Skip to main content

Item of the Week: The Man With the Winning Smile

Thu, 02/08/2024 - 10:25

From the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection

In a small town, sometimes even a little change to a long-held routine is enough to make the front page of the local paper. Such was the case with Edward Thomas Banks (1861-1949), a sanitation worker for many years and a beloved figure here.

This 1941 portrait, courtesy of The East Hampton Star’s photo archive, captures Banks’s well-known and luminous smile, which was “so winning, indeed, that he never lacked friends or jobs.” His smile was so memorable it was mentioned in his obituary eight years later.

Banks came to the South Fork to work as a cook at the fish factory at Promised Land in 1886, before making a transition to sanitation. For much of the factory’s operation, many of the workers employed there were African-Americans from coastal Virginia and North Carolina, as was Banks, who hailed from Hampton, Va.

For 50 years, Banks used a horse-drawn wagon to collect refuse around East Hampton, until, in the late 1930s, he caved to prevailing trends and bought a truck. Banks was the last of the “junkmen” to make this switch, and it was notable enough to earn a big feature story on the front page of the May 29, 1941, issue of The Star.

His horses themselves were local characters in their own rights, known for being “angular,” the article said, and “serviceable: they didn’t always arrive quickly, but they usually arrived.”

Aside from his work, Banks was known for his marriage to Mariah Geneva Fowler Pharaoh (1848-1936), widow of Montaukett Chief David Pharaoh and mother of Princess Pocahontas Pharaoh.

Banks lived for another 13 years after his wife’s passing, during which he worked almost every day, despite his advanced age. According to his obituary, he tended to his duties as a neighborhood junkman until shortly before his death in 1949, when he left behind “many good friends” in the community. 


Julia Tyson is a librarian and archivist in the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection.

 

Villages

Juneteenth: ‘This Is American History’

Following the establishment of Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021, commemorating the final enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, education efforts have grown throughout the community. “At the end of the day, this is something that should be taught because this is American history,” said Georgette Grier-Key, executive director of the Eastville Community Historical Society in Sag Harbor.

Jun 20, 2024

Georgica Pond Group Taps Assemblyman Thiele as Next Director

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced in February that he would not be seeking re-election in November after nearly 30 years in state government. For those wondering what his next act would be, the suspense is over: Mr. Thiele has been named executive director of the Friends of the Georgica Pond Foundation.

Jun 20, 2024

Jerry’s Team Is Re-Elected

There were no surprises in the East Hampton Village election on Tuesday. Mayor Jerry Larsen, Chris Minardi, the deputy mayor, and Sandra Melendez, another village trustee, all ran unopposed and were re-elected to four-year terms.

Jun 20, 2024

Your support for The East Hampton Star helps us deliver the news, arts, and community information you need. Whether you are an online subscriber, get the paper in the mail, delivered to your door in Manhattan, or are just passing through, every reader counts. We value you for being part of The Star family.

Your subscription to The Star does more than get you great arts, news, sports, and outdoors stories. It makes everything we do possible.