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.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Everyone Loves Tugboats

In the marine world, nothing is quite as popular with the general public as the tug boat. Whether it's with young children or old salty dogs, there's something that draws people to them, to the personalities they seem to evoke. And naturally, people over the years have snapped photos of them, including these two anonymous images, taken from a bridge in the 1940s or '50s, of two random tugs hard at work, a momentary slice of marine life during an otherwise ordinary, hard-working day.

Above is the Russel B. of New York, and below is the Frank P. Buchanan. I've not been able to find any information about these or the companies that owned them...if you happen to know anything, please comment!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Winter Swollen River

There is no indication with this photograph of where or when it was taken (it was found in a Chicago-area antique store), but it appears that the river has been swollen by winter rains and is close to flooding (if it hasn't already).

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Our House - 14

It is a bit harder to get a sense of the architecture with this family photo. It's probably the 1920s, and the trim on the porch is intriguing.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Store Clerk

This kid looks very proud, wearing his tie, at work at what is probably his first job.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Cheyenne Canyon's Ramona Falls

Near Colorado Springs is a place called South Cheyenne Canyon, which has been a tourist destination since it opened in the 1880s. One of the prime features is the Seven Falls, a series of cascades which, from a distance, look like one large waterfall.

Our photo, probably taken in the late 1890s or early 1900s, shows the very uppermost of the falls, Ramona. A vintage graphic showing the full seven falls can be found here, and a graphic showing the names can be found here. In both of the links, near the top you can see the bridge that replaced the rickety one shown in our photo (and the ricketyness suggests that our photo is very early in the period of the falls' commercial development).

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Main Street, White, South Dakota

If there's a place in the mid-west the epitomizes "out in the middle of nowhere", it's the lovely town of White, South Dakota. Stuck over on the eastern-most side of the state, White (today) covers 0.99 square miles with a few houses, several churches, an ag coop and a bustling population of 491 people. It was founded in 1884, and named after W. H. White, the area's first settler.

Our photo is a real-photo postcard (AZO 4-triangles-up, a code on the back meaning that the paper was produced sometime between 1904 and 1918), and someone took the time to note that the it was taken on Hallowe'en. The view is looking east along unpaved Main Street, and not a single automobile is in sight, everything is still horse-drawn.

The oddest part, though, is the large harvester parked on the street.

And hiding in the shadows is an old horse-drawn rake.

Here's a Google Maps view of White....just not much there!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Desert Depression Shooting Club

When the whole country's in a Great Depression, there's nothing like a little desert shooting expedition in New Mexico to help one escape from the troubles of life.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Our House - 13

This month's "Our House" photo is another very faded albumen print from the 1880s or 1890s, and depicts an elderly couple (the husband is wearing styles from the 1870s) posing in front of their home. Note the gingerbread decorative touches at different places on the house...someone clearly put a lot of labor into this place.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Parsonage in the Snow

This winter street scene in what appears to be a western town (sparse pine trees and rocks in the distance suggest a scene typical of New Mexico or Idaho) is accompanied by a puzzling pencil inscription: "Parsonage first, Bullis in distance." Presumably, then the nearby house is some church's parsonage, and the house farther away belongs to a family with the surname Bullis.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Mining Phosphate

Today we have two completely independent photos that appear to show the same thing, mining phosphate to be processed into fertilizer. The first image is a thin snap-shot, without any indication as to where it was taken. It shows a crew of laborers digging and loading their shovel-fulls into small rail cars. At first, I thought that it might be peat that they were digging, but then after acquiring the second photograph, I realized that it instead might be phosphate.

