Thomas Hamilton Ormsbee

Sweet child, believe in yourself, your future looks very promising!

I asked my Instagram community their opinion about the surname – they suggested Ormsbee, and they were right once again!

Meet Thomas “Tom” Hamilton Ormsbee from Brooklyn, N.Y., 2 years old in this diamond shaped cabinet card photo.

Tom was born on August 25th, 1890 in Brooklyn, NYC, to reporter and editor Hamilton Ormsbee and Agnes née Bailey. Tom had two older sisters Helen and Mary.

In 1900, 1905,1910 and 1915 the Ormsbees were all living together at 435 Macon Street in Brooklyn (the brown house).

Source: GoogleMaps

In 1913, Tom was drafted to military service to regiment 2nd Co 9th CAC NYG. And as many from his generation, as if one war was not enough, he would later be drafted to serve in WWII as well.

On November 16th, 1918, Tom married Renee Richmond Huntley in Middlebury, Addison in Vermont. According to their marriage announcement, they were both graduates of Middlebury College, perhaps college sweethearts? I love the detail in wedding announcements – we know by name who served refreshments, the choice of flower decorations, the selection of wedding gifts. It also says that Thomas was writer on foreign business with an office in New York. The wedding must have been quite an event as I’ve found their wedding announcement in at least 6 different newspapers :). They all report the same, so I’ll share only one of them with you below.

In 1920, the newly-weds were still living with Tom’s parents and sister Helen in 435 Macon Street. Tom is not listed as a writer this time, but instead as a salesman for woodenware. Perhaps they meant wooden antique furniture, he became a specialist in that. But about that a bit later. Tom’s wife Renee worked as a private music teacher. By 1930, the couple had finally moved into a place of their own at 182 Congress Street in Brooklyn. Looks like the couple didn’t have any children, none are listed in the censuses.

Tom had returned to writing. He wrote a feature called “Antiques: Questions and Answers” for “House and Garden Magazine” at the time.

Census 1940 has them living in Pound Ridge, Westchester, New York.

Like mentioned above, in 1942 at 52 years of age, Tom was drafted once again. I doubt at his age he was sent out overseas. The draft card reveals that he was 5 8 tall, 135 pounds, had blue eyes and gray hair.

Tom was widowed in September 1965. Perhaps this broke him as he fell ill shortly after and spent the last two years of his life in a Veteran’s Hospital. He passed away on August 4th, 1969 in Pound Ridge, Westchester. He was buried at Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Churchyard next to his wife. He lived to be 78 years old.

The Ormsbees all loved writing, and were apparently were talented at that. Father Hamilton Ormsbee had been a veteran member of The Brooklyn Eagle of more than 30 years as an editorial writer. Sister Helen Ormsbee (1893-1975) was first an actress on Broadway and later wrote for The Herald Tribune as a stage specialist; she also published a book called “Backstage with Actors, from the time of Shakespeare to the present day”. Sister Mary Whitton née Ormsbee (1887-1971) wrote “First First Ladies” and other books about women in American history, also “short stories and poems for newspapers and magazines, she also contributed several articles to The New York Times. One of her books, “The New Servant,” published in 1927, described the growing use of electrical appliances in the home” (quoted from The New York Times).

Tom wrote a dozen books, newspaper articles and features on antique furniture, heirlooms and collecting. He founded the magazine “The American Collector” in 1933. All the obituaries published in his honour in several newspapers praise him and his contribution to American antiques.

I’ve found the covers of some of his books on the Internet:

I am ever amazed over and over again about the stories found photos tell me! Never did I expect to find such a family history hidden behind the smile of this darling boy from Brooklyn. Without his name, handwritten on the reverse, I would never have known his story. I just love the journeys my found photos take me on. Especially in these troubled times when my heart and thoughts are so often with the families suffering because of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Genealogy is such a needed escape from the daily devastating news, I am grateful for this hobby now more than ever.

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