On the evening of 5 January 1924, Leonard John Christian Wiese and Helen Margaret Nelson were married in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.1 Leonard had been raised in Chicago, the son of German immigrants,2 whereas Helen had been raised in rural Yankton County, South Dakota, the daughter of Danish immigrants.3 The couple met when Leonard sought work in South Dakota, and he and Helen bonded over a shared love of music.4 Leonard and his bride-to-be then moved to Chicago, where they were wed in the home of Leonard’s widowed mother.5 Since Helen’s family was not able to be with them, she wrote a detailed letter home describing their wedding day:
My dear folks,
Now I think that this letter will have to be passed around so I won’t have to repeat all the details of the past few days. We are married! Yes. Now then I will endeavor to tell you the points which I think will be of interest to you.
My dress was very plain but everyone liked it. Dark brown brocaded silk with short sleeves and sort of a drape on the skirt. I have a new coat and hat and new satin shoes.
Well, there were eighteen grown people here. We were married at 9:30. Stanley Smith played the wedding march and Irene and I came from upstairs and met the other two in the room. After the ceremony, a shower of rice descended upon us and the best man and several of the others took advantage of the privilege of kissing the bride. So it was on the order of some of the weddings you read about!!!
Then we had dinner. Turkey, chicken, mashed potatoes, peas, corn relish, cranberries, dressing, Jello, coffee, etc. A huge wedding cake adorned the center of the table. This cake was made to order. You people are going to have some of it. I baked two angel food cakes and a sponge cake. That’s all I did in helping preparations.
I spent some time at the hairdresser’s! Oh, I looked real swell!!!
After supper we had music and some of the men played cards. Then after awhile we started the Victrola and we all danced.
Oh, it was cold as I suppose you realize. They say it was the coldest day they have had in Chicago for twelve years. When the people were ready to go home they all got their cars started except DeCardy! Oh, such a time as they did have. George R. had to pull them home with his car. And the ladies stayed and waited for them so it was about 5:30 before we finally got to bed. Of course, our bed was all pulled to pieces. You see there are tricky people around here too. I thought of some of Mare’s tricks you know! (How about it, Max?)
We have already received some very beautiful gifts. Leonard’s boss gave him (us) $50 and a vacation of 3½ days. And the three people at his office gave us two sets of beautiful white bedroom curtains. Mrs. Wiese presented us with a crocheted bedspread and bolster cover, beside many other things she has done. (You know how mothers are.)
George R., George W., and Lil gave us a complete set of silverware like Louise and Olie. Oh, it is a beautiful, beautiful set. Stanley and Evelyn gave us a tea set. Say, if you could only see it. It is of two colors. Delicate rose and green is your first impression. It is iridescent you see, changeable. It consists of six cups and saucers, six lunch plates, teapot, sugar, and creamer. Some of you dish lovers better come and see it. The best man (Henry Toews) and brother gave a huge cut glass vase. It’s a pippin. George Rowlett’s mother sent me a string of pretty beads from Florida.
DeCardys, Lom and May and John and Lena, promised us something later because it was too cold to get their gifts, they said. John Wiese’s said they were going to give us a piece of furniture as soon as we move to our new home. I don’t know just when that will be because the people haven’t been able to get out yet. I mean the ones living in it now.
Uncle Ernest presented us with ten new crisp five dollar bills. In other words, $50. So that makes $105 in cash as presents. Not at all bad!
In spite of the cold weather everyone that was invited came.
We are living very comfortably at present and we are getting things ready for the other home. The china closet is full of dishes (all our own) and it looks simply swell. I polished it and put the dishes in it so they would be safe. I have the things or rather dishes from South Dakota in it also. I must tell you that not a thing was broken in my trunk or suitcase. I was very thankful.
This is Monday evening and I have been trying to finish this letter. I got Julia and Mary’s letter today. We also received Louise’s letter so they all came at once. Surely appreciated hearing from all of you. I haven’t had time to be lonesome yet. There are so many nice things to do.
We didn’t have our picture taken Saturday since we were married so late in the evening. So we went down today, also took in a nice movie.
The cake we sent home is to be shared with Max and Julia, please. Now I’ll be thinking of things to write so I’ll close this letter and write more later.
Love to each and all,
P.S. Please send to Jim and Anna.6
1 “Nelson-Wiese,” unidentified newspaper from Chicago, Illinois, January 1924.
2 1910 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, Chicago Ward 27, enumeration district (ED) 1184, sheet 15-B, p. 9451 (handwritten), dwelling 254, family 306, Leonard Wiese; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 January 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 270.
3 1910 U.S. census, Yankton County, South Dakota, population schedule, Township 93 Range 57, enumeration district (ED) 447, sheet 2-A, p. 186 (stamped), dwelling 24, family 24, Helen Nelson; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 January 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 1489.
4 Phyllis (Wiese) Adam, conversation with the author, June 2012; notes in author’s files.
5 “Nelson-Wiese,” 1924.
6 Helen (Nelson) Wiese to Christine (Schimdt) Nelson, letter, detailing her wedding of the previous day, 6 January 1924; privately held by [personal information withheld].