Thursday, August 20, 2015

Social Security Beefcake: Thomas Cave (1912-1980)

Well, that IS one way to remember the number. "Unemployed lumber worker[Thomas Cave] goes with his wife to the bean harvest. Note social security number tattooed on his arm. Oregon." Dorothea Lange, Safety Film Negative (digital file from original neg), 1939, West Stayton, Marion County, OregonLibrary of Congress: Photos, Prints, Drawings ( : accessed 20 Aug 2015).

I've been enjoying the new release of the U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 on, which I first mentioned here.  Besides finding out more maiden names, I can trace the occasional woman once she married, and have also been able to add more specific places of birth for many more people.  This page on the history of Social Security is worth a look.

Okay, the above photo was just gratuitous***.  As far as I know I have no connection to him. I just came across it while looking through early photos concerning the beginning of Social Security.
I'm not the only one keeping an eye out for handsome gents, as this helpful note from 2011 shows. (screenshot from Thomas Cave's Social Security Index record on Ancestry)

I could have bored you with images like this, showing the intense organization of the program:
"Baltimore, Md. For every social security account number issued an "employee master card" is made in the Social Security board records office. Testifying data, given on the application blank, form ss-5 is transferred to this master card in the form of up ended quadrangular holes, punched by key punch machines, which have a keyboard like a typewriter. Each key struck by an operator causes a hole to be punched in the card. The position of a hole determines the letter or number other machines will reproduce from the master card. The position of the hole determines the letter or number other machines will reproduce from the master card. From this master card is made an actuarial card, to be used later for statistical purposes. The master card also is used in other machines which sort them numerically, according to account numbers, alphabetically according to the name code, translate the holes into numbers and letters, and print the data on individual ledger sheets, indexes, registry of accounts and other uses. The photograph above shows a records office worker punching master cards on a key punch machine," digital image from glass negatives, Harris & Ewing, photographer, Baltimore, Maryland, between 1937 and 1939, Library of Congress: Photos, Prints, Drawings ( : accessed 20 Aug 2015).

***Shorpy ("Always Something Interesting") has a great post on this picture, and the background on the couple in the photo, here.

© 2015 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I am continually amazed by the amount of information available on this subject. What you presented was well researched and well worded in order to get your stand on this across to all your readers.