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Searching for Iva Carter: a young woman’s personal notes from 1921 found in an old textbook

Searching for Iva Carter: a young woman’s personal notes from 1921 found in an old textbook

Handwritten notes by Texas schoolgirl Iva Carter make this tattered old textbook a true and personal window into history

I found this beautifully tattered old textbook in a used book store in Austin, Texas about 10 years ago. It’s A Short History of England by Edward P. Cheyney, published 1904. I picked it up because I love old books, but also because it’s chock-full of handwritten pencil notes and personal musings by a young lady named Iva Belle Carter.

Iva wrote her home address inside and her childhood house still stands on Oneal Street in Greenville, Texas. The book was published in 1904, but Iva’s handwritten marriage announcement inside the book dates her notes to 1921.

Many of the pages are stacked with multiple layers of handwriting, making them difficult to decipher. Most of the messages are simple class notes or reminders where to start and finish reading for class. Some are basic one-liners like this unanswered question: “Who is that boy up there?” Others are more personal in nature.

She wrote her own name in multiple ways throughout the book — as “Iva Carter,” “Miss Iva Carter,” and “Iva Belle Carter.”

The handwritten signature of Iva Carter, as found in an old history textbook.
The handwritten signature of Iva Carter, as found in an old history textbook.

And, she wrote messages back-and-forth with girlfriends . . .

On driving with boys you don’t know

Below is one exchange between Iva and a girlfriend — possibly Miss Jean Rankin or Emma Randall, whose names are written at the top of the page.

Handwritten messages exchanged between friends, found in an old history textbook.
Handwritten messages exchanged between friends, found in an old history textbook. I’ve translated them below.

It says:

“No I really wanted to go. He called me up first and I told him to call you and if you could go, I would. Why didn’t you go?


Because I didn’t think you want it. Besides I don’t know this boy. Is he handsome? I don’t care to go driving with boys I don’t know anything about at night. I might have gone to the movies. Did you get a coupon?”

Why aren’t you going to the party?

This message asks about a party and says that the music will be furnished by Mr. Lauge.
This message asks about a party and says that the music will be furnished by Mr. Lauge.

“Why aren’t you going to the party tonight? I guess I’ll go if it doesn’t rain any more. Mr. Lauge’s to furnish the music. They’ll have a kew.”

The conversation continues onto the next page.

More conversation around the attendance of the party.
More conversation around the attendance of the party.

“Who are you going with? I want to go but I don’t know where I can go or not. A friend wanted to take me but Mama said I couldn’t go but I think she will let me go now.”

“Yes, I wish you would go but I don’t live very near there. If I go I guess I’ll go with my friend John Pierce. Can’t tell just now.”

Oh say! Who all went on that hayride?

On the blank pages behind the color plates of maps were prime real estate for Iva and her friend to pass notes. On one such space beside page 146, they had this exchange:

“Oh say! Who all went on that hayride the other night? Weldon told me about it but he didn’t know any of them except you he said.”

Curiously, the reply listed several names which were all subsequently scribbled out. After the names, someone wrote, “Have you had another date with him? He likes you.”

Marriage announcement

Iva also wrote wrote her own marriage announcement to a certain Ed Hambrick. She seems to have a sense of humor, titling her announcement as “Notice Latest in Society!!!!!” — with five exclamation marks. The large X over the entire thing causes me to wonder if she had a change of heart about Mr. Hambrick. However, this wedding announcement seems to be just the fun musing of a teenage girl, because as indicated by her listing in the 1920 census (shown further down the page), Iva would have been only 15 in 1921.

Iva Carter's handwritten marriage announcement, for a wedding date September 31, 1921.
Iva Carter’s handwritten marriage announcement, planned for a wedding date on September 31, 1921. According to the 1920 census, Iva would have been only 15 in 1921.

Who was Iva Carter?

