WHATS MY LINE? PORTRAIT OF FOUR FIREMEN OR TRAINMEN

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Between 1950 and 1967, CBS television ran a popular game show in which four panelists asked question in order to guess the occupation of a guest. The name of the game was “What’s My Line?”. Now you get to play the game except that you have to use observational skills rather than ask questions. What do you think is the occupation of the four men seen in this cabinet card photograph. Three of the men are in uniform and wearing hats displaying identification numbers. At least one of the three is wearing striped pants. The fourth man is well dressed and wearing civilian clothing and a light colored hat. He is also chomping on a cigar. My guess is that the men work for a railroad. It is also possible that they are firemen. Any comments conjecturing about their line of work, would be appreciated. The name of the photographer and the location of his/her studio is unknown.

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Published in: on June 15, 2016 at 12:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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THE ROTHSCHILD PARK TROLLEY AND TWO CONDUCTORS IN WAUSAU, WISCONSIN

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This wonderful vintage photograph gives us a view of an important mode of transportation in America’s past. The Rothschild Park trolley was operated by the Wausaw Electric Railway. This photograph features a trolley car and two uniformed conductors. In 1906 the Wausau Street Railway Company was organized to bring electric transportation to Wausau. Sometime around 1915 the railway became the Wisconsin Valley Merrill Railway and Lighting Company. Note the sign stating “Rothschild Park” on the front of the trolley car. The story of Rothschild Park is quite interesting. The park was located, unsurprisingly, in Rothschild, Wisconsin which was about six miles from Wausau. Rothschild Park was owned by the Wausau Electric Railway and must have been quite a fun place to visit. The park offered 40 acres of water, islands and land. Attractions included a roller coaster, dance floor, catering hall, and more. In 1912 it cost ten cents to get to the park from Wausau. The photographer of this terrific image is unknown.

MAUDE BRANSCOMBE: CELEBRATED BEAUTY AND ACTRESS

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Maude Branscombe was a very popular stage beauty and light opera singer. She was reported to be the most photographed woman of her day. Biographical information about her is sparse and more will be added at a later date. Her first appearance on the New York stage was in 1876 as Cupid in a revival of Ixion at the Eagle Theatre. The portrait at the top was photographed by renowned W & D Downey of London, England.

The second portrait  was cropped so the photographer is unknown.

The third portrait (Branscombe is wearing a necklace) is by L. Levin & Son of San Francisco, California.

The fourth cabinet card image was photographed by Sarony. Sarony was a well known celebrity photographer and more of his portraits can be viewed by clicking on the category of “Photographer: Sarony”. Sarony does an excellent job of capturing Branscombe’s beauty and her alluring eyes.

The fifth and sixth, and seventh cabinet card were photographed by another celebrity photographer, Jose Mora, of New York City. Interestingly, the fifth and seventh cabinet card captures Branscombe in the same costume as the second cabinet card. It is likely that the photographer of cabinet card number two, is also Jose Mora. To view other photographs by Mora, click on the category of “Photographer: Mora”.

The eighth cabinet card portrait of Branscombe was photographed by Howell, another New York City photographer with a studio on Broadway. Howell’s close-up photograph captures the actress’s beauty and her wonderful eyes. She is wide eyed and her hair is a bit mussed. These qualities add to the allure of Miss Branscombe.William Roe Howell was born in 1846 in Goshen, New York. He had a passion for drawing and painting and he directed his creative interest into the field of photography as a young adult. He opened a photographic studio in Goshen. In 1863 he moved to New York City where he joined Robert and Henry Johnston at Johnston Brothers Studio at 867 Broadway. In 1866 the firm became Johnston & Howell. In 1867, he became the sole proprietor of the gallery. By 1870, he was gaining much recognition in the field of photography. His great location in New York City gave him access to many fashionable upper class men and women as well as many celebrities. Among his photographic subjects were P. T. Barnum, Buffalo Bill, and Robert E. Lee. He opened a branch studio in Brooklyn. In 1873 he came one of five Americans to be awarded a special grand prized at the Vienna World Fair. He frequently received mention in the photographic journals. He published a book of cabinet cards that received much praise. He became a photographer for West Point, Princeton, and other notable institutions. He won many medals at photography exhibitions. In 1878 he moved his business from 867 to 889 Broadway and opened another studio with a partner (Meyer) at 26 West 14th Street. In 1880 he retired from photography due to health reasons.  In 1886 he moved with his family to Washington D.C. intent on opening a photography business there. He then disappeared. He vanished just two weeks before the grand opening of his new studio. He left his wife of 16 years (Fannie Scott) and his five children penniless. His wife stated that Howell was an eccentric man and that he must have got tired of business and family problems “and cut loose from us”.  He apparently returned home after a short duration of absence and his business appeared in the 1888 Washington D. C. business directory but not in the 1889 directory. He died of tuberculosis in New York City in 1890. He had been residing at the home of a colleague who ran a photography studio in Harlem. It is believed by some biographers that he had divorced his wife and returned to New York without his family.

