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Posts Tagged ‘St. Paul’

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).

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

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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 are two photos from my Grandpa’s collection.  Since Grandpa’s photos are almost always of family members, it’s rare to find one with people that I can’t identify.  But these two photos are a complete mystery to me.

The photos show a bunch of young people, some of them in baseball uniforms, and one of the photos is labeled “after the game”.  So clearly it’s a group of young friends gathering after a baseball game, or maybe celebrating a victory.

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

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And here’s the second photo, showing some of the same people, but with labels that look like surnames.  (Again, click on photo for a larger version).

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I really love these photos, and maybe more because they are such a mystery to me.  As usual with these older photos, I love just staring into the faces of the people in the photo and imagining what it would be like to have been there on that day, talking to everybody, getting to know them.

What’s great is that this isn’t your standard old photo, with everybody in the photo stiffly posed and unsmiling.  The young people in the photo look happy, almost flushed with the excitement of the day.  Every face tells a different story: pride, determination, “coolness”, or just plain happiness.

I especially like the couple who appear in the center of the first photo:

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These two have wonderful faces.  We’re looking back in time 80 years or more, but with the energy and excitement in the couple’s faces, we can easily imagine them as young friends of ours.

I also like the doubly-stacked, jauntily tilted straw hats.  The silliness hints at the sort of day that everyone was having–just being crazy, goofing around, having fun.

There are other faces that are equally fascinating, like the guy and two girls in the front row:

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(I’m half convinced that the girl on the left is my grandmother, but I’ve asked other family members to confirm this).

24 Mar 2009: An Uncle confirmed that this is not my Grandmother–so the mystery continues.

There is something in the faces of these three that also tells a story.  We might imagine the young man as romantically interested in the girl at the left, or the girl on the right as also a close friend of both of them.  The body language might be telling us a lot.  The man has his hand lazily draped over the girl’s shoulder, drawing close to her.  The girl on the right, in turn, drapes her arm around the man’s shoulder and holds his elbow with her other hand.  The image makes me really curious to know who these three were and to understand their connection with each other.

Here’s another face from the past that I love–wearing what looks like catcher’s gear:

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What a great face!  The boy appears younger than the other players and clearly seems proud to be a part of the team.

A quick google search turns up a web page depicting what looks like exactly the catcher’s outfit that the boy is wearing:

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The second photo also has some wonderful faces to stare into.  Note the two girls in the center of the photo, one of them wearing the catcher’s mitt:

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If you look at the large version of the photo, you can also make out “Same gang” written on the face of the photo.

I did a little searching on the name “C. W. Fenners”, but didn’t turn anything up.  My guess is that this is some local business that sponsored the team.  The next step might be to go browse through the St. Paul, MN city directories from the mid-1920s and see if I can’t find a business with that name.  The other avenue to pursue might be to do some searching on the listed surnames to see if I could verify whether all of these people lived in a particular part of town.

In the end, maybe these sorts of photos are the most interesting–the ones that tell us a story, but which contain stories that elude us.

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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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