The Family Letter Blog

Connecting Generations


Joseph B Kingsbury’s Summer of 1911

Joseph Bush Kingsbury circa 1910

In the summer of 1911, JBK was 21 years old and had just finished his first year of college in Washington DC. Although he was home for about a week in early July, he was back in Washington DC by July 21st. I know from his federal employment application (Standard Form 57) that from November 1910 to January 1916 (while in college) JBK was employed as a “typist; stenographer; executive clerk” at the Civil Service Commission and the US Department of Agriculture in Washington DC.

He often used short hand in some of his diaries. It often happens just when he was just about to write something juicy that I’d really love to know. His neat cursive handwriting transformed into a series of squiggles and dashes – ARHGGG… the dreaded, indecipherable short hand!

So here is JBK’s diary entry from July 21, 1911. I would love to know about the game Jenko.

Friday- July 21 – Another big day’s work. Came to work early and wrote letter. After supper went out to Woodhead’s Camp. Mizell and Reinhart also there. Swung the girls until storm came up. Played Up Jenko (?) in shack ‘till 10. Stayed with Mizell.

My husband suggested that “Jenko” might be the phonetic spelling of what we now know as Jengo – a popular game that consists of stacking wooden blocks and then removing them without causing the tower to topple over.

I also found this entry in the January 12, 2016 online version of Mental Floss in an article about games nobody plays anymore. I think Up Jenko was likely to be known in other places as Up Jenkins.

From JBK’s diary entries I’ve learned that in the early 20th century the work week included Saturday morning. So here’s what JBK did after his Friday night of “swinging the girls” at Camp Woodhead.

Saturday – July 22 – Took walk thru woods. Came in town early and got breakfast. Worked ‘til one o’clock. Started packing up (apparently the office where he worked was moving to a new building). Henry and I went over to see Senate vote on Reciprocity. Visited Senate office building – walked up Avenue. Band concert on the Ellipse from 6 to 7. Studied SS (Sunday School) lesson. Took bath, shaved and unpacked some more. Mason bought some ice cream, Olson, Allanson, Klause and Herbert came in. Talked ‘til 11:30.

I can picture the Senate Office building. I have no idea where Camp Woodhead was, but I can relate to the feeling of walking through the woods before returning to the city. I walked through the Ellipse (well actually around the Ellipse because of security measures) on a recent visit to Washington DC. The next time I do that I’ll be sure to imagine my 21 year old grandfather listening to a band concert there.