The ninth cabinet card is another portrait photographed by Jose Mora. The actress’s costuming detracts from the overall appeal of the photograph. She seems lost in the swirl of her head covering. However, the photographer does an excellent job of highlighting Miss Branscombe’s seductive eyes. The phrase  “Maude Branscombe eyes” certainly rivals the phrase “Bette Davis eyes”.

Cabinet card number ten also comes from the studio of Jose Mora. She is well dressed in this portrait. It is not clear if she is dressed for a stage role or if she is attired for a jaunt around town.

PORTRAIT OF A TRAIN CONDUCTOR (RAILROAD OF NEW JERSEY)

NJ CONDUCTOR_0001J. C. Sunderlin produced this portrait of a train conductor in full uniform. Sunderlin operated a studio on Main Street in Flemington, New Jersey. The subject of this photograph is wearing a cap that has a plate tag which states “Conductor”. The patches on the lapel of his jacket indicate that he was employed by the “Railroad of New Jersey”. It is likely, but not certain, that this gentleman worked for the Central Railroad of New Jersey. This railway line has its roots in the 1830’s but adopted the Central Railroad name in 1849.  Note this gentleman’s terrific bushy mustache. The photographer, John Corbin Sunderlin was born in 1835 at Fort Anne, New York. His birth name was John Corbin Vorce but his mother died during his infancy and he was adopted at nine years of age. He married Harriet A. Penny in 1855 and the couple had five children. In 1856 he left farming for photography. He became an itinerate photographer and his studio was located on a horse drawn wagon. During the civil war he enlisted in the 5th Vermont Volunteer Infantry where he reached the rank of sergeant. His obituary states that he served three years in participated in eight major battles until he was wounded at Fredericksburg. After the war he settled in Fort Edward, New York. While living in Fort Edward he was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Masons, Odd Fellows, and the New York State Prohibition Party. He worked as a photographer until 1870 when he was ordained by the Methodist Church. In 1880 he left his ministry work and returned to his career in photography. He operated a studio in Flemington until 1902 when he bought a studio in Blairstown, New Jersey from William C. Walters. He remained in Blairstown until his death from pneumonia in 1911.

LOVELY LADY AND A TRAIN WRECK IN ASHTABULA, OHIO

lovelyladThis cabinet card features a portrait of a very lovely lady posing in the studio of  Blakeslee & Moore in Ashtabula, Ohio.  The town of Ashtabula was the site of a major train wreck in 1876 and one of the firemen who responded to the resulting blaze was Frederick W. Blakeslee. Besides being a firefighter, he was also a photographer and he used his camera to record the aftermath of the disaster. The image he made has become legendary in the history of disasters and the history of Ashtabula. He sold thousands of prints of the scene. Fred W. Blakeslee  was in business in Ashtabula from 1870 to 1897. Blakeslee was born in Ohio in 1843. He was a lifelong resident of Ashtabula. At the end of the civil war he opened a photography studio in the town. Beginning the 1870’s he was joined by Frank C Moore (1851-1907). For a time, they operated a branch in Geneva, Ohio. Moore began his photography career as an apprentice in Ashtabula and then ran his own studio in Lima, Ohio between 1870 and 1875. Moore’s partnership with Blakeslee ended in 1894. Blakeslee’s son Frederick K Blakeslee (1880-?) also became a photographer in Ashtabula. The story of the “Ashtabula Train Disaster” is immensely tragic. The accident is thought to have been caused mainly by the collapse of a bridge owned by the Lake Shore and Michigan Railroad. The bridge was a joint creation by Charles Collins (engineer) and Amasa Stone (architect and designer). On a winter night in 1876, a train carrying 159 passengers and crew crossed over the bridge and when the first engine just passed the far side of the bridge, the bridge began to collapse and the rest of the train fell into the ravine. Ninety-two people were killed in the accident and most died from fires that were started from the train car’s oil lamps and stoves. The passengers were trapped in the burning crushed cars. The accident happened after a heavy snow storm and the rescuers were ill prepared and not equipped to help the poor victims of the train wreck. Charles Collins testified about the bridge design to an investigative jury and after finishing his tearful testimony, went home and shot himself in the head. Amasa Stone was held partially responsible for the accident, but he refused to accept blame. He theorized that the train jumped its tracks and destroyed the bridge. However, it is probable that he suffered severely from the incident, and about seven years later, he shot himself in the heart.

TWO MEN IN UNIFORