Discover more from Resounding - Harry Smith in NW Washington
Blankety Blank Smith
More pieces of the Harry puzzle
When Harry was baptized, two weeks before his thirteenth birthday, at Christ Episcopal Church in Anacortes, Washington, the name written into the register of baptisms was Harry Everett Hammond Smith. Unlike any of the other people listed, Harry’s mother’s maiden surname hovers above, connected via an upside-down caret symbol (used in proofreading to show that additional material needs to be inserted). This discovery was found too late to include in my book, Sounding for Harry Smith: Early Pacific Northwest Influences, so is inserted here in this Resounding substack.
Is this his formal spiritual name: Harry Everett Hammond Smith? Harry’s official birth certificate lists neither a first nor a middle name, just blank space before “Smith.” Harry’s parents may never have gotten around to making a “supplemental report” when they eventually settled on “Harry Everett,” a tribute to both his father’s brother and his great uncle, Everett Brainard Deming, head of Pacific American Fisheries.
In June 1923, readers of the Eastern Clackamas News learned of the birth of a son to Mrs. Robert Smith, referring to the baby as “Robert, Jr.” News reached Washington weeks later: “The many friends of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Smith, formerly of this place, but now of Escada [sic], Oregon will join in sending congratulations over the arrival of a son. The little gentleman has been named Henry Everett.”
Riddles of identity and research verification have been part of the Harry Smith myth - going way back to those who speculated that the “Harry Smith” named on the Anthology of American Folk Music was a pseudonym used by Alan Lomax or others. It was a constant challenge in my research through newspapers, yearbooks, phone books and other engines to sift through the many Smiths and Harry Smiths that commonly appear.
My earliest inquiries of Harry’s Anacortes classmates and other local elders illustrated the confusion. As people recollected, I heard stories of different Harrys – the name was not uncommon on Fidalgo Island. Four total Harry Smiths lived in Great Depression Anacortes, including three Harry E. Smiths. Harry Earl Smith died in 1940. Harry Elmer Smith registered for the draft that same year. I don’t know which of these made news in 1935 for bringing in the most new members to the Townsend Club in Anacortes.
When Harry filled out his registration card for military service, on June 30, 1942, his signature was Harry Everett Smith. He also shaved a year off his age, putting down May 29, 1924 as his birth date. He had just turned 19 and moved from Anacortes to Bellingham, residing at the “foot of Harris Ave.” – an “unemployed” brown-haired, blue-eyed, 5-foot 4-inch, 123-pound white male.
Name confusion followed Harry to college, as the most prominent Harry Smith at the University of Washington was Dr. Harry Edwin Smith, director of the extension and correspondence courses. The UW annual noted he “specializes in 6 to 9-inch chrysanthemums.” He also made the news as the butt of a physics joke when he suffered a gardening injury. Harry Eldridge Smith is another name that may have been confused there.
It can be hard to trust what might seem like a preponderance of evidence. I did a double take when I read Harry’s debate team writing on democracy in the Anacortes American, initially doubting it was him until verifying that all other local Harry Smiths were not of school age in 1941.
Smith research is a puzzle. The sounding continues …