Sunday, August 20, 2017

Hoisting Cement

This photograph is essentially dying, crumbling to powder due to age and poor handling in the past. It's evidence of how transient our memories of the past can be. When they're gone, there is no replacing them. Long before modern cement pumps, this is how construction was done.

The cement mixer in the lower left of the image is a Koehring Mixer, which helps date the image a bit. The Koehring Company was started in 1907 to manufacture cement mixers, and was the first to develop a steam-powered, portable mixer (a photograph of an almost identical mixer can be seen here on Robert Grauman's Photobucket gallery). The Koehring company's product lines were owned by different parent companies over the years, but the name lasted until about 1987, when then-owner Northwest Engineering acquired Terex, and discontinued the Koehring and several other brands.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Our House - 11

So, I have to wonder with this photo: what was the point of hauling such a beautiful rocking chair out into the yard if no one was going to sit in it for the photo? Maybe it's in memorial to someone who recently passed? Maybe the husband of the woman sitting in the other chair? And I wonder why the son chose to stand behind the fence, instead of with the rest of the family? Given the wife's dress style (specifically the puffed sleeves at the shoulder), I'd guess this was taken in the 1890s.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Church of Hats

For the second #ThrowbackThursday of every month, I usually feature a school class, but today it's a church congregation. One of the really fun things about the decade between roughly 1900 and 1910 were the really austentatious hats most women wore...and the hats shown in this photo are wonderful!

One has to wonder if these women felt pressure to compete with one another to have the more outrageous hat.

This is one of those times when I wish these old photos were in color: those hats must have been spectacular!

The minister is the only adult present not wearing a hat.

Even one little girl has gotten into the hat thing in a big way.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

End of the Line

It's hard to tell the age of this photo (it's clearly early) and there is no location information written on the back other than (in very light pencil), the tantilizing phrase, "This is some more of the same job." But in the pile of neglected photos in the antique store where I found this, there were no more similar images. How frustrating!  At any length, this is the point where the wild frontier gets civilized, the arrival of the Iron Horse. For the moment that this photo was taken, the crudely hewn ties are in place, the rails laid but not yet spiked, and they stop in a hundred yards or so. Just days after this photo was taken, more track was laid and this spot, which hosted so many toiling men for such a short moment, was all but forgotten, just a lonely place on a prairie that the later passengers using this rail line barely even noticed.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Teddy and Family

I found this photo buried in a stack at an antique store a while back...price: $1. The obvious resemblence to Teddy Roosevelt jumped out at me. As the lady working the cash register rang up my photo purchases, she saw the resemblence, too, and her eyebrows went up, then went up further when she realized I was getting the photo for a buck, and there wasn't anything she could do about it at that point!

So, is it Teddy Roosevelt? I think so, but can't be positive. It looks to me that they were on a family outing that day, enjoying what appears to be some nice spring-time weather Several of the women in photo look like women in Teddy's life, as well.

So what's your take? Teddy, or just a guy that looks like him?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tropical Construction Site

This photo is a bit of an exception to the theme of the blog: I'm not positive it is in the U.S. The countryside, as well as the style of building in the background suggests a more tropical environment. It could be Hawaii, but it also could be one of the Carribean islands, or Central or South America.
That being said, it's interesting anyway, as it shows what looks to be 1920s or 1930s construction techniques.

Given this site's elevation above the curving railroad track entering the picture from the far right, this well might be a loading facility of some sort. If you have a thought as to what they're building, please comment!

Sand, gravel and an early industrial-sized concrete mixer

The cars and trucks suggest the age of the photo

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Dry Goods Store

One frequent customer for itinerant photographers in the late 1800s and early 1900s were the proprietors of merchantiles, who were justifiably proud of their stores, and would pay a small price to have a portrait taken of their establishment. Such is the case with this unknown dry goods store.

In examining the details of this photo, only one brand name can be distinguished, "Sabo Blend". This was a coffee blend marketed by Woolson Spice Company (who also had made the Lion Coffee brand famous), and their label for this blend was first registered with the US Patents and Trademarks Office on May 22, 1906, so our photo had to be taken at some point after that. In the 1890s, Woolson was the second largest coffee company in the world, have grown rapidly as a result of their revolutionary methods of roasting, grinding and most importantly, marketing coffee to the average consumer. But a bitter battle corporate battle ruined Woolson. The producers of rival coffee brand Ariosa, the Arbuckle brothers, coated their coffee beans with sugar to retard spoilage, and as a result bought a lot of sugar. To save costs, they decided to develop their own in-house sugar-producing concern, which angered the stiffed sugar producers. In retaliation, a coalition of these sugar producers bought out Woolson and lowered the price of coffee to try to ruin the Arbuckles. Their scheme failed to achieve its desired results, and they sold Woolson to an investor for a song, and the new owner (before he died) ended up siphoning off millions. Around 1919, the Woolson company was in financial ruin and ceased operations, giving an upper date to when this photo could have been taken.

Presumably the chap on the left is the store's proprietor.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Kids at a Train Wreck

A passenger train has met with misfortune, and several neighborhood kids have shown up to gawk and get their photo taken...the kid on the right is a he, perhaps, pretending to be an outlaw train robber?

The photo as it appears prior to enhancing:

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Forest City Band on the Fourth of July

This is the band from Forest City...but which Forest City is the question. As far as I can tell, there are eleven different Forest Cities in the US, but it's most likely located in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Missouri, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania or South Dakota.

It is probably July 4th, sometime in the twelve-year period from 1896 to 1908, based on the 45-star American flags flying from the porch behind the house.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Patriotic Parade

It's the Fourth of July (okay, it will be in a couple of days), and it's time for a patriotic parade down main street of just about any town in the midwest. From the paper, I'm guessing this is sometime in the 1940s.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Roundhouse Crew

The crew of railroad roundhouse workers took a break one day to pose for a group photo. The print was found in an antique store outside of Chicago, Ill, so presumably it was taken at one of the several area roundhouses.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Posing on the Tankhouse

Of all the vintage family-on-the-farm photographic portraits that I've seen, this has to be the most unusual and original posing.

Why climb all the way up there - and take a little child - when you're wearing a full-length dress like that?
Don't miss the little dog hiding in the shadows
From the shape of the photographer's shadow, I'm guessing it was a woman

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Surf Riding

"Let's go surfin' now, everyone's learning how..."  The Beach Boys and their surf-centered music of the '60s might have helped popularize the sport, but surfing, or surf riding, was a celebrated local pastime long beforehand. Surfing had been practiced by Hawai'ians for hundreds of years, and as the pre-WWII military buildup on Oahu took place in the 1930s, many a young soldier and sailor - and their girls - took to the waves on their time off, resulting in scenes like this one, probably from the late 1930s or the very early '40s, before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In the early days, surf boards were wooden beheamoths up to 16 feet long and weighing from 125 to as much as 150 pounds. In 1926, famed surfer Tom Blake developed the hollow redwood board which cut the weight to 100 pounds or under, and in the 1930s began to be mass-produced. Still, compared to the scientifically-engineered composite boards of today, they were massive. 

Big thanks to Debbie at for the help in dating the swimsuits!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Our House - 9

As soon as I saw this photo in a pile in an antique store, my eyes popped...such amazing brickwork! They certainly don't build houses like this today.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Lake Steamer Cleveland

Like last week's photo, this small albumen photograph is very faded. A trip through Photoshop, though, brings out a lot of details, and reveals a crowded lake steamer named the Cleveland.

The image had originally been recorded on a glass plate negative, which was damaged (you can see the marks of this next to the man standing on the upper deck bow), suggesting that it had been handled repeatedly. Could this have been a "stock" photo of the steamer, printed in bulk, with the small prints sold as souvenirs?

Faded or Photoshopped, sometimes it's easy to forget that, for the folks on that boat, it was a brilliant, sunny day with bright blue skies, green hills in the background and the party was just getting started!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Which Brookfield School?

All sorts of confusion can occur when there are two towns with the same name in a state. Take Ohio and the Brookfield Townships: there is one in Trumbull County, and another in Noble County. So when a vintage photo shows up of the 1st and 2nd grades from Brookfield, which one is it?

The original photo is extremely faded, this is an enhanced version.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Hats and Muscle Shirts

In the 1900s, people almost always dressed formally, and most in this photo are so dressed, including women with spectacular hats...but then there are a few men in muscle shirts. This is probably a church outing or picnic, with games and activities.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Digging the Cut

Today, as giant earthmovers constantly recarve the landscape, it's easy to forget that there was a time when it was men, not machine, that cut away the hillsides to make our roads and railroads possible. It was men, not machine, who built America.

A work gang, probably composed of immigrants, likely Irishmen, uses picks and shovels to move a bit of a mountain out of the way. In an era when photography usually relied on long exposure times, the freezing of a shovelfull of dirt in mid-air before it drops into the railcar is remarkable.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The New Fire Hall

This real photo postcard was written but not postally mailed, and the text on the back includes "The New Fire Hall". Someone, much latter, added "NY", so presumably they new this was in New York (state, or city?) somewhere.

In the lower right of the photo is the for-sale sign shown below, but unfortunately, despite high-resolution scanning, the resolution of the original photo just isn't quite good enough to make out the street address of the realtor, which might then help locate the photo.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Our House - 8

This is a delightfully beautiful Victorian gingerbread...I only wish I knew where it was! Clearly this was built when manual labor was cheap but still carried great pride in craftsmanship.