A Detroiter, Circa 1910s by Photographer Charles J. Merz

Real Photo Postcard, circa 1907 – 1918. Detroit, Michigan. AZO Stamp Box.

Price:  $10.00

We’re taking liberties with the title of this post by presuming that the subject above lived in Detroit. In any case, he’s a handsome guy, here in dark suit, light-colored tie and pocket handkerchief, and a detachable collar. He’s seated in a carved wooden chair, which most likely, belonged to the photographer. And we wonder if this chair could have folded – is that a seam we’re seeing on our right above the armrest, or is it just part of the carving?

The time-frame for the card is based on the AZO stamp box, all four triangles pointing up, and the fact that it is a Divided Back card.

As for the photographer:  Charles John Merz, son of Christian Merz and Elizabeth Trost, was born September 14, 1872, in Michigan. Both parents were born in Germany. He married Buffalo, New York native,Tillie Bischy on June 5, 1901. Their daughter, Olive, was born about 1905. And, it turns out that Merz was in the photography business for decades, which is unusual for the time, given that most photographers (and there was so many that went into the trade) had either a rather short-lived career, or had moved on to other occupations by the 1920s. (It would be interesting to see statistics on this subject.)

Charles appears to have gotten started in the photography business around age 20, or a little earlier. The 1893 city directory shows he was working for, or with, photographer, Herman Baron, at 49 Monroe Ave in Detroit. By 1896 he is with the C. M. Hayes & Co. studio, and listed as a printer. The most recent city directory with the Michigan Avenue business address was found for 1919. On the 1920, ’30 and ’40 census records he is listed as a commercial photographer. By 1930 he, Tillie and Olive, are living in Livonia.

In searching for other photographs or cards several can be currently found for sale online. But, the Clements Library at the University of Michigan holds an old album containing photos from 1888 to about 1910, about 147 total, including a self-portrait. These images are not online but see the link below for more info.

Sources: “Real Photo Postcard Stamp Boxes A-B.” (Playle.com). https://www.playle.com/realphoto/photoa.php. (accessed May 24, 2022).

Year: 1880; Census Place: Frenchtown, Monroe, Michigan; Roll: 595; Page: 399B; Enumeration District: 178. (Ancestry.com).

R. L. Polk & Co.’s Detroit City Directory, 1893. pp. 232 and 847. Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995.

R. L. Polk & Co.’s Detroit City Directory, 1895. p. 961. Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995.

Year: 1900; Census Place: Detroit Ward 10, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: 751; Page: 3; Enumeration District: 0109; FHL microfilm: 1240751. (Ancestry.com).

Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics; Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952; Film: 73; Film Description: 1901 Tuscola-1902 Branch. (Ancestry.com).

Year: 1910; Census Place: Detroit Ward 14, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T624_686; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 0217; FHL microfilm: 1374699. (Ancestry.com).

Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.

R. L. Polk & Co.’s Detroit City Directory, 1919. p. 2840. Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995.

Year: 1920; Census Place: Detroit Ward 15, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T625_814; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 457. (Ancestry.com).

Year: 1930; Census Place: Livonia, Wayne, Michigan; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 1015; FHL microfilm: 2340810. (Ancestry.com).

Year: 1940; Census Place: Livonia, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: m-t0627-01833; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 82-177A. (Ancestry.com).

“Charles J. Merz Photograph Album (1888 – ca. 1910).”  Charles J. Merz photograph album, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan. (accessed May 24, 2022).

Three Women Carrying A Trunk

Real Photo Postcard, Undivided back, unused. Circa 1904. Eastman Kodak Stamp Box.

Price:  $25.00

This seems like a photo taken on a tropical island or at least somewhere exotic from our North American viewpoint. A clue to location should be the sign (mid-right in photo) showing “Hotel Continental” displayed atop two pillars, forming an entranceway. Behind, we notice part of a white building. Maybe that was the hotel. But Hotel Continental is, of course, a common name. When this postcard was made there were plenty such proud establishments, worldwide:  Atlantic Beach, Florida; New York City; Algier, Morocco; Havre, France; Vigo, Spain; Port Said and Cairo, Egypt; Cologne and Schwalbach, Germany; Bagni di Lucca, Capri, Genoa and Naples, Italy; Christiania, Norway, just to rattle off the ones we came across. Obviously some of these could be ruled out. But after browsing old photos of many locations (really too long of an endeavor), we didn’t get any closer to figuring it out. Also possibly, the Hotel Continental in this image was not too fancy or large, and might not have made it into old travel destination journals or onto old postcards which survived (except inadvertently, this one).

