Harry Carson was born in Russia on September 24, 1897 to Meyer and Rose Carson.1 His father, Meyer Carson, immigrated to the United States in 1906 with Harry’s older siblings, Bertha and Jacob.2 A year later, Harry, his mother, and three other siblings, Nathan, George, and Bella, immigrated to the United States to join the rest of the family.3 The Carson family was Jewish, and Jews faced numerous restrictions in Russian society throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.4 Most Jews were forced to live in a particular region called the Pale of Settlement, and Russian Jews also endured pogroms, or anti-Jewish riots.5 The first wave of pogroms from 1881 to 1884 began after the assassination of Alexander II, Czar of Russia in 1881.6 Anti-Semitism, which was growing in the 1870s, increased after Czar Alexander’s death, and riots against Jews ensued.7 A second wave of pogroms occurred from 1903 to 1906.8 During this period, more than 3,000 Jews were killed and over 15,000 were injured in a series of pogroms significantly more violent than those of the 1880s.9 This violence is probably what drove the Carson family out of Russia in 1906 and 1907.
The Carson family was one of many Russian Jewish families to emigrate; in 1906 when Harry Carson’s father and siblings left Russia, over 125,000 Jews fled Russia for the United States.10 Indeed, from 1880 to 1920 “large-scale migrations” of Jews to the United States greatly altered the number of Jews in Eastern Europe.11 Seventy-three percent of Jews migrating to the United States during this period were Jews fleeing the Russian Empire.12 Letters written between Russian Jews and their relatives in the United States often provided compelling, though at times overstated, accounts of economic opportunity in America.13 Industrialization in the United States and the increasing availability of jobs for immigrants also fueled immigration.14
After arriving in the United States, Carson lived with his family in Rochester, New York.15 He grew up in a large family; in addition to his five siblings born in Russia, his brothers Joseph and David were born in the United States.16 Carson may have felt economic pressure to join the military due to his large family. He enlisted in the US Army at the Columbus Barracks (later Fort Hayes) in Columbus, Ohio on April 16, 1915.17 Carson was a “Regular Army” enlistee and was seventeen at the time of his enlistment, meaning that he was under the minimum age limit of eighteen for voluntary enlistees.18 Enlistees who joined the military when they were below the required age limit often did so because of poverty or other challenges at home.19 Carson enlisted just two years before the United States entered the First World War.20
During Carson’s service he was a part of Troop K of the 12th Cavalry Regiment.21 Carson began as a private, but after over three years became a Private First Class on June 24, 1918 22 and eventually a Sergeant.23 The 12th Cavalry Regiment patrolled the US-Mexican border during the First World War.24 They patrolled the border near Hachita, New Mexico, and they may have been sent to the region in response to General Francisco “Pancho” Villa’s attack on Columbus, New Mexico, in March of 1916.25 There was very little infrastructure in the area, and the United States Border Patrol was not be created until 1924, so this left the 12th Cavalry as the primary monitors of the border.26 Carson was still serving when World War I ended with the armistice in November 1918; he ultimately served for over four years.27 He was honorably discharged on August 13, 1919 with no injuries.28 Carson was never sent overseas during his service and he left the military two years before the rest of Troop K was disbanded.29
After his military service, Carson may have worked as a printer, and if so it was most likely with his father.30 Carson then hoped to work as an assistant storekeeper on a ship through the United States Shipping Board (USSB), as seen on his Seamen’s Protection Certificate application, though it is not clear if his application was accepted.31 While many immigrants who served in the US military gained citizenship because of their military service, Carson appears to have become a citizen prior to his service.32 Immigration policy allowed for children, admitted into the country legally for the purposes of permanent residency, to gain citizenship from a parent when the parent became a naturalized citizen.33 As indicated on census records and Carson’s US Passport Application (the latter seen here), Carson became a US citizen in 1912 along with his father.34 Carson applied for a US passport in 1924 in order to travel abroad as a salesman.35
By 1940, Carson was living in Chicago and worked for the FBI as an investigator, as did his roommate.36 It appears that Carson had a long career working for the United States federal government as an intelligence agent.37 Carson later lived in Gainesville, Florida and then moved to South Pasadena, Florida in 1978. 38 He visited Miami in January 1989 and passed away there on January 22, 1989 at the age of 91. 39 Carson was buried in Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida, on January 27, 1989.40
1 “U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current,” database, Ancestry.com(https://www.ancestry.com : accessed June 12, 2017), entry for Harry Carson.; “New York, State Census, 1915,” database, Ancestry.com(https://www.Ancestry.com: accessed June 22, 2017), entry for Harry Carson, Rochester Ward 08, Monroe. Note: Some sources list a different date, such as September 24, 1893, as his birthdate.
4 John D. Klier, “Russian Jewry on the Eve of the Pogroms,” in Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History, eds. John D. Klier and Shlomo Lambroza (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 4-5.
5 Ibid., 3-5.
6 John D. Klier and Shlomo Lambroza, eds., Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 39-42.
7 I. Michael Aronson, Troubled Waters: The Origins of the 1881 Anti-Jewish Pogroms in Russia (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990), 42-44, 67.
8 John D. Klier, “The Pogrom Paradigm in Russian History,” in Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History, eds. John D. Klier and Shlomo Lambroza (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 13.
9 Shlomo Lambroza, “The Pogroms of 1903-1906,” in Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History, eds. John D. Klier and Shlomo Lambroza (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 231.
10 Gerald Sorin, A Time for Building: The Third Migration, 1880-1920 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 34.
11 Ibid., 12.
13 Ibid., 41.
14 Ibid, 41-42.
18 Ibid.; United States of America War Office, The Military Laws of the United States, 1915 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1915), 377-378.
19 Allan C. Stover, Underage and Under Fire: Accounts of the Youngest Americans in Military Service, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, Inc., Publishers, 2014), 43-50.
25 Alan Knight, The Mexican Revolution: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 69.
26 Kelly Lytle Hernandez, Migra! A History of the US Border Patrol (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 17.; William H. Boudreau, “History of the 12th Cavalry Regiment,” 1st Cavalry Division Association, accessed March 25, 2017 https://www.1cda.org/history-12cav.html.
32 Mary C. Waters and Marisa Gerstein Pineau, eds., The Integration of Immigrants into American Society (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2015), 172.; “New York, State Census, 1915,” database, Ancestry.com(https://www.ancestry.com : accessed June 22, 2017), entry for Harry Carson, Rochester Ward 08, Monroe.
33 Outreach Program of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Basic Guide to Naturalization and Citizenship, rev. ed. (Washington, DC: The Service, 1990), 93.
34 “U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925,” database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed June 22, 2017), entry for Harry Carson, Rochester, NY.; “1920 United States Federal Census,” database, Ancestry.com(https://www.ancestry.com : accessed June 22, 2017), entry for Meyer Carson, Rochester Ward 17, Monroe, NY.; “New York, State Census, 1915,” database, Ancestry.com(https://www.ancestry.com : accessed June 22, 2017), entry for Harry Carson, Rochester Ward 08, Monroe.
37 “Obituaries...Harry Carson,” St. Petersburg Times, January 25, 1989.