The mystery remains: who was Iva Carter? I’ve searched the Internet for information about Iva several times over the years, to no avail. Then recently I made a new search, and found an obituary for Iva Lee Roberts, maiden name Iva Lee Carter, who was born and raised in Greenville, Texas. But this can’t be OUR Iva Carter since she was born in 1933, which is 12 years after the above wedding announcement was written. Also, the obituary is written about Iva LEE Carter, and in the book Iva referred to herself as Iva BELLE Carter.

Furthermore, the obituary says Iva Lee Carter was born to Roy Carter and Viola Morris Carter, whereas Iva’s own handwritten marriage announcement (above) calls her parents “Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Carter.” It appears we have two different Ivas, and the identity of our Iva is still undiscovered.

What are the odds that there were two Iva Carters from the small town of Greenville, Texas? Perhaps they were relatives. I can imagine our Iva as an aunt to the younger Iva Lee Carter — but I have no proof.

A photograph courtesy of the City of Greenville found on their website. This portrays a JC Penney store on a downtown street corner in the early 1920s. Most likely, our Iva would have shopped there.
A photograph, courtesy of the City of Greenville, found on their website shows a JC Penney store on a downtown street corner in the early 1920s. In all likelihood, our Iva would have shopped there. See more historic Greenville photographs here.

One of the few kernels of proof online about the existence of our Iva, is this listing in the 1920 census.

This census record from 1920 reveals a few details of Iva's family.
This census record from 1920 reveals a few details of Iva’s family. Click the image for a larger view.

Iva’s father was William J. Carter, and her mother was named Ellen. She had an older sister, Lelara, and a younger brother named Willie Joe. Iva was born in 1906, which made her 14 at the time of the census.

To date, this is the full extent of what I’ve learned about Iva Carter from Greenville, Texas.

Do you know anything about Iva Belle Carter?

If Iva was an ancestor of yours, or if you know anything about her, please send a message or leave a comment. I would love to know more about her life. Did she marry Ed Hambrick? Did she stay in Greenville? Did she work or stay at home?

I regret that I didn’t get to meet Iva and return this book to her. It would have been fun to see her reaction to the old scribblings she left in this textbook.

Just for context, below is a list of world events at the time Iva owned this textbook.

World events in 1921

In some ways, 1921 wasn’t so very long ago. Some people living in 1921 are still alive. People still go to the movies, and to parties, just like Iva did. Yet, major changes have occurred in the 98 years since Iva marked in this book. Below are some of the notable events from 1921.

  • Woodrow Wilson was president, followed by Warren G. Harding.
  • The Emergency Quota Act was passed into law, establishing strict quotas on immigrants.
  • Oklahoma suffered through the Tulsa Race Riots with dozens of deaths.
  • US and Germany ratified the Treaty of Berlin, formally ending WWI.
  • Notable births: Actor Charles Bronson, First Lady and Hollywood actress Nancy Reagan, and astronaut John Glenn were born in 1921.
  • Albert Einstein received the Nobel Prize in Physics.
  • The first radio baseball game was broadcast.
  • The first Miss America pageant was held, in Atlantic City.
  • The first White Castle hamburger restaurant opened in Kansas.
  • Adolf Hitler became Chairman of the Nazi Party in Germany.
  • Coco Chanel introduced “Chanel No. 5” in France.

Black and white photographs of a beautifully tattered old book

These photographs are dedicated to Iva.

Black and white photograph of a tattered old history book, filled with the handwritten notes of Iva Carter, circa 1921.
Black and white photograph of a tattered old history book, filled with the handwritten notes of Iva Carter, circa 1921. Click the photo to buy a fine art print.
Black and white photograph of a tattered old book. Click to buy a fine art print.
Black and white photograph of a tattered old book. Click to buy a fine art print.
Click to buy a fine art black and white print.
Tattered spine of a 1904 history book. Click to buy a fine art black and white print.
Tattered old friend. Click to buy a fine art print.
Tattered old friend. Click to buy a fine art print.

See all the photographs of this old book here.

Thanks for reading!

Be sure to visit me on FacebookGoogle+ or Pinterest.

~Keith

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