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Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota’

Here’s another photo from my Grandpa’s collection.  (See A Family Photo Jackpot for the story of my gradually scanning/preserving a large collection of old photos).

I’m actually showing two photos—front and back of an old photo postcard, sent from St. Paul, to Bemidji, MN.  What’s wonderful about its being a postcard is that the postmark on the card exactly dates the card, if not the photo itself.  The date the card was sent was 16 March, 1907.

Here’s the photo side of the card.  (For a large version, click here).

1907-sextgegr-fami-002-8001

And here is the address side of the card.  (For a large version, click here).

1907-sextgegr-fami-002-back-800

Note that this is a real photo postcard—one in which the photographic paper on which the photo was developed was itself then sent as the postcard.  You can read a little bit about the history of vintage photo postcards at Playle’s Real Photo Postcards.  This particular card is printed on “Azo” paper, made by Kodak.  In my scan, you can see the word “AZO” just below the stamp.  You can also match the pattern below the stamp with the patterns listed on the Playle’s site.

The stamp is a 1902-1903 issue 1 penny stamp with the image of Ben Franklin.  Here’s a site with more info.

So who are these kids?  The boy on the far right in the back row is my grandfather, Ted Sexton.  He was born in April of 1902, so he was nearly 5 years old when this photo was taken.  Immediately to his right is his older brother Judd (Gerald), born in 1899.  On Judd’s lap is their baby brother George, born 24 Aug, 1906 (so he’d be just under 7  months in this photo).  Standing in the white dress to George’s right (our left), is my grandfather’s sister Kit (Kathryn), born 4 Sep, 1904.  So she’d be 2-1/2 yrs old in this photo.

So we have the four oldest kids in my grandpa’s family.  (There were eventually 12 children).  The family lived in Bemidji, MN, where my great-grandfather worked for the lumber mill.  (You can see an earlier photo of great-grandpa bill, from his earlier days working in a lumber camp in the woods).  Through old family photos, I’m also fairly sure that the family lived at this time in an area of Bemidji known as “Mill Park”.  The address on the postcard seems to confirm this, since you can see “Mill Park” written on the lower left.

What I love about the address is how it’s addressed merely to “Mr. W. Sexton”, Bemidji, Minn.  And then Mill Park is penciled in, almost as an afterthought.  I have a feeling, however, that the postcard would have found it’s way to Bill even had “Mill Park” been left off the card.

The remaining three kids on the card are all first cousins of my grandpa Ted.  They are all children of two of my great-grandmother’s sisters.  Great grandma Liz (Elizabeth) Carroll was married to Bill Sexton.  The boy on the far left in the photo is John Lytle, born 15 Dec, 1902, to Margaret Carroll and George Lytle, in St. Paul.  The sticker on the back of the photo lists Annie Carroll’s children as the two girls in the front and incorrectly lists one of them as “Melvin”.  Annie Carroll refers to great-grandma’s sister Helen Carroll, who did have a son Melvin, born on 17 Jan, 1905 in St. Paul.  Melvin would have been too young to be the boy in the back.  So the two girls in the front are likely Helen’s twin girls Lottie and Catherine Hall, born 4/5 Jan, 1903 in St. Paul.  (Just over 3 yrs old in this photo).

I don’t know any portion of the story behind this photo.  But based on the date, the location, and the kids in the photo, I can make an educated guess.  My guess is that my great-grandma traveled from Bemidji down to St. Paul in Spring, once the snow started to melt, to visit two of her sisters.  She brought all four of her children, and then the women went to a local photo studio in St. Paul to get the photo of all of the kids taken.

One interesting thing is that the photo contains seven of the eight children that great-grandma Liz and her siblings would have had, as of Spring of 1907.  Missing is Melvin Hall, the boy mentioned on the label on the back of the card.  It’s quite possible that the boy in the back (on our left) is Melvin, rather than John Lytle.  Then we’d have all four of Liz’ children and all three of her sister Annie’s children as well.  Only missing would be John, only child of Liz’ sister Margaret.

This photo is definitely a treasure.  I love the looks on the kids’ faces and the idea that they’d likely been spending a number of days playing together and getting to know each other.

Here are some higher resolution shots of some of the kids in the photo:

My great-aunt Kit (Kathryn) Sexton, born 4 Sep, 1904.  Later married Raymond Sicard and lived in Duluth, MN:

kit-19071

Judd and Ted (my grandfather):

juddandted-1907

The two girls that I believe to be twins Lottie and Catherine Hall:

lottieandcatherinehall-1907

One more, a slightly different crop, to show off Kit’s white dress and shoes:

kitindress-1907

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Here’s another photo from our family collection that I like.  It’s labeled “Pa – George – Jim – Aug, 1940″ and shows my great-grandfather mowing his lawn in Bemidji, MN in 1940.  He’s standing next to my grandfather’s brother George, and George’s son Jim.

