On April 11, 1940, a census worker named Corinne Clarke Reynolds knocked on the door of the Tyree Building in Midtown Atlanta, where I now live. For whatever reason, she only recorded two of the twelve units in the building, the 315-316th of her household visits.
The first was the home of Manuel Blackwell, a 53-year-old widowed housewife who lived with her two daughters named Reba and Mary. Both twenty-something daughters were “sales ladies” by trade but had been out of work for six months. Each had earned $800 the previous year*, which according to this old NBER paper (pdf) was just at the median for all workers that year and about 30 percent more than the typical female earned. They each had evidently dropped out of high school after 1-2 years.
*$800 in 1939 inflates to $13,400 in 2012 according to the Minneapolis Fed.
The second household was that of Ethyl Pendley and her daughter…Ethyl. Mother Ethyl was also a widower, fifty years old, and worked as a stenographer at the state capitol. She too had dropped out of high school, but had earned $2,400 the prior year, which today would be worth about $40,000. Daughter Ethyl was 18 and was probably about to graduate high school.
I’m disappointed that Ms. Reynolds was unable to visit more of the units, but if the nearby addresses are any indication, the rest of our building would’ve been occupied by Georgia-born white families working an assortment of white-collar occupations earning maybe $1,000-1,500 a year. A remarkable number of the middle-aged women were widowed, perhaps due to World War I or maybe the Spanish Flu.
Today our building is (I think) still mostly white, middle-class, but skews towards the younger and single.
Click the image below for the the very hi-res full version. You can browse the 1940 census for yourself here.