Thursday, February 15, 2018

Our House - 17

The log cabin construction, the tree-trunk porch posts, the 1890s clothes, this is one interesting family gathering photo.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Our House - 16

Why is the theme song for the old TV show My Three Sons suddenly running through my head?

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Banker

I almost passed this photo up when I came across it in a San Deigo antique store...but in the end I went back for it...there's just something about such a frozen moment in time from the late 1800s, a far cry from today's highly automated banks, and yet, in someways, little different. Original, right, is somewhat faded, but some careful tone mapping and contrast enhancement brings some life back.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Riverboat Grand

Ever since I was a kid and read Mark Twain's adventure stories, I've had a fascination with paddle-wheel riverboats. In an era when the nation was relatively young and the mighty rivers were the main arteries of commerce, the steam riverboats proliferated and were instrumental in the economic development of America. Their age, fortunately, overlapped the age of photography just enough to leave us some record of what life with riverboats was like.

There were thousands upon thousands of riverboats built, and theirs was a hard life, with the typical boat lasting maybe ten years or so. Disciplined industrial safety hadn't been developed yet, and everything was about making money, so boilers weren't always built or operated with the idea of "safety first", so fires and boiler explosions were commonplace, and took a huge toll on boats and passengers. When one ponders what the worst maritime disaster was, the sinking of the Titanic instantly comes to the minds of many, but that tragedy wasn't the worst by far: the record is held by a steam-powered side-wheel riverboat named the Sultana, which was grossly overloaded Union soldiers paroled from Confederate prison camps. Normally the boat could carry 376 passengers, but on the night of April 27, 1865, the two-year-old riverboat was carrying 2,427 people when three of her four boilers exploded, and around 1,800 people died. The scope of disaster ensured that the Sultana's name would be remembered, but so many others sucumbed in less dramatic fashion, and so weren't remembered at all. 

Records of the less famous riverboats are spotty. Starting in 1856, the insurer Lloyd's produced a Steamboat Directory, and more recently, the reference book Way's Packet Directory lists over 5,900 boats that worked on the Mississippi River system, and that list is now searchable at; a Grand does appear in the database as Way's number 2417, but as I don't have access to the book, I can't relay if there's any additional information that would confirm that this is the same boat, or suggest when or where this photo was taken (if anyone has this info, I'd love to hear from you!). The photo itself has no accompanying info about this family who seem to be about to board for a river journey. From the clothes, we can guess that the date was in the late 1800s or the first few years of the 20th century, but even the river that this scene took place on is unknown.

Typical of photographs from this era, the exposure was a long one, and unfortunately the camera appears to have been bumped,
resulting in the details being obscured by motion blur.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Our House - 15

This is a huge house for era, and judging by the folks on the porch, one set of grandparents lived with this family.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Spring of Arrow Rock

For pioneers, homesteaders, and sundry others following the call to head west in early 1800s, one of the most popular routes to get there was over the Santa Fe Trail. No matter who you were, though, one thing was needed more than anything else on such a journey: water. So sites of natural springs, especially ones that had a significant and reliable flow, quickly became imporatant places. Arrow Rock was one of those.

Most sources today recognize Independence, Missouri as the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail, with it ending in Santa Fe, New Mexico (and at the time the trail was established as a trade route, Santa Fe was in the Mexican state of Nuevo Mexico). Independence itself was frontier territory, and travelers departing from St. Louis by land had quite a trek just to get to the beginning. For others, it meant a trip up the Missouri River a ways. Arrow Rock was on the western bank of the Missouri, roughly half-way between St. Louis and Independence, and was a popular jumping-off point because its spring. Travelers would stop at the spring to fill their water barrels before continuing west.

The site has quite a history, dating back to to pre-history. A nearby flint-bearing bluff was frequented by Native Americans from several tribes looking for stone to make arrowheads. Louis and Clark stopped here, noting the spring. On a subsequent trip, Clark noted that the site would be the ideal spot for a town. And one naturally grew up here, starting in 1829.

Today, the site is part of the Arrow Rock Historic Site, and the spring is still there, and still flowing. user BruceS posted a photo, which can be seen here of the spring from a similar angle.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Some Assembly Required (With a Steam Crane)

I have no idea what all this steel is about to become. What I find fascinating about this photo, though, is the steam crane that's about to assemble it all.