It was then that a mysterious "B.
Virdot" took out a tiny ad in the Canton Repository , offering to help the needy before Christmas. All he asked was that they write to him and tell him of their hardships. Virdot, he said, was not his real name, and no one would ever know his true identity. He pledged that those who wrote to him would also remain anonymous. Letters poured into the post office by the hundreds. From every corner of the beleaguered town they came—from the baker, the bellhop, the steeplejack, the millworker, the blacksmith, the janitor, the pipe fitter, the salesman, the fallen executive.
All of them told their stories in the hope of receiving a hand. For many, it was more money than they had seen in months. So stunning was the offer that it was featured in a front-page story in the newspaper, and word of it spread a hundred miles.
For many of those who received a check signed by B. Virdot, the Christmas of would be among their most memorable. And despite endless speculation about his identity, B. Virdot remained unknown, as did the names of those he helped. Years passed. The forges and shops of Canton came back to life, and memories of the Great Depression gradually faded.
Virdot went to his grave along with many of those he had helped. But his secret was intact. And so it seemed destined to remain. Then in —75 years later—and miles away, in an attic in Kennebunk, Maine, my year-old mother handed me a battered old suitcase. At first I didn't know what to make of them—so many handwritten letters, many difficult to read, and all dated December and addressed to a stranger named B. The same name appeared on a stack of canceled checks. It was only after I found the yellowed newspaper article that carried the story of the gift that I came to realize what my mother had given me.
His real name was Sam Stone. Virdot" was a combination of his daughters' names—Barbara, Virginia my mother and Dorothy. My grandmother had mentioned something about his largesse to my mother when she was a young adult, but it had remained a family secret. Now, 30 years after her father's death, she was comfortable letting the secret out. Collectively, the letters offer a wrenching vision of the Great Depression and of the struggle within the souls of individuals, many too proud to speak of their anguish even to their loved ones.
Some sought B. Virdot's generosity not for themselves, but for their neighbors, friends or relatives. From each family, I received permission to use the letter. All of this I did against the backdrop of our own deepening recession, one more devastating than any since the Great Depression itself. I also set out to find why my grandfather made the gifts.
When You Aren’t Who You Think You Are
I knew his early years had been marked by poverty—as a child he had rolled cigars, worked in a coal mine and washed soda bottles until the acidic cleansing agent ate at his fingertips. Years later, as the owner of Stone's Clothes, a men's clothier, he finally achieved a measure of success. But in the course of my research I discovered that his birth certificate was bogus. Instead of being born in Pittsburgh, as he had long claimed, he was a refugee from Romania who came to this land in his early teens and simply erased his past.
Born an orthodox Jew and raised to keep kosher and speak Yiddish, he had chosen to make his gift on a gentile holiday, perhaps as a way of acknowledging his debt to a land that had accepted him.
Beware the baby-snatchers: how social services can ruin your family | The Spectator
Among those who wrote to B. Virdot was George Monnot, once one of Canton's most prosperous businessmen. Monnot had co-owned a Ford dealership that sometimes featured an person band in tuxedos. His good fortune had also brought him a lakeside summer home, a yacht and membership in the country club. But by , it was all gone.
He and his family were living in an alley apartment among displaced workers, many of them unsure of their next meal. In his letter, he wrote:. For 26 years was in the Automobile business prosperous at one time and have done more than my share in giving at Christmas and at all times. Have a family of six and struggle is the word for me now for a living. Xmas will not mean much to our family this year as my business, bank, real estate, Insurance policies are all swept away.
Our resources are nil at present perhaps my situation is no different than hundreds of others. However a man who knows what it is to be up and down can fully appreciate the spirit of one who has gone through the same ordeal. You are to be congratulated for your benevolence and kind offer to those who have experienced this trouble and such as the writer is going through.
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No doubt you will have a Happy Christmas as there is more real happiness in giving and making someone else happy than receiving. May I extend to you a very Happy Christmas. It was put to good use paying for 2 pairs of shoes for my girls and other little necessities.
The Church during the Great Depression
I hope some day I have the pleasure of knowing to whom we are indebted for this very generous gift. At present I am not of employment and it is very hard going. However I hope to make some connection soon. I again thank you on behalf of the family and an earnest wish is that you have a most Happy New Year. But George Monnot would never again attain economic or social prominence. He spent his final days as a clerk in a factory and his evenings in the basement among his tools, hoping to invent something that might lift him up once more. In some ways, Monnot was one of the lucky ones.
He at least had a place to call home. Many of those who reached out to B. Virdot had been reduced to living as nomads. As historian Judith Walzer Leavitt writes , mothers worried they would go home with the wrong baby— and sometimes they did. It took a world war to finally give birth certificates the push they needed to become universal.
During World War II , defense-related plants began to hire in unprecedented numbers—but by law, they could only hire American citizens. At the time, the article estimated, , people were born every year without getting a birth certificate. Magazines and newspapers began to try to educate people on the need for birth certificates—but warned of the difficulty of getting one during wartime. New born babies in an American hospital. The normalization of the birth certificate process, however, was not without its societal difficulties.
As the social welfare state expanded, so did the need for birth certificates. In , the National Office of Vital Statistics took over birth certificates nationally. These days, they prove eligibility for things like Social Security, Medicaid, and public programs like WIC offering food and nutrition to women, mothers and young children that might make a Progressive-Era reformer proud.
Installed in the White House was a president who had never before held elected office. A moderately successful businessman, he promised American jobs for Americans—and made good on that promise by slashing immigration by nearly 90 percent. He wore his hair parted down the middle, rather than elaborately piled on top, and his name was Herbert Hoover, not Donald Trump.
So much so that today, a different president is edging towards similar solutions, with none of the hesitation or concern that basic consciousness would seem to require. In his speech on Tuesday, the president repeated this plan:.
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Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration.