Photo Op By The Lake

Vintage photo, circa 1950s.

Price:  $4.00       Size:  About 3 and 3/8 x 2″

Maybe Michigan, probably 1950s

An African-American family possibly taken in Michigan, where the photo was found. Were they on their way out to breakfast or church? Was the location a vacation spot for them or taken near home or were they visiting relatives? We’ll probably never know unless by some amazing serendipitous event someone’s browsing and happens to recognize these people. Not unheard of. I’ve been reading Henry Z. “Hank” Jones, Jr.’s Psychic Roots, Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy.”  If you do family research, for example, chances are excellent that you can recount multiple instances of that feeling of “being led” to a spectacular find. Or, on the opposite side, if you sell or post family photos or other items you may have a story of someone walking into your store and finding their relatives’ “lost” family album, or seeing someone happen upon a postcard that they themselves had written and mailed fifty years ago. In our talks with sellers we’ve heard a surprising number of such accounts. The kind that make your hair stand up on the back of your neck (in a good way!). Here’s one from my family:

Serendipity in Montréal

Maybe fifteen or twenty years ago, I’ve forgotten by now, I was with some family members vacationing in Montréal. Sitting on the beds in the motel we were trying to figure out what to do for the day, looking at brochures. I was drawn to the one on the Pointe-à-Callière Museum and felt we “had to” go there, that it was important to go. In one of the exhibits we saw an artist’s rendition of a mother holding a child. Standing in front of this drawing I had a strong urging to take a photo. Immediately the thought came into my head,  “Why? It’s not like you’re related to her or anything.”  Ahhh, but as you’ve guessed 🙂 she (beautiful Charlotte, specifically Marie Charlotte Gloria dit Roch or DesRoches) turned out to be, not just any relative necessarily, but mine and my siblings’ 6th-great grandmother. (See Collections archéologiques for a photo of the handle of a tool? with Charlotte’s name carved on it. This was one of many artifacts that had been uncovered at the site of what is called “the birthplace of Montréal” and what later became the museum.) Now, at that point I hadn’t yet researched that particular line, and had never even come across her name. It was not till a few years later, while searching my Dufour side online, and “climbing the tree” by finding my direct ancestor Pierre Dufour that there, lo and behold, was his wife, Charlotte Roch. Wait, what??? (Jaw-dropping, falling out of chair.) Not the end of the story, though. For about a week after that, what seemed like every time I got into the car, I heard Chuck Berry’s, “You Never Can Tell” either just playing or as the next offering by the d.j. You know the lyrics, ♪ “It was a teenage wedding and the old folks wished them well. You could see that Pierre did truly love the mademoiselle.” ♪ True, Pierre was not a teenager when they wed, and though Charlotte was, that was not unusual in the least at that time, but it was the true love part that seemed to be the point of what felt like a message bridging “time.” (What is time? 😉 ) Records show that Pierre and Charlotte had eleven kids and, of course, have many many descendants. Notable is the birthplace of their second child. Their first was born in Montréal, and the youngest nine in Detroit. But the baptismal record (all are in French) for their second child, Marie Charlotte Dufour, states she was born in the  “8yattenons.”  (French-Canadian priests sometimes wrote a number to denote a sound or abbreviate a word, for instance “7bre” for septembre, which by the way, can be confusing when reading the record, the digit 7 but the 9th month!) The appellation 8yattenons was used for Fort Ouiatenon. This has been verified in other unrelated records, and the fact that Pierre was a soldier when he and his young family left Montréal adds credibility to daughter Charlotte having been born at or near this fort. Well, this ended up to be a lengthy sidetrack off the subject of this post, that of the vintage photo from the 1950s, yikes! But definitely, if you’d like to share your own stories of the serendipity-amazing luck-small world type we’d love to hear them.

Back to the photo…..

Amazing how every photo transmits so much. An everyday moment maybe, but no less special, as when we look we see the smiles, and the grace and humor, maybe get a sense of the struggles, and yet the joy, in a backdrop, no, make that of a oneness with, a particular place and time, and somehow in total it all washes over us like a blessing…. No identifying info on the back, but maybe we’re looking at a photo of a husband and wife and mother or auntie or older sister of either? All three are very stylish. Love the striped tie on the gentleman. I think of him as Clarence (heehee, he’s likely laughing somewhere now). There’s the flashy belt the older woman wears that’s caught the lens light……there’s the very chic pose of the younger woman, and….her skirt. Check out the pattern on the fabric, a surprise and a delight:  Chickens!