Mowing the lawn - August, 1940

(Click to see a larger version, not cropped).

There’s nothing dramatic about the photo, but it tells a little story.  Clearly, “Pa” (my great-grandpa) had been out mowing the lawn and George and Jim walked out to pose for a photo with him.  Pa looks hot, tired and perhaps just wants to finish up the mowing.  His grandson Jimmy just looks tickled to be posing with Dad and Grandpa.

I’m also intrigued by the way that everyone is dressed.  Despite being outside on a hot August day in Minnesota, everyone is wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Pa’s shirt is buttoned all the way up, but he’s at least unbuttoned his cuffs.  George is wearing a tie and even Jim appears to be wearing some sort of warmer outer shirt.

It’s certainly possible that it was a cooler day in August, although our average high for August in Minnesota is 80 degrees F and the average high in September is 71 degrees.

My great-grandpa was 70 years old in this photo, but clearly still mowing his own lawn.  The kids had all moved away, but he and my great-grandma still lived in the family home in Bemidji, MN.  I wondered at first why he’d be wearing his hat while out mowing the lawn.  Was it just his style, to always be this formal?  And then I realized that it was probably just to keep the sun off of his head.  At 70, his hair was probably already a bit thin on top and so the top of his head would be the first thing to burn in the summer sun.

Here’s a closeup of the trio:

Mowing the Lawn, closeup

(You can also click to see an even larger version of the closeup).

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Here’s a wonderful photo of my grandfather that really lends itself to studying it, and thinking about the time and place that it was taken.  It’s a photo that was in my grandfather’s collection.

My grandfather was Ted (Edward Thomas) Sexton (1902-1980).  Ted grew up in Bemidji, MN, one of twelve siblings.  As a young man, he moved “down” to St. Paul to get a job as a printer.  It was in St. Paul that he met my grandmother, Marie Wolters, whose family had a farm in West St. Paul.

Here’s the photo.  Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Ted Sexton on road rally, 1920s

I love studying this photo.  There are so many things to notice, which can help tell the story of when and where it was taken.  I also look forward to taking more time and learning even more.

To my knowledge, my grandfather never mentioned anything about this particular event.  So all I have to go on is the photo itself.  Ted is the boy on the far left, in the dark shirt.  I don’t know anything about the other boys in the photo.

Clearly this was some sort of road rally that the boys went on, driving from St. Paul to Canada.  One of the boys is clearly wearing a University of Minnesota sweater.  (My grandfather did not attend the university).

I haven’t yet identified the type of car, but it seems likely to be a Model “T”, given the time period.  If you look closely, you can see the number “23″ on the license plate, under the letter “B”.  You’ll see “MINN” down the right side of the plate, so this is clearly a car that was registered in Minnesota.  And the date on the plate puts the picture at 1923, or at least within a year or two.  If it was 1923, Grandpa would have been 21, which seems about right.  You can also see a plate below the main one which reads “Bemidji”, where Ted was from.  So perhaps these are friends of Ted’s from “back home” in Bemidji.

I’ve also thought a bit about when this photo may have been taken.  If the boys participated in a road rally, we’d assume that they’d have their picture taken either at the start or at the end of the rally.  It’s hard to say which one of these two this photo would have been, but I’d lean towards saying it was taken at the end.  The boys and the car are located on some sort of wooden plank bridge over what looks to be a small stream.  Given the rustic nature of the bridge (note the hewn log handrails), it seems more likely that it’s up North near the Canadian border, rather than down in St. Paul.  Had the boys taken a picture at the start of the rally, they’d likely be in the city and we’d probably see other drivers and cars.

It’s hard to say much about the time of day.  The shadow of the car appears to be directly under the car, so the photo appears to have been taken near midday.  We can also think a little bit about how long the drive must have taken.  The Model “T” had a top speed of about 45 mph, and the distance between St. Paul and the Canadian border is something like 300 miles.  If they drove straight through, at 40 mph, it would have taken them 7.5 hrs.  But given the state of the roads in the 1920s, they wouldn’t likely be near top speed much of the way.  So it seems like it would have required more than a single day for the trip.  If the trip started in the morning in St. Paul, it may well be that they completed the rally around midday on the next day.  But it’s hard to say.

That’s a good start at thinking about the photo.  I’d be eager to get more information and thoughts from other people.  Some of the next things to look at are:

  • Talk to older relative to see if Ted ever mentioned this trip
  • Try to determine the exact make and model of the car
  • Find out if vehicle registration records for MN are kept anywhere
  • Look at newspapers of the time to see if they mention a road rally
  • Try to date the photo by getting more info on the University of MN letter sweater shown in the photo
  • Look through other photos of Ted’s to see if I can identify his friends
  • Take a look at maps of that time, to guess at possible routes/distances

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