I’ve passed this several times and wondered. Instead of investigating I made up a story.
Mr. Jacoby Loats considered the house on the corner of Church Street and Maxwell Alley to be the crowning achievement of his young career building homes. Nearing completion of the project, he approached the owner Mrs. Esther Humblebolt and asked that he might stamp his name on a small patch near the front corner of the house so people would know whose services they could inquire about their own future homes.
“My dear Mr. Loats,” said Mrs. Humblebolt, “what a vulgar idea! I most certainly forbid any sort of sign that would advertise a company’s service, even one as fine as yours, on the front of my house for all to see!
“I’d planned to write a most favorable letter of recommendation to your mother, but I may have to reconsider in the face of such an outlandish, forward idea.”
Mr. Loats begged her pardon but argued that he meant for it to be a simple thing, that etching. For who knew where he might go as a builder and to have the Loats name on her home could be of very great honor in the future.
“Young man, this is outrageous!” exclaimed Mrs. Humblebolt. “This is 1877 and while I know young people such as yourself have ideas that I find incomprehensible in their forwardness, respectable people do not put names not of their own family on the front of their houses. Now I must bid you Good Day!”
Mr. Loats left the house and met his junior associate waiting eagerly to hear of the decision.
When the news was shared, both men were cast down for such was their excitement to add the etched name to the home.
As they walked done the Alley on the way to the office, Mr. Loats’ junior man, Earnest, looked at the wall with careful thought.
“Did she say anything about etching on a wall on an alley?” he asked.
Mr. Loats considered for a moment and smiled. “Why no Earnest, Mrs. Humblebolt did not.”
It was nearly 3 years before Mrs. Humblebolt noticed the etching as she routinely avoided the impropriety of walking down alleys. By that time Mr. Loats was the talk of Frederick and having his name etched on the wall of a home was of very great consequence.
Mrs. Esther Humblebolt was quick to point out that while his name on a home was fine, having it on a wall along a busy throughfare showed an elevated mind to business and she greatly approved.