Up On The Roof

Vintage photo, white border, deckled edge. Circa 1940s – 1950s.

Price:  $1.00        Size:  About 4 and 1/4 x 3 and 1/8″

A beautiful vintage snapshot, albeit in rough shape, of an African-American family posing together on a rooftop. It was found on my recent Detroit excursion in an antique shop in Dearborn. No writing on the back, and Detroit could be the location, but just on the off-chance that the photo had not strayed too far. The time-frame is 1940s and ’50s, a little hard to pinpoint without more detailed research. For one, we see girls’ and womens’ hemlines at the knee in both decades.

Me In 1915

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Undivided back, used, artist-signed postcard. Postmarked April 6, 1906 from Waltham, Massachusetts.

Price:  $12.00

This 1906 postcard shows off the 1891 popular watercolor and gouache work, The Music of the Dance, by Philadelphia-born artist Arthur Burdett Frost (1851 – 1928). Funny that we have three dates here:  The date on the original artwork, 1891, that we see in the left corner of the “tableau” next to the signature; the postcard date of 1906; and the date projected into the future by, likely the sender of the postcard, who wrote,  “Me in 1915”.  Was the sender joking that he would be reduced to….or projecting his hopeful success of being elevated to the life of a traveling musician (in nine years time)? Interesting question!

And though the postcard is not in good condition, it’s the only one we see at this time online, and definitely a nice part of artist, postcard, and African-American in art history, not to mention significant for anyone doing any Rumrill family research.

The card was mailed to:   “Mr. F. P. Rumrill, Hillsboro Br., N.H.”

The abbreviation Br. is probably for Borough. And there are some possibilities but we didn’t find any “no-doubters” (as in home run baseball lingo) for F. P. Rumrill. But there were definitly Rumrills in Hillsborough (also written Hillsboro) notably a Frank G. Rumrill, born in NH December 1866 who appears on the 1900 Federal Census.

Sources:  Gouache. n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gouache. (accessed December 11, 2016).

“Arthur Burdett Frost (1851 – 1928) The Music for the Dance.” Copley Fine Art Auctions. (auctions.bidsquare.com) Accessed December 11, 2016.

Year: 1900; Census Place: Hillsborough, Hillsborough, New Hampshire; Roll: 947; Page: 22B; Enumeration District: 0084; FHL microfilm: 1240947. (Ancestry.com)

A U. S. Army WWII Veteran

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Photo, circa 1943. Possible surname on back:  Wright.

Price:  $3.00        Size:  About 2 and 1/2 x 3″

We’re a day late this year for Veterans Day, which was yesterday, but still the sentiment was there, so to honor all veterans…..here’s a snapshot of a handsome African-American guy taken during what appears to be the WWII era. From a little research we think he’s wearing an M-1943 Field Jacket. And the hat, a garrison cap, which bears an insignia on the left-hand side but the design is too blurred to make out. No doubt there are military uniform experts out there who will know. The writing is rather scribbled on the back, but it looks like the young man’s last name could be Wright, and underneath a couple of words, “…..?….cook” or could that first word be an abbreviation of signal? which then makes one think it would be Signal Corps, though that’s probably stretching it.

Sources:  M-1943 Field Jacket. Military Items.com (accessed November 12, 2016).

Garrison Caps. At The Front Shop.com. (accessed November 12, 2016).

Roberta In Cap And Gown

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Cropped old photo, circa 1920s – 1930s.

Price:  $3.00              Size:  About 2 x 3″

Still in school dayz for one more post….This is a cropped portrait of a beautiful African American woman in her graduation cap and gown, holding her diploma. The time-frame is maybe 1920s – 1930s. The reverse shows her writing, too bad it’s so cut off. Guessing from the signature that her name is Roberta, and we do know another thing about her:  she had a good sense of humor. She jokes that (likely this photo) is,  “something to frighten the mosquitos away. smile.”

