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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Persian Prince in Chester

In reviewing the recently released 1940 U.S. Census records for any information which could be gleaned on the topic of Rock Springs Park, I came across a name which gave me pause. A man by the name of Raphael Emmanuel was shown to be living in a tourist home on Carolina Avenue in Chester, WV, when the census taker was completing his now 72-year old document. It was not so much Emmanuel’s name but a combination of several other factors which thoroughly engaged my curiosity. He was born in Turkey, had lived in Pasadena, CA at the time of the previous census, and gave his occupation as lecturer and writer.

Chester, at this time, was a stop on the coast-to-coast Lincoln Highway, so it would be reasonable to assume that perhaps he just happened to be staying at the tourist home on his way through town when the census was taken, but this explanation seemed unlikely. There had to be more to it.

Who was this guy and what was he doing in Chester?

My first search for Emmanuel led to some children’s books he authored in the 1940s. The books, labeled as “juvenile fiction” and with such titles as The Pasha of the Dessert and The Prince of Istanbul, tell of the Middle East, Persian Princes and camel caravans across the ancient lands of the Bible – Mesopotamia of old and Iran and Iraq of today.

Inside book cover of The Pasha of the Desert by Raphael Emmanuel.
It did not take long to discover that prior to his children’s book writing career, Raphael Emmanuel was most famous for speeches he gave across the country to Christian churches and public schools. He would appear dressed in the costume of his native land and recite his own original poems, sing traditional songs and share the many legends of his people.

Area newspapers record that he spoke at the Zion Evangelical Church in Rochester, PA on Sunday morning, August 11, 1940 and earlier at an evening event held in Youngstown’s Grace Lutheran Church on July 14 on the subject of “Bible Lands Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”

"Sheik Emmanuel traces his ancestry back to King Nebuchadnezzar and comes from the land of the Patriarch Abraham." Berleley, CA Daily Gazette, Oct. 21, 1933.


The tourist home in Chester where Emmanuel was a lodger was known as The Timothy House run by Carrie Timothy and located on the land now occupied by the Hancock County Savings and Loan.
The Reading Eagle on May 15, 1929 gives a good description of Emmanuel’s lecturing style. “Although of the real "sheik" type, Raphael did not rely solely upon his ‘good looks’ to sway his audience. This he accomplished with his native high-pitched voice in both speaking and singing. His native songs and legends of tribal life in Mesopotamia were outstanding features."

It seems then that the man who caught my eye on the 1940 census was also attracting the attention of thousands of others back in his day. He must have been quite a celebrity in a small town like Chester, comprised mostly of shop keepers and mill workers. One can almost picture the scene in which a beaming Miss Timothy tells the census taker, “Oh, the lodger in Number 3? Why he is none other than Sheik Emmanuel, the Persian Prince!”
The Reading Eagle of Nov. 24, 1939 states that Emmanuel "is a resident of Virginia and has been appearing in many churches of all denominations."




The Oxnard, CA Daily Courier July 15, 1921, explains that Emmanuel was indeed in California prior to his stay at The Timothy House in Chester, WV.

2 comments:

Craig Stark said...

Interesting character who apparently got around. The same Prince recently drew my attention from his appearances in central Pennsylvania during the latter months of 1926.

In addition, to his lecture before the Dauphin County Teachers Institute, the Prince appeared at the local high school. His lecture to students is featured in a flattering, front page story and photo, published in the December 2, 1926 edition of the Hershey Press.

To view article and photo, go to:
http://www.hersheyarchives.org/collections-research/

Got to advanced search; enter subjects name to find story.

Another report, about the Prince in Kansas City, appears in the December 4, 1918 edition of Literary Digest. The Prince's interesting remarks about his Utopian homeland were worthy of note then (and reading now).

However, that report drew a highly critical response from a reader in Baghdad, whose letter appears in the May 3, 1919 edition of Literary Digest at page 58.

Apparently, the Prince had not been home in a very long while and things there had radically changed in his absence. This provoked the reader, a diplomat, to write a letter to the Digest claiming that the published remarks of the Prince "are absurd and untrue."

Looking back, a century before and after, I think not!

Thanks for the post on the Prince!

Craig Stark said...

Interesting character who apparently got around. The same Prince recently drew my attention from his appearances in central Pennsylvania during the latter months of 1926.

In addition, to his lecture before the Dauphin County Teachers Institute, the Prince appeared at the local high school. His lecture to students was featured in a flattering, front page story and photo of him published in the December 2, 1926 edition of the Hershey Press.

To view article and photo, go to:
http://www.hersheyarchives.org/collections-research/

Got to advanced search; enter subjects name to find story.

Another report, about the Prince in Kansas City, appears in the December 4, 1918 edition of Literary Digest. The Prince's interesting remarks about his Utopian homeland were worthy of note then (and reading now).

However, that report drew a highly critical response from a reader in Baghdad, whose letter appears in the May 3, 1919 edition of Literary Digest at page 58.

Apparently, the Prince had not been home in a very long while and things there had changed radically in his absence. This provoked the reader, a diplomat, to write a letter to the Digest claiming that the published remarks of the Prince "are absurd and untrue."

Looking back, a century before and after, I think not!

Thanks for the post on the Prince!