The postcard photo was labeled “A Family of Tinners” and someone had carefully written, in pencil, the first names of each team member around the edge, near each player. Their baseball shirts all sported the name “Van” across the chest. On the left half of the back side of the Post Card, was printed what was obviously an ad: “S.A. Van Tassel – Tin, Steel and Slate – Roofing, Furnaces – All Work Guaranteed – We will make of you a Satisfied Customer – Westfield, New York.” This left the right side for address only.
Asking only that the card be preserved and researched for the Westfield historical archives, it was left along with the latest information about diners being researched.
The name of Van Tassel, associated with tin-works in Westfield, recalled a series of BeeLines from the previous year, about former grocery stores, in particular the L. DiFrancesco 1931 brick “mystery building” at 17 North Portage which had replaced a wood-structure that housed DiFrancesco’s grocery store, which had burned earlier in 1931. The fire was believed to have started from an electrical short circuit in the rear of Jim June’s Tin Shop at 15 North Portage and then spread from there to DiFrancesco’s pool room, grocery store and upstairs apartment.
Curious about the surname, June, since there had been a Mike June in my graduating class at Westfield Academy and Central School in 1958, I located James J. June’s obituary in the Dec. 28, 1966 Westfield Republican. “Mr. June, owner of the James J. June Sheet Metal and Plumbing business… later bought out Seymour Van Tassel’s business…” This was the same S.A. Van Tassel advertising on the postcard with the baseball team, which was relocated this past week in a file of pending stories for future BeeLines.
The Patterson Library has a rich resource of local history files, surname files, manuscript files, as well as obituary card files and topic card files for the Westfield Republicans that are archived on microfilm. The topic card file immediately produced an article with photo from the Westfield Republican of Sept. 9, 1959, page 4 headlined, “One of The Moose’s First Baseball Games” and captioned “Picture of Van Tassel Brothers Baseball Team” — same photo as on the postcard. After locating and printing that article and photo from the microfilm reader, the surname file provided several articles about the “Van Tassel Brothers Baseball Team local hit long ago” and “Van Tassel - A Family of Tinners” plus a photocopied typewritten version with photo of the same article that had been published in the newspaper.
Also, there was a page of genealogy notes for the Van Tassel family, with a note that this had been prepared by Albert King for use in a recent Octagon show about the Italian families of Westfield. These notes show that Seymour Abram Van Tassel was born Sept. 11, 1868 in Erie Pa., married Emma Marie Struchea on Nov. 27, 1890 in Sterritania Pa., and died April 11, 1952 in Westfield. Since none of the articles told when Seymour and Emma came from Pennsylvania to live in Westfield, Ancestry.com was researched using U,S, Census records from 1900 and 1910. From these, it was determined that the two oldest daughters were born in New York State in about 1893 and 1895. One of the Census records includes Seymour’s brother, Avery, as being only two years older than Seymour’s oldest daughter.
The baseball team consisted of all Van Tassel family members — brothers, who were also all tinners, a truly unique combination — for which they were invited to participate as an attraction at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Seymour Van Tassel was the organizer of the team and he played first baseman.
The last Van Tassel tin shop was located over Waite Hardware Store, 31 East Main, where Joel Seachrist’s Law Office is currently in 2011.
This postcard shows the Van Tassel Brothers Baseball Team from Westfield. The team members in the top row are, from left to right: Grover; Jefferson; George W.; Charles; and William. Sitting: Levi; George; Paul; Seymour; and John. Lying down is Avery.
Fact BoxMarybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 — inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment.
Beigh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).