Gator Wrestling

Old photo, white border. Circa 1920s – 1930s.

Price:  $5.00           Size:  2 and 3/4 x 4 and 1/2″

The condition of this one is not great – with the crease on the bottom right and the image being pretty washed out, but it is one of a kind, and that’s always nice, since it was taken by an individual, rather than produced in numbers for the tourist trade. It shows a young man of the Seminole Nation, his legs on either side of a belly-up alligator, gator’s snout to young man’s chin; a line of spectators in the back; and another gator, under the palm tree. Enlarge the image (twice) for a better look.

See the links below for a few articles on the subject of alligator wrestling. And maybe you’ve had a similar experience so I’ll share something here:  Rarely have I felt so overwhelmed by a photo:

I’ve been wrestling (no pun intended) with finishing this post, having re-written it several times – and have come to the conclusion that this photo is “weighty” for me. For one thing, a doorway to history – flipping back thru time with the Seminole people – life before tourism, before the tragedy of the Glades being diminished, pride for the Seminoles to have never signed a “peace” treaty with the U.S. government…..And this photo’s era – Florida in the ’20’s and ’30’s being a particular draw for me – that déja vu feeling, with it’s invariable why?……And questions for the present and future, our planet and its welfare (anguish) gators and all, but also this particular gator and this particular wrestler – so, back to the moment when the photo was taken, and by the way, the feelings and impressions of those spectators…. Multiple pathways to travel down. Maybe I’ll be drawn back to it all later, when I’m older and hopefully, wiser.

Some related articles:

Fitzner, Zach. “Alligator wrestling in Florida may soon become a thing of the  past.” Earth.com, April 18, 2019. https://www.earth.com/news/alligator-wrestling-florida/ (accessed November 20, 2022).

Lipscomb, Jessica. “Study, Actually Alligator Wrestling Is Bad.” Miami New Times, November 24, 2020. https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/study-says-floridas-alligator-wrestling-attractions-are-harmful-11748501 (accessed November 20, 2022).

Oztaskin, Murat. “How Florida’s Seminole Tribe Transformed Alligator Wrestling Into A Symbol of Independence.” The New Yorker, January 27, 2021. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-new-yorker-documentary/how-floridas-seminole-tribe-transformed-alligator-wrestling-into-a-symbol-of-independence. (accessed November 20, 2022).

Triple Royal Palm, Ridgewood Avenue, Daytona FL

Divided back, unused, embossed postcard. Publisher:  S. Langsdorf & Co., New York. Made in Germany. Series 618. Circa 1908 – 1914.

Price:  $35.00

This is what’s called an “alligator border” postcard. They were very collectible at the time and are pretty highly valued today. You can find them selling for around 30.00 or 40.00 dollars to in the hundreds, depending on content and rarity….And, imagine this particular card having been placed in an album after it was first purchased, because if you look closely (enlarge the image twice) you’ll notice the slightly darker coloration on each corner (so that when it was displayed in the album you were not seeing the corners). I like this kind of “physical proof” – it seems to add another layer or dimension to the card.

When looking for publisher S. Langsdorf, we found mention of him and (bonus!) the alligator border phenom in this Google book search:  America’s Alligator:  A Popular History of Our Most Celebrated Reptile, by Doug Alderson. You can also take a “Look Inside” for part of the book on Amazon.com right now. See the upcoming post for more on S. Langsdorf.

The “Triple” in Royal Palm is, I think, a description of a Royal Palm that has three trunks, or maybe multiple trunks, as in the most predominant palm appearing in our postcard above.

Sources:  Alderson, Doug. America’s Alligator:  A Popular History of Our Most Celebrated Reptile. Rowman and Littlefield, 2020. (books.google.com).

Royal Palm Tree. https://www.allaboutpalmtrees.com/royal-palm-tree (accessed October 22, 2022).

Gator Couple

Divided Back, artist-signed, used postcard. Postmarked August 21, 1917, Brimfield, Illinois. Postcard artist:  Hans Horina.

Price:  $15.00

A gator (the “husband” we presume) standing in a river or pond, calls out,“Oh, I don’t know!” to his wife, who is walking off, holding a small parasol. This card was part of a series of comic gator cards that told a story, so the caption would have made sense when seeing the full set.

We found a short description for the German postcard artist, Hans Horina (1865 – 1918) from the wonderful site, Lambiek – Comix Strips (lambiek.net) under the Comiclopedia section. (Check it out if you have time.)

Addressed to:   “Mrs. Ida Ost, 609 Abington Str., Peoria, Illinois.”

The sender wrote:   “From the bunch. Brimfield, Ill. Aug. 21st, 1917. Dear Peorians, We missed the mail yesterday after-noon so if your card didn’t go on through you wouldn’t get it to-day but hope you did. It is a rainy day here. Toodles is playing and has got Teddy in that little wagon now. Harland is going up town now and will mail this card. Oscar says to tell you that he got that piece of pie alright so he didn’t lose out after all. Does this look like the aligator in Central Park [grand-pa] ha ha ha. Oscar says for you Edie to meet him at the depot Wednesday night. Good-bye. Write soon.”

The above message was written by Clara (Wizeman) Pemble, wife of Harland Pemble. Clara, born in Illinois about 1886, was the daughter of William Wizeman and Louisa Mohler. Harland, born in Illinois about 1882, was the son of James H. Pemble and Mary Cavender. “Toodles” is probably Harland and Clara’s daughter Ida, who in 1917, when this card was sent, would have been about four or five.

Ida Ost, the addressee, is Clara’s sister. Ida was born in Illinois about 1875. She is listed as widowed on the 1900 Federal Census.

Sources:  “Hans Horina.” (https://www.lambiek.net/artists/h/horina_hans.htm). Accessed October 17, 2023.

Peoria County Courthouse; Peoria, IL, USA; Peoria County Marriages, 1825-1915; Collection Title: Peoria County Marriages, 1825-1915. (Ancestry.com).

Year: 1920; Census Place: Brimfield, Peoria, Illinois; Roll: T625_398; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 47. (Ancestry.com).

Year: 1900; Census Place: Peoria Ward 3, Peoria, Illinois; Roll: 334; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 0097; FHL microfilm: 1240334. (Ancestry.com).

Year: 1860; Census Place: Elmwood, Peoria, Illinois; Roll: M653_217; Page: 554; Family History Library Film: 803217.  (Ancestry.com).