Shortly after acquiring the above photograph, I found the stereoview to the right, titled Mining Phosphate near Columbia, Tenn. This card is one of a series published in 1927 that dealt with mining and industrial development of Tennessee and the South in general. Most of the text on the back of the card is a general discussion of the importance of fertilizer to agriculture, but the last paragraph describes the process:
Phosphates are formed about decayed organic bodies in layers of rocks. In Tennessee the phosphate deposit is in limestone. Beds of this mineral are found in many places in the South, especially in Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. Here you see how phosphate is dug out and loaded on cars. these cars are run to a nearby factory, where the mined material is manufactured into fertilizer.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Building an Overpass

There's a tremendous amount of activity and detail in this photograph from the 1920s. Construction crews are using a steam crane and a cement mixer to mix and pour concrete for an overpass. As of this writing, I have not been able to identify the location, but there is reason to suspect it might be in or near Scranton, Pennsylvania (more on that below). The photograph itself is in poor condition, and is starting to deteriorate, having suffered water damage at one point.

A team of horses stand waiting as the crew operates a cement mixer.

The only reference that I could find to Globe Stores was to a rather famous one in Scranton, PA; however the railroad station does not appear to be a Pennsylvania one.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Main Street, Anytown USA

Once upon a time, an early photographer decided to snap a photo looking down this street. I have no idea why, maybe he just wanted to record a moment in time on an ordinary day. Not an automobile is in site. One can almost imagine that this is a sunny, warm, muggy July day, the sky is blue, the trees are green, it's rained recently and the street is still muddy.

The image in this albumen print has faded drastically, but below an enhanced copy brings out details.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Our House - 12

House portraits typically feature the whole family, so where it the husband in this one? Since such photographs were typically shot by traveling photographers who went door-to-door at time when the whole family could be expected to be home, maybe the husband was simply away on business. This print is broken, with the lower left corner being found in a whole separate bin in the antique store, and then rejoined digitally in photoshop.

What I find most curious about this photograph, though, is the unusual windwheel which appears behind the house and above the roofline (below). This appears to be a Dempster Vaneless model, inwhich the sectional blade segments collapse as wind speed changes in order to regulate the mill's speed. A good video that describes and shows this type of windmill in operation can be found here on YouTube. A restored one can  be found at this web page.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Steam-Powered Lumber Mill

Since this is an outdoor lumber mill, I would presume it is at the site of some big construction project, rather than a permanent commercial business. That being said, judging by the size of the pile of sawdust in the foreground, this crew has been milling a lot of logs!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Bad Train Wreck

This photo has no information written on the back, and I cannot discern any details that would help figure out when and where this train wreck took place. Clearly, though, it's a bad one. A passenger train with the locomotive ending up inverted, and what appears to be bridge structure sticking up high in the air means this was one bad scene.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Andes: The Ghost of the Loucinda

Time has glamorized paddlewheel riverboats, but some were anything but glamorous. The Andes was one of these boats that had a life of hardship and misfortune rather than romantic glamour. She went through several names and even more owners, and seemed to float from one mishap to the next. River folk can be rather superstitious, and this boat had her share of bad luck.

Originally built in 1897 by the Middleport, Ohio boatyard owned by Captain Benjamin Taylor Flesher, the 140-foot wooden-hulled sternwheeler was owned initially by the Carr Milling Co. and named the Speedwell. Carr (originally the Carr & Brown Milling Co.) was a flour milling concern in Hamilton, Ohio, on the Great Miami River, just north of where it joins the Ohio River. It is likely that Carr Milling thought that by owning their own riverboat, they could bring wheat in, and ship product out without be at the mercy of a shipping company. There is some indication that the boat also operated on another Ohio River tributary, the Kanawha.

Carr didn't keep the boat long, selling her in 1902 to Captain Sam Parsons who renamed her the Helen M. Gould (the wife of railroad magnate Jay Gould, who made a name for herself as a philanthropist) and began packet trade between Cincinnati and Portsmouth, and later between Louisville and Madison. The choice of the name was actually an odd one, as was the original. Sailors, including riverboat crews, are highly superstitious, and this trait extends to their captains. Having a name that begins with S (the worst-ever riverboat disaster happened to the Sultana) or contains the letter M is considered by some a sign of bad luck. For instance, the Greene family had boats named after just about every member of the clan, and yet no boat was named for the matriarch, Mary Greene (the only female captain on the Ohio), because of the M. That being said, the Helen's eight-year career with Parsons passed quite routinely, with only minor incidents occasionally occuring. Rivers, after all, are a dangerous place, even without superstitions.

