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Posted on June 25, 2021 at 3:30 PM by Melissa Dalton
About a month ago, we shared a blog about the Bailey House, which we learned of through a small collection of advertisements. This week, we are sharing more! In particular, we have two postcards from J. Fred Smith, a music dealer in Xenia, Ohio (Fig 1). These postcards are quite colorful and have a tranquil aspect to them. They catch the eye, and we wanted to share them with you, along with a little bit that we learned about Smith and his life.
Fig 1. Postcards advertising J. Fred Smith, Pianos, Organs and Musical Merchandise (Greene County Archives)
James Fred Smith was born in England around 1836. The name is rather common, so locating him in the records has been a bit difficult without more detailed information. For example, without having a definitive date of birth, place of birth, name of parents, or date of arrival in the United States, it was almost impossible to know if we had the right James Fred Smith.
The first evidence we were able to find of him living in Greene County was a marriage record. In 1877, James Fred Smith married Jane G. Barber (Fig 2). Unfortunately, this was before more detailed information was included in the marriage record (names of parents, dates of birth, previous marriages, etc.), so all we have are names and a marriage date.
Fig 2. Marriage Record of James Fred Smith and Jane Barber, 1877 (Greene County Archives)
In 1880, J. Fred, Jennie (aka Jane), and a 6-year-old child, Kittie, were living in Cedarville (Fig 3). Kittie appears to be the child of Fred from a previous marriage, although I was unable to find the previous marriage. There is a death record for a Kittie C. Smith in 1873, which could have been her mother, but these older records lack detail, so this is only a guess.
We learn more about J. Fred through the newspapers. In 1883, J. Fred Smith purchased Merrick’s Palace of Music and moved his family from Cedarville to Xenia (Fig 4).
Fig 3. 1880 US Census with Smith family outlined in red (FamilySearch.org)
Fig 4. Notice of purchase in Xenia Daily Gazette, 18 May 1883 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Fig 5. Advertisements in Xenia Daily Gazette for Palace of Music, Merrick’s dated 22 Jan 1883 & Smith’s dated 5 Jun 1883 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
After the purchase of the music business, J. Fred Smith shows up in the Xenia Daily Gazette quite frequently. There is a great amount of advertisements regarding changes in inventory or the building, but also for his involvement in the community. For example, he worked with the Sons of Veterans in 1890 to provide new musical instruments for the Orphan’s Home, as well as gave concerts or played music for a variety of social events in the area (Fig 6). There are even a few notes regarding his Christmas displays, as well as exhibitions at the fair (Fig 7).
Fig 6. Articles in Xenia Daily Gazette, 18 Apr 1890 (left); 5 Dec 1890 (right) (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Fig 7. Articles in Xenia Daily Gazette regarding displays and exhibitions – 8 Dec 1886 (left); 13 Sep 1889 (right) (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Smith’s business was known for selling pianos, organs, and other musical instruments and merchandise; however, he expanded beyond this inventory, and at times also sold art supplies, school and office supplies, frames and mouldings, stationery, hooks, engravings, and etchings.
On October 6, 1889, J. Fred and Jane had a son, Fred B. Smith (Fig 8). Just a few years later, in 1891, Smith advertised the sale of his business at cost. In 1893, James McCann bought the music store, and had a sale to offload all merchandise not pertaining to music (Fig 9). Smith stayed on staff as an employee.
Fig 8. Birth Record of Fred B. Smith, 6 Oct 1889 (Greene County Archives)
Fig 9. Notices in Xenia Daily Gazette of purchase of store by James McCann (20 Feb 1893); and the sale of non-music merchandise (24 Feb 1893) (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
After the sale of his business, Smith remained active in the community, performing in choirs, singing, and playing at local events. In 1900, Smith’s wife, Jane, passed away and was buried in Cedarville. Four years later, in January 1904, their son, Fred, passed away at the age of fourteen after a lengthy illness (Fig 10). He was buried in Cedarville with his mother.
Fig 10. Obituary of Fred B. Smith, Xenia Daily Gazette, 6 Jan 1904 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
After the death of young Fred, it was difficult to find much more about James Fred Smith or his life, including when he died. He seems to have just faded from the records. If you have any information on his life after 1904, we would be interested to hear it!
Until Next Time.
Greene County Archives
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