Things You May Never Have Known
This limited series, evry Thursday, ending the last week in December, will bring to you events about people, places, and of how things came to be as we know it today.
We could dub this a “Hmm…” moment.
So, kick back and learn stuff you might be able to use if you ever appear on the game show Jeopardy.
It’s A Numbers Game
Let us start with John D. Sweeny. Mr. Sweeney was the son of a wealthy factory owner, and had grown up in a 15-room Westchester County home staffed with servants. In an effort to learn the family business, Mr. Sweeney was working as a shipping clerk for his father. In 1936, he became the first person to get the first Social Security number issued.
John Sweeney died of a heart attack in 1974 at the age of 61 without ever receiving any benefits from the social security program; however, his widow was able to receive benefits based on his work until her death in 1982.
Social Security numbers were grouped by the first three digits of the number (called the area number) and assigned geographically starting in the northeast and moving across the country to the northwest. But if you look closely at the distribution pattern you will see an apparent anomaly. The lowest area numbers are assigned to New Hampshire, rather than to Maine, even though Maine in the most northeasterly of the states.
This was apparently done so that SSN 001-01-0001 could be given to New Hampshire's favorite son, Social Security Board Chairman John G. Winant (Winant was the former three-time Governor of New Hampshire). Chairman Winant declined to have the SSN registered to him. Then it was offered to the Federal Bureau of Old Age Benefits' Regional Representative of the Boston Region, John Campbell, who likewise declined. It was finally decided not to offer this SSN as a token of esteem but instead to issue it to the first applicant from New Hampshire.
That person was Grace Dorothy Owen Muzzey of Concord, New Hampshire (April 16,1902- December 1,1975), who applied for her number on November 24, 1936, and was issued the first card typed in Concord, which, because of the area number scheme, also happened to be the card with the lowest possible number.
The above photo is Grace taken some time in 1936.