Methodology and Data

A Note on Methodology

In building this project, I felt the final product would be much more art than science. Just reconstructing social connections is a difficult task, let alone judging how meaningful those ties really were. In my visualizations, I seek to give the viewer an impression of the close urban world of Grand Rapids at the dawn of the twentieth century. This motivation urged me to focus on leadership of the city's elite, rather than attempting to paint a holistic picture.

One of the great challenges of local history is the irregularity with which historical sources are available. I may have a plethora of sources for one year, while the next is completely bare. Balancing the desire to include a large amount of data with the need to avoid deceptive visualizations informed my selection of sources and creation of data. I chose items like organization directories and bank boards to show the intertwined nature at the top of economic and social spheres, which the viewer can them presume trickles down to the broader membership as well. As social relationships, and political rivalries, often last for a number of years, I did not feel restricted by the immediate years of the water scandal and believe the 1914 sources remain valuable despite their later date.


A more extensive examination of the Grand Rapids water scandal can be found in my M.A. thesis, A Small City's Big Scandal. The Grand Rapids Public Library is a wealth of information on Grand Rapids generally and I drew on its collections of records from the Grand Rapids Federation of Women's Literary Clubs and Chamber of Commerce. Other information was gathered from Dwight Goss's History of Grand Rapids and Its Industries, R. L. Polk & Co.'s 1902 Grand Rapids City Directory, and Z. Z. Lydens's detailed history, The Story of Grand Rapids (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1966).

Images on the site come from Grand Rapids newspapers. The banner image is a mugshot of con-man Robert A. Cameron that appeared on the Morning Democrat front page on June 11, 1901. The images found on the Scandal page are as follows: George Perry's picture is from the Herald on March 6, 1901, page three; Lant Salsbury's picture is from the front page of the Press on February 25, 1901; the political cartoon cartoon is from the June 19, 1901 front page of the Herald. The picture of Gerrit Albers on the Neighbors Page is from the front page of the October 4, 1904 edition of the Press. The political cartoons from the Neighbors page are from the front page of the Grand Rapids Morning Democrat on April 3, 1902 (“Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' Up to Date”) and June 6, 1901 (“The Jail Breakers at Work,”).


Over the past 100 years, many street names have changed. In order to plot the locations within Google Maps, I modernized the addresses as best I could, often relying on this online directory of Grand Rapids street names and changes.

For several streets the change was a simple alteration of the generic name or addition of a city quadrant. These included the following streets: First, Crescent, Henry, James, John, Paris, Queen, Sheldon, Summer.

Renamed streets needed further alteration and are listed here (with the new name noted): Bridge (Michigan), Brown (Bruce), Clinton (Fairview ), Coit (Dexter), East (Eastern), Home (College), Julia (Hawthorne), Lawn (Sycamore), Terrace (Race NE), Woodlawn (Fuller).

I updated other addresses according to the best available information. These modifications include changing Effie Tibbets's address from 1061/2 Monroe to 106 Monroe, adding the number 1 to the unnumbered address of Mrs. S. C. Eggleston and placing markers based on descriptive addresses for Charles Garfield, Robert Graham, James Johnston, Dudley Waters, Fourth National Bank, Kent County Savings Bank, Michigan Trust Company, National City Bank, Old National Bank, People's Savings Bank and State Bank of Michigan. Anton G. Hodenpyl's address in the 1902 Banks and Bankers map was taken from the 1898 Grand Rapids City Directory. No addresses could be found for George E. Nichols in the Water Scandal map or Paul Poty in the Banks and Bankers map so both were left off their respective maps. Members living outside the city of Grand Rapids were excluded from maps to create a more manageable visualization.



Download the spreadsheets from which I created the maps found on this site. These spreadsheets contain the raw addresses collected from R. L. Polk & Co's 1902 Grand Rapids city directory below. See above for notes on changes made to modernize the addresses.

Gephi Data

Download the Gephi files or spreadsheets from which I created my visualizations below. I cleaned data with Open Refine. See this tutorial for more on how to work with Gephi.


Many people assisted me in creating this project and my work on the Grand Rapids water scandal more generally, dating back to my M.A. thesis. I owe a special note of thanks to Brandon Locke and Rebecca Wingo for their comments on an earlier draft of this project as well as Marie Clymer who gave me feedback on design as I constructed the website.