In 1910, she was bought by the Lousiville and Cincinnati Packet Company, and completely rebuilt. When she emerged, she was essentially a new boat, other than keeping the Gould's engines, ten feet longer and had a new name, the Loucinda (derived from LOUiville, CINcinatti, iDianA). Now free of a name beginning with S or containing an M, things started going badly for the boat. Barely back in the water after her refit, on September 2, 1910, the Loucinda ran down an unattended launch three miles above Louisville, sinking it. Charges were pressed against pilot Gilbert Brasher for negligence and inattention to duty, and he lost his license. On October 12, 1912, a drunken passenger fell overboard and drowned, never a good sign to the highly superstitious riverboat crews. And that was just the beginning of her woes.

Then on April 25, 1913, Loucinda had a close brush with disaster. She had broken down at Louisville, Kentucky, and so the steamer Monterey was tasked with towing her to Jeffersonville, Indiana, for repairs. The Monterey was only half of the Loucinda's tonnage (107 to 197 tons), and when the pair pulled away from the warf, a south wind caught them and was more than the Monterey could handle, and the two were pushed into the main current of the river, heading straight for the Falls of the Ohio, a series of rocky rapids and waterfalls in which the river drops 26 feet, the only non-navigable part of the Ohio. The master of the Monterey tried to back towards the warf, but this just served to swing the pair so that they were now heading directly downstream. The Annual Report of the United States Life-Saving Service for FY 1913 describes what followed:
The power of the towing vessel [the Monterey] was not sufficient to offset the force of the current, and she was swept down through one of the openings between the Kentucky and Indiana chutes of the falls and over Backbone Reef.  In striking the reef she broke her rudder. She also started to leak from stem to stern, and filled so fast that her three steam pumps were unable to hold the inrushing flood in check. Passing under the Pennsylvania bridge, she was borne into the Big Eddy where the water in her hold set her to rolling. In a short time she turned entirely over and the fierce current tore away her upper works, letting her boilers and machinery drop out. Then the upturned hull floated off and plunged over the falls.
The danger in which the two vessels found themselves after leaving their warf was promptly observed from the life saving station. The service crew in two boats put out into the river and separated the line between them, then took off the five men composing the crew of the Monterey, and placed_them on the Loucinda. They next dropped an anchor from the vessel last named and carried two of her lines to the Indiana shore. With the lines firmly secured the men on the Loucinda slacked away on the anchor line and she swung into the quieter water near the bank. Later a harbor tug took her through the canal and on to Jeffersonville. Only two men were aboard the Loucinda.
In 1914, the Loucinda was chartered to the Louisville and Evansville Packet Company, but at some point during that summer, she hit a sandbar and became so stuck that she was not freed until that December when the river level rose. That many months without income was a difficult time for the steamer's operators.

The final and fatal bit of hard luck came three years later when, on January 30, 1918, she was wrecked in the Cincinnati ice gorge disaster that wrecked a number of riverboats. In the spring, the owners tried to salvage what they could. The hull was repairable, and in 1919 the Louisville and Cincinnati had a new boat was built on the hull, named the Andes. She was, but all reports, a bare-bones vessel, "cheaply built" according to one report. However, the bad luck seems to have been shaken off. She was even chartered off to the Greene Line for a time, and then sold, in March 1927, to Captain Oliver F. Bradford.

And then, on July 1, 1931, the good luck ran out. While approaching Plaquemine Lock, about 13 miles south of Baton Rouge, the Andes was wrecked and sank.