But, it’s a great photo. Imagine the scenario:  a tourist snaps this shot while walking behind these ladies, who are balancing this large trunk above (and on two of) their heads. Not something you see everyday, a definite Kodak moment (!) The time-frame is wonderful for clothing – the women all wear long (of course) skirts with striped shirtwaists, corsets underneath. The road they’re on is dirt, or at least, rustic; the wall of the building on their left, a little crumbling or aged, and with greenery growing on top. A short stone wall runs on their right. A gentleman, head down, in a dark suit and hat walks beside them, but is seemingly on his own, or at least unconcerned with needing to help with the trunk, or maybe feeling embarrassed he was not allowed to. (The ladies work for the hotel?) Notice his pant cuffs seem to be rolled up a little. Was this a seaside location somewhere and he had recently exited a small boat? Back to the trunk – it looks almost square, definitely well-used and…..did you assume, like me, that it was heavy, or at least full? (Thinking of photos of women carrying jugs of water, or whatever, on their heads?) Or, did you automatically assume the trunk was empty?

There are two other people in the photo, a woman busily occupied with something and a man behind her, barely discernible, wearing a tall hat (at least that’s my interpretation right now). Above them, some balconies, kind of rough-looking…..Wouldn’t this, wherever it was, have been a great place to stay?

As for the 1904 date for the card, this comes from the excellent, Playle’s website, as a date that’s been verified for this particular stamp box:  The design is a profile of a man with a pipe (Mr. Eastman?) looking through a camera, with the instructions, “Place One Cent Stamp Here”. And it may be likely that the photo was taken in the U.S. since it was found here, but always possible it was taken elsewhere and processed when the person returned home.

Sources:  “European and Eastern Hotels.” Cook’s Tourist Handbook for Switzerland. Thomas Cook & Son. London, 1895. (Google.com books).

Cook’s Tourist Handbooks Health Resorts. Thomas Cook & Son. London, 1905. (Google.com books).

“Real Photo Postcard Stamp Boxes, D-E.” https://www.playle.com/realphoto/photod.php. (accessed May 18, 2022).

Two Swedish Women

Divided Back, Real Photo Postcard, circa 1907 – 1910. Photographer:  Fred A. Grinolds. CYKO stamp box.

Price:  $15.00

“These two girls came 3 miles last Sunday to have me take their picture they are both Swedes and are engaged to be married soon they cant talk very good English yet write me if you are coming to Cal”

I think these ladies may be sisters, there seems to be a definite resemblance. Don’t you love the hats? In particular, I love the long cloak of the woman on our left, with that double row of decorative buttons. Too bad the photographer didn’t include their names in the above note. But still, we appreciate the fact that he did write a description, and we appreciate the sense of occasion  it would have been for the women, Swedish immigrants, both engaged to be married.

As for the photographer, he was Fred Albert Grinolds, born in Oil City, Pennsylvania, March 2, 1879, mother’s maiden name Swartz. Fred must not have been in the photography business for very long:  November 15, 1911, he married Elba Vera Lovelass in Marshfield, Coos County, Oregon, his occupation given as “ratchet setter” (at a sawmill). By the 1918 WWI Draft Registration, he was working as a millwright at the Old Dominion Company (a copper mining operation) in Globe, Arizona. Nothing was found for him online under the photographer heading, but it sounds like this would have been in California, before he got married. He and Edna had two daughters, Edna and Bertha. Below is Fred’s obit found in The Modesto Bee, August 22, 1960:

Sources:  “California Death Index, 1940-1997,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPWR-WK9 : 26 November 2014), Fred A Grinolds, 21 Aug 1960; Department of Public Health Services, Sacramento.

Year: 1910; Census Place: Newport, Coos, Oregon; Roll: T624_1280; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0052; FHL microfilm: 1375293.

Registration State: Arizona; Registration County: Gila County. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.

“Fred A. Grinolds.” The Modesto Bee, August 22, 1960. Monday, p. 10. (Newspapers.com).

Understated Elegance

Real Photo Postcard, unused. Circa 1930 – 1950. EKC stamp box.

Price:  $3.00

A courtyard (maybe). We can’t see whether this fits the definition of an enclosed or semi-enclosed space. The card was found in California, and there’s a good chance that the photo was taken there. This view is beautiful in its simplicity. Spanish-style home, with tile roof. Note the beautiful wrought iron gate, the archway around the window on our right. Is that a magnolia tree? And the wooden or stone bench, if not marble. I love the pavers stones around the tree, how they are quite pitted and rustic. I didn’t see any of the same type online. In general, they go under a variety of terminology, found online as “stone tree ring planters” and “retaining walls around trees” and “stone planter beds and “tree mulch rings.” The home owners have planted some type of ground cover around the tree and some ferns by the side wall. No earth-shattering revelations here…..just a nice, restful photo that someone made into a postcard.

Calle de Montes de Oca, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico

Real Photo Postcard, unused. Circa 1941. EKC stamp box.

Price:  $6.00

These types of cards are always intriguing at purchase (and beyond). You’re dying to enlarge the image so you can see more detail…..but just in general, any photo or painting, drawing, etc. that leads you down a path….well, it’s always an invitation to explore. And for me, after soaking in the pastels of the previous card, I want to fill this one in with color, too. So, here’s our quick “fix” below:

Calle de Montes de Oca can be translated from Spanish as “Goose Mountains Street.” It’s located in the city of San Miguel de Allende, in the Central Mexican state of Guanajuato. And the church in the distance, La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, is said to be one of the most photographed in Mexico.

Sources:  “paintings of calle montes de oca san miguel de allende” Google.com search (accessed March 6, 2022).

San Miguel de Allende. n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Miguel_de_Allende (accessed March 6, 2022).

Ruth Brown, Ida Corbett and Nellie Bond Bagley

Real Photo Postcard, cropped. July, 1913, Santa Paula, California

Price:  $12.00        Size:  About 2 and 1/8 x 3″

“Ruth Brown, Ida Corbett and Nellie Bond Bagley – on her wedding day. Santa Paula, Calif.”

Three beautiful ladies decked in lace, in that gorgeous style from the 1910s. It was Nellie Bond’s wedding day, Santa Paula, CA, July 1913. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the names read left to right, which places the bride to our right, wearing the white shoes, long white gloves, and holding a bouquet of flowers that trails into a long spray. And, if you look closely, you can see that there are some black marks on the photo, obscuring the full bouquet. At first glance, you might mistake the marks as part of the flower arrangement (it works ascetically speaking, but no.) This Real Photo Postcard was found cropped down quite a bit to it’s approximate 2 x 3 inch size.

Nellie Bond was born February 1893 in Missouri, daughter of William and Susie Bond (from the 1900 Federal Census, Benton, Polk County, Missouri). In July, 1913, she married James Elijah “Ail” Bagley, also a Missouri native. His full name and date of birth, October 26, 1893 are found in Ancestry.com family trees.

The clipping below appeared in the Oxnard Courier, July 11, 1913:

Ida Corbett (maiden name Hardison) born about August 1870 in Pennsylvania, was married to Leonard W. Corbett, February 11, 1892. Their marriage announcement was found in the Los Angeles Evening Express, dated February 13th:

Ruth Brown proves to be a little harder to find in records – a common name and we don’t know whether Brown is her maiden or married name. Nothing definitive shows up in quick searches online.

Sources:  Year: 1900; Census Place: Benton, Polk, Missouri; Page: 6; Enumeration District: 0122; FHL microfilm: 1240883. (Ancestry.com).

Year: 1900; Census Place: Santa Paula, Ventura, California; Page: 7; Enumeration District: 0166; FHL microfilm: 1240116. (Ancestry.com).

Year: 1910; Census Place: Santa Paula, Ventura, California; Roll: T624_111; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0215; FHL microfilm: 1374124. (Ancestry.com).

“Wedding in Santa Paula.” Oxnard Courier, July 11, 1913, Friday, p. 6. (Newspapers.com).

“In Social Circles.” Los Angeles Evening Express, February 13, 1892, Saturday, p. 8. (Newspapers.com).

Three Gents

Real Photo Postcard, unused. Circa 1908 – 1918. AZO stamp box.

