Friday, September 28, 2012


According to today's New York Times Former Met Keith Hernandez Shaves His Mustache for Charity - The popular Mets baseball star of the 1980s is linked in the article to such mustachoied figures of the past as Clark Gable, William Howard Taft, Thomas E. Dewey, and Groucho Marx, but alas, not Darwin Martin of Buffalo. There's a story here:

Following the death of his mother in 1872 Darwin Martin spent seven arduous years on the Nebraska frontier before venturing off on his own at age 13 to sell soap on the streets of New York. Bright and ambitious, he was soon brought to Buffalo to assume the position of bookkeeper to the Larkin Soap Company. Darwin threw himself into the work with all his energy and might, but lonely and depressed he assuaged his feelings by keeping a diary and writing frequent lengthy letters to his father and four scattered siblings. In an effort to help, his sister, Delta, arranged for him to correspond with a slightly older cousin, Belle Crouse, in Memphis, New York. Darwin's letters to Belle Crouse reveal him to be needy,  chatty, and boastful about his position in the Larkin Company. On March 23 ,1881 he wrote: "I have got to look up a new boarding house before long, don't you pity me?" And on June 3, 1881 he enclosed a photograph of himself in a letter with this comment: "I will put that long looked for photo in the letter. I am ashamed of it. It looks as though I was mad when I had it taken but I was not, that is the way I always look unless I am mad and then I look ten times worse than the picture. Now aren't you ashamed of your cousin?"  

Darwin Martin at 14

Darwin Martin at 30
It is difficult to look at that picture and not read into the downward turn of his mouth a reflection of the sadness of his life up to that time -- his mother gone, his father in Nebraska, his siblings far away, his boss, John Larkin, a distant, quiet man, his best friend, Dan Robbins, killed in a train accident, and Darwin alone in a dismal boardinghouse. As soon as he was able, Darwin Martin grew a substantial mustache that covered much of his mouth quite fully, and unlike Keith Hernandez, he never shaved it off.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is interesting, Belle Crouse was Isabell Baker daughter of Sparrow Baker and Mary Elizabeth McMannis, Mary was the sister of Darwin's mother Ann Eliza McMannis.
Belle married Jacob H Crouse. In the 1900 census Belle (widow) was living in the house of Darwin and his wife Isabelle. I have not been able to find out what happened to her after that, and would hope that you may have more information on Belle.