 1907 and at that time my father bought Idylease from Dr Day’s widow along with all interest that she had in the place.

The name George A Day appears often; he was a nephew of Dr. Day and came to Idylease to become the business/office manager. Another brother of Dr. Day, a carpenter, worked on the addition that was later added to the dining room wing of Idylease in 1907. The only Days that now survive are two daughters of the aforementioned Days (I believe one sisters name was Grace?).

The young man with the collar with points and the watch chain was Joseph LaCour who was the lawyer for Idylease at that time.

I would like to express to you my deep appreciation that you have purchased and continue to operate Idylease because it was home to my brother and I for many years and there are memories of lovely associations with the structure and the grounds.

Most sincerely,

Leonore Drake


Illustration by Dugmore, Arthur Radclyffe; Troops Going over the Top, First World War (Battle of the Somme); York Museums Trust

Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore (1870-1955) was an Irish-born pioneering American naturalist and wildlife photographer, painter, print-maker and author. Dugmore was born in Ireland. He was elected to The Camera Club of New York in 1902 and presented his work in their exhibitions. In 1902 Dugmore’s photography caught the attention of Alfred Stieglitz, the single most important figure in American photography at that time, who published Dugmore’s article entitled “Effective Lighting in Bird Photography” and his photogravure of small birds on a branch as illustration in the first issue of Stieglitz” quarterly photographic journal Camera Work. His photographs were exhibited in London in 1903 at the Royal Photographic Society annual show. In 1905 his work was included in the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition held in Portland, Oregon.

Dugmore would go on to design the cover for Country Life in America three times in 1906 and in 1907 and 1908, his thirteen-part series entitled “The Amateur Photographer” was published in the magazine. In 1909 and 1911 his articles were published in the American Annual of Photography.

Dugmore, the naturalist and sportsman, took part in photo-safaris in Newfoundland in 1907, Kenya in 1909-1910. In 1908 Dugmore and James Lippit Clark undertook the Dugmore/Clark photo safari to Africa where he took photographs for Collier’s Weekly. On that voyage he produced the first film on African wildlife and brought specimens back for hunters including Theodore Roosevelt and for American museums.

Dugmore studied painting at the Bell’ Arte in Naples and at the Academy of Design in New York. He undertook the scientific study of natural history to be able to depict wild life through his art. He first exhibited his paintings in 1914. By 1931 Dugmore was known for his films “The Wonderland of Big Game” and “The Vast Sudan” as well as his many books on wild animals. In 1931 M. Knoedler & Company in Chicago hosted an exhibition of Dugmore’s paintings which included studies of animals of Kenya, Canada and Newfoundland.

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Idylease Aerial Video

Majestically standing on Union Valley Road since the day she opened her doors to the public in 1903, Idylease remains one of Newfoundland’s most beautiful and impressive structures.

For over 25 years Richard Zampella has envisioned an opportunity to celebrate the history and future of the land that he grew up on in Newfoundland, NJ. Consistent with the wishes of his late father, Dr. Arthur Zampella, the property along with it’s historic structure is finally under the stewardship of his son Richard.

I hope you enjoy this tribute to this historic landmark and to my father, Arthur Zampella, M.D.

This footage was filmed over the course of several days over the skies of Idylease. Photographed and Edited by filmmaker Richard Zampella — The video makes use of a DJI Phantom Drone with a Zenmuse 3-D Gimbal and the GoPro HERO 4 Camera.

For more info about Idylease, visit: http://www.idylease.org

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