Tourists In Tijuana, 1955

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An African-American couple (presuming couple and presuming they’re from the U.S.) posing for a photo wearing tourist sombreros, seated on a platform behind a “Tijuana Zebra.” That’s a depiction of the Legend of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl as the photographer’s backdrop, and at the top of the backdrop we can see “1955” and what looks like the suggestion of “Mexico” to the right of the year. The photo does seem unmistakably 1950’s with those pedal pushers the beautiful young woman is wearing. Just behind the donkey we can see the start of the word “Tijuana” that’s painted on the platform.

Divided back, unused, Real Photo Postcard. Circa 1955. Kodak Paper stamp box.

Price:  $7.00

Sources:  Tijuana Zebra. n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tijuana_Zebra. (accessed April 22, 2016).

Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popocat%C3%A9petl_and_Iztacc%C3%ADhuatl. (accessed April 22, 2016).

Charlotte Amalie Waterfront, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

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Divided back, deckled edge, unused postcard. Photographer:  Larry Witt. Publisher:  Marion J. Head, 4 Norre Gade, St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. 00801. Copyright 1964 Dexter Press, West Nyack, New York. Printed in the United States.

Availability status:  SOLD           Size:  About 5 and 7/8 x 4″

A colorful 1964 postcard showing activity at the Charlotte Amalie Waterfront, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Charlotte Amalie is the capital and largest city of the U.S. Virgin Islands, known especially for its pirate history and Danish colonial architecture. The photo shows a couple of sailboats, and some people on the pier attending to bags of oranges and other articles that have perhaps just been unloaded. The green wooden craft on the left is named Esme, a name of French origin, used by men and women (Esme or Esmé short for Esmérelda) and meaning esteemed or beloved.

Sources:  Charlotte Amalie, United States Virgin Islands. n.d. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Amalie,_United_States_Virgin_Islands (accessed October 10, 2014).

Esmé. n.d. http://www.behindthename.com/name/esme10 (accessed October 10, 2014).

Congo Girl

Congo Girl

Real Photo Postcard. Black and White. Circa 1957. Photographer:  Casimir Zagourski.

Price:  $45.00

This is a postcard that was sent from Saratoga, California, postmarked October 29, 1957. To protect the receiver’s privacy, the back of the postcard which shows the address, is not included here. The sender’s writing on the side states,  “One type of hair dress in the Congo.”  It is assumed that this photo was taken in the Congo, because of the sender’s remarks, but there is no description on the back of the postcard. It is possible that the sender had traveled to the Congo and sent the postcard upon his or her return to the United States but we would not know that for sure; there is no indication in the writing on the back, and no way to research the sender as it is signed with  “love from a friend.”  The photographer’s stamp on the back appears to read as:  “C. Zagourski   Photographie. Léopoldville – Congo (Belge) Reproduction Interdit.” (Most of the stamp is readable)

Research shows this photographer is Casimir Zagourski. (1883 – 1944) Casimir, the son of a Polish nobleman, was born Kazimierz Zagórski, August 9, 1883 in Zytomierz, Ukraine. After serving in the military, he headed for the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of Congo.) He established a studio in Léopoldville in 1924, and ran this until his death in 1944, selling photographic albums and postcards and making expeditions to photograph and record on film, other areas of Africa including Kenya, Rwanda,Tanzania (Tanganyika) and Uganda. He recognized that he was capturing a way of life in Africa that was disappearing, as evidenced by the title he gave to a grand body of work: L’Afrique Qui Disparait. His work was viewed in Paris at the Colonial Exhibition in 1937, and he won a gold medal, the grand prize at the 1937 International Exhibition at Brazzaville. These are just a few simplistic facts included here with this post, however the life of this influential photographer has been written about by author Krzysztof Pluskota, and appears in the book entitled In and Out of Focus: Images from Central Africa, 1885-1960 edited by Christraud M. Geary.

For this blog’s author, this postcard is yet another example of how research on one photo, one postcard, one trade card, one whatever, is like opening a door to a whole other world. Check out the incredible collections online in the Yale postcard collection and Gallery Ezakwantu.

Sources:  Geary, Christraud M. (Ed.) (2003) In and Out of Focus: Images from Central Africa, 1885-1960.  London:  Philip Wilson Publishers. (Googlebooks)

Gallery Ezakwantu (www.ezakwantu.com)

Yale University, Casimir Zagourski Postcard Collection (www.library.yale.edu)