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November 18, 2004

Sid Says: Don't Get Anxious About New York: Let New York Get Anxious About You

John Siddall and Family, circa 1902 - 1904
Front Row - Roger and Dudley Siddall, nephews of John Siddall
Second Row - Eugene A. Siddall, Charles J. Siddall, Sarah Orinda Candee Siddall, Mary Beard Siddall, William A. Siddall, Bessie Parker Siddall
Third Row - Nettie Danielson Siddall, John MacAlpine Siddall, George Bennett Siddall, Miranda Colby Siddall, Eugenia Siddall

Siddall descendant Hampton Wilmot, who obligingly sent me the picture above, notes that it was likely taken on a Sunday, as James F. Siddall, the family patriarch and devout Quaker, refused to be photographed on that day.

He also wouldn't read the Sunday paper; his sons chided him that he had it mixed up, he shouldn't read the Monday paper which carried the Sunday news.

I've now put more of the Siddall genealogy online than I have of my own. It will likely stay that way, as what my mother has discovered about the family tree now fills several large notebooks, and is thus too big of a project to contemplate. Interestingly, we've managed the neat trick of being descended both from one of Jefferson Davis's cabinet makers as well as the head of his Masonic Lodge. Who says the upper and lower classes don't mix?

Today's Siddall essay was one of his more popular; Don't Get Anxious About New York: Let New York Get Anxious About You. Kind of has an eerie "advice to the Red-State voter" ring to it, doesn't it?

However, it's exactly the opposite, as Siddall advises all those out in the sticks to stay there if they've any reason to fear failure.

Note: For those of you who have managed to get this far, yet happen to be unfamiliar with this series of posts; John Siddall was a minor figure in the muckraking movement of early 20th century journalism--though he managed in one way or another to brush up against most of the major figures in journalism, politics and business of that era. Were a novelist to construct a historical fiction of that time, the central character would almost have to resemble Siddall in some form or another. Through sheer happenstance, I've ended up as his biographer. The first post in this (very occasional) series may be found here.


Don't Get Anxious About New York: Let New York Get Anxious About You

An old friend called to ask my advice the other day. He came to New York from a little Indiana town. He has a wife and four children—and a poor job. As I talked with him I kept picturing him where he belongs—back in the old home town. If he had stayed there he might have worked into a $1,000 or $1,200 job, which would have been sufficient to satisfy all his needs and most of his wants. He could have had a garden, a yard, a savings bank account and a membership in the local lodge. Evenings he could have sat on his porch and held converse with his neighbors. On the Fourth of July he could have been "some punkins" at the neighborhood picnic. He might have become a village councilman; and when the fall campaign arrived, he could have been on the committee to welcome the congressman when that great personage came to town in search of votes. In other words, he might have had a real place in the community.

Now what does he get in exchange for the $1,000 or $1,200 that he earns in New York? Well, I suppose he gets a measly little flat with dark bedrooms, a fine assortment of cheap lunches, two chances daily to hang by his eyelids in the subway, a great fund of loneliness and a woe-begone feeling of uselessness.

That is the trouble with these whaling big cities like New York and Chicago. They are all right for men of known ability—men of force and ambition who have learned how to direct their talents. But they are hard on untried men—men who have not yet found themselves. This is not said for the purpose of scaring venturesome and unattached young fellows of ability who want to try their muscles on the big town. There is no danger of scaring them. They cannot be scared. The morning trains are bringing them in by the hundreds— this very day—and all the printing presses in the world could not drive them back. But it is said for the purpose of causing every small-town man, with responsibilities, to consider carefully before coming whether he has a definite aim in coming, and whether he has faith and conviction that he really has something to give to the big town.

Don't come just for the ride. Don't come except from positive choice. Don't come just because others are coming. The best rule of all is this—if you have no definite, compelling reason within yourself to come, don't come until you are invited. Do your job well at home. If the big town wants you she will call for you. A hundred telegrams went out from New York today to various and remote parts of the United States carrying offers of good jobs to smart chaps who have done so well that New York has heard of them. Only last week I met a young man from Massachusetts who had just been offered an $8,000-a-year place in New York. He said he hadn't the least idea how the thing started—except that he had done work that had been brought to the attention of several New York bankers, one of whom had looked him up and then flashed him the offer of a job.

So leave your name and address with the local operator and go back to your knitting. New York is not tongue-tied. If she needs you she'll wire. Of course, if you think you are a record-breaking genius you will probably take the first train for Broadway—and maybe it will be just as well for you to do so. A genius is just as unhappy one place as another. But, genius or no genius, there won't be any brass band to meet you when you arrive at the Grand Central Station.


Next: It Is Sometimes Better To Remain A Bore Than To Make Yourself Too Interesting

Posted by Bigwig at November 18, 2004 02:49 PM | TrackBack
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.

Barrister, You should know that I took the opportunity to dance on the grave of Jefferson Davis the last time, (well, second to last) I was in Richmond. Please know that I hold you in the highest regard.

Posted by: Sully at November 18, 2004 04:40 PM
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