Thursday, September 5, 2013

Family Treasure Exists In The Simplest Of Objects --- Treasure Chest Thursday (September 5, 2013)

The object pictured above is a brass letter opener with the "Green Cross for Safety" logo on it.  The Green Cross logo is used by the National Safety Council, which was founded in the U.S. in October 1913.  The green cross as a symbol for "safety" and the principles and practices that promote safe behavior in the workplace and elsewhere, grew out of the "Safety First" slogan that was coined in the U.S. around 1910 and has morphed into the more modern concept of the "Safety Culture."

The first use of a green cross to symbolize the concept of safety probably occurred in Japan in 1919 as part of a "Safety Week" in Tokyo.  As stated in "History of the Green Cross" (where illustrations of the evolution of the green cross symbol can be seen) . . . "The Safety Week aimed to realize both [a] safe workplace and [a] safe city without disasters, accidents, crimes and so on, so that its advocates carried on [a] safety campaign to protect the vulnerable such as workers, women, children, pedestrians or others like that."  

In the U.S., the green cross was adopted by the National Safety Council in its promotion of various safety programs and initiatives.  Today the green cross is used as part of the Council's own logo as illustrated immediately below. 

My maternal grandfather, Everett Shearman Carpenter (1891 - 1962), was an electrical engineer and a graduate of Brown University.  During his career, he served for 13 years as an investigator of claims, hazards and exposures under the Rhode Island State Compensation Law.  He was the first inspector to be appointed to the newly reorganized State Division of Factory Inspection in April 1939 and almost exactly two months later (in June 1939) he was named the Head of the Division.  He was later employed by the Grinnell Corporation as a Safety Engineer.

Somewhere along the line, my grandfather was given the brass letter opener shown above.  It could have been a trinket given out at some professional conference or it might have been an award token to mark some safety milestone achievement or the like -- at this point no one knows.  I remember the letter opener as an everyday item in my grandparents' home.  It was used daily to open mail envelopes.  There was also a small brass mechanical roller calendar with little knobs that one used to advance internal scrolls to change the name of the day of the week, the number of the day and the name of the month.  It was a coveted privilege to be able to advance the calendar in the morning during a visit because we were not allowed to otherwise play with it.  The calendar also had a Green Cross logo on it (as shown below) and was also either a trinket or perhaps a minor award memento as with the letter opener.  Again, no one knows at this point.


When my grandfather died, my grandmother, Ruth Eaton (Cooke) Carpenter, sold the family homestead and moved into an apartment.  During the years she lived in the apartment, the letter opener sat on the table in her kitchen along with the calendar.  She used both items every day.  When my grandmother died seventeen years after my grandfather, I requested the mechanical calendar and the letter opener and my mother and her siblings gave them to me.  These mundane objects were touched and used every day by my grandparents over several decades.  We now use the letter opener to open our mail.  Sadly, the calendar's day number scroll has snapped or separated internally somehow so it cannot be used now (although it was used by us for several years).  

The small items shown here are emotional treasure even if they have little, if any, extrinsic value today.  Unlike a rarely-noticed picture that might have hung on a wall in my grandparents home, or a book that sat untouched for years on one of their shelves, these two items were tools that my grandparents used every day without even a passing thought about them I am sure; but it is for that very reason that they have such meaning for me.  Almost like a talisman, these everyday objects are imbued with the magic ability to recall memories and images of my maternal grandparents with every touch and use.  And what better genealogical treasure can there be than that?  

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Photographs by the author of items in my personal collection.
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew

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1 comment:

  1. The treasures that you know they used almost daily are some of the most special! It's great for you to have these, I know how you feel about them.
    The Old Trunk in the Attic