Price:  $5.00

I believe these guys, or at least the two on our left, may be brothers, due to their resemblance to each other, though admittedly, there is a tendency to see family links where there may be none. Human nature, I think. Or, you might just imagine them as buddies or business partners. We wonder where the photo was taken. That looks like an American flag flying from that second story window on the left, crossed with another flag, which we can’t make out. Those could be decorations for some type of celebration draped over the iron balcony, like trimmings in support of an upcoming or just past Independence Day parade. The only wording that’s easily readable on the buildings behind the gents is “Free Reading Room.” Though, some historian might be able to recognize the design on the window to the left of the door to the reading room, which would be a possible clue for location. Oh, then there is some other wording showing – that last line looks like a name that starts with “McShe…” something Irish or Scottish. Easy to miss, but it’s on the building showing between the two guys on our left.

Last but not least, the stories from the background….a guy walking, and two older guys seated, passing the time of day, inside a business probably, some place that needed a large doorway, maybe for deliveries.

A Folk Victorian Home, About 1910

Divided back, Real Photo Postcard. Unused. KRUXO stamp box. Circa 1908 – 1910.

Price:  $10.00

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this house style is Folk Victorian. Two such features are the lace-like decorative spandrels (side-brackets) that help form the archways on the front porch and porch posts that are either turned spindles, or in this case, square with chamfered (beveled) corners. Enlarge the image twice to see the detailing. The thing that seemed weird at first, to me anyway, is that each porch support appears to rest on a short and very narrow piece. Seems like that would be the opposite of what any builder would want to do. However, I’ve been informed that those narrow pieces are likely steel secured from below and going up into each post. The advantage is that rain won’t collect as in a wood-on-wood situation, won’t pool underneath and rot the deck and won’t wick up to create rot in the wooden posts . Smart builder and/or designer!

Other details: We see part of a barn on our right, behind the house, and part of maybe an outbuilding on our left. And….not really noticeable at first, there’s a little boy in one of the windows! Too bad there is no identifying information on the back of the card, but it’s such a nice house, looking brand new, and so charming, almost like a doll house that was just set down on someone’s farmland.

The estimate of the postcard date was determined from scrutiny of the KRUXO stamp box examples online at Playle.com. (Two examples are really similar but I think ours is like the one Playle’s has dated 1908 to 1910.)

Sources:  McAlester, Virginia, and Lee McAlester. A Field Guide to American Houses. 1984. New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1990. Print.

Real Photo Postcard Stamp Boxes. K-L. Playle.com. (accessed December 12, 2020).

Fannie and Walter’s House

Divided back, Real Photo Postcard. Postmarked August 4th from Seattle Washington. Year not readable. Circa 1910s – 1926.

Price:  $7.00

Addressed to:   “Leo H. Ouellette. 113 North Norah St. Fort William Ont. Canada.”

“Leo – This is the little house where Fannie and Walter lived when she taught at Manchester. Harold and I often went over and stayed with them for weeks at at time. It was a nice little house. She liked it too. [signature not readable] ”

A very nice little house, indeed, and with a wrap-around porch! No luck in finding out the surname of Fannie (or Frances) and Walter, though. And we’re not sure if Manchester was the name of a school or a town, but either way, no definite results were found. If a town, then likely it’s the Manchester that’s west of Seattle, across Puget Sound. And though this photo was postmarked in August, it must have been taken in winter – note the bare deciduous trees.

The address of Leo Ouellette, 113 Norah St. N., appears to be an empty lot today, in what was formerly Fort William, now the city of Thunder Bay. Leo’s obit appears below. He was born April 16, 1893 in Duluth, Minnesota, father’s name Henry, and died January 23, 1927 in Seattle. His WWI Draft Registration Card, dated Jun 5, 1917, shows he was, at that time, single, living in Evanston, Wyoming and employed as a brakeman for the Union Pacific Railroad. His prior service was two months in the National Guard in Colorado. (B. P. O. E. in the notice below, stands for Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.)

Sources:  Fort William, Ontario. n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_William,_Ontario (accessed December 12, 2020).

Microfilm. Washington State Archives, Olympia, Washington. Ancestry.com. Washington, U.S., Death Records, 1883-1960.

Registration State: Wyoming; Registration County: Sweetwater County. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.

Seattle Daily Times, January 25, 1927. Tuesday, p. 21. (genealogybank.com).