political appointment

Civil servants.

This massive volume, dense with charts and tables and lists, illuminates the fierce struggle over political appointment/patronage jobs in the late 19th century and the intense sense of envy and entitlement that shaped attitudes toward award of such jobs to African-Americans. Essentially, this book lists all military officers and federal government employees on the payroll in 1891.

Here is Alfred Robinson, railway postal clerk on the Rocky Mount, N.C., to Norfolk, Virginia, line, earning $1000 per year.

And here is Samuel H.Vick, postmaster of Wilson, pulling down a $1500 annual salary.

Measured in 2016 dollars, the relative economic status value of a $1000/year salary is $239,000. A $1500/year salary is valued at $358,000. (Economic status value measures the relative “prestige value” of an amount of income or wealth measured between two periods using the income index of the per capita gross domestic product.) This kind of wealth awarded to African-Americans set blood boiling.

“Official Register of the United States, Containing a List of the Officers and Employees in the Civil, Military, and Naval Service,” Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of the Census, digitized by Oregon State Library, Salem, Oregon; available online at http://www.ancestry.com.

I certify to his high character.

When Lily-White Republican Senator Jeter C. Pritchard set out to oust postmaster Samuel H. Vick, who represented “the last vestige of negro office holders in the state,” a slew of prominent Wilson Democrats bucked convention to rally in Vick’s favor. Among the politicians, lawyers and businessmen supporting Vick was John H. Blount, whose letter of recommendation noted that Vick’s “mother and grandmother belonged to [his] father.”

The writer of this opinion piece mocks the Democrats who had once lamented Vick’s sinecure, “pictur[ing] how their dear wives and daughters were humiliated by having to transact all their postal business at Wilson with a negro postmaster and negro postal clerks.

peoples paper 12 10 1902

The People’s Paper (Charlotte, N.C.), 10 December 1902.

The white boy walked the plank.

Roanoke News, 8 May 1884.

James Edward O’Hara was elected to the United States House of Representatives from North Carolina’s Black Second district in 1882.

Daniel Vick was Samuel H. Vick‘s father. John H. Clark is generally credited with being Wilson’s first African-American mail carrier, but this brief article tells another story.

Negroes take advantage. (Vick is an unusual negro.)

NY Times 12 7 1902 Vick

President William H. Harrison appointed Samuel H. Vick postmaster of Wilson in 1889. President William McKinley selected Vick again for the position in 1898. Despite the setback described above, the Lily Whites ultimately were successful in thwarting Vick’s reappointment in 1903.

Postmaster.

An excerpt from a ledger recording appointments of Wilson County postmasters, including Samuel H. Vick:

postmaster appt

Vick’s appointment dates were 28 September 1889, 27 January 1890, and 24 May 1898.

(Click to enlarge.)

Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-1971records of the Post Office Department, Record Group Number 28, National Archives [database on-line], http://www.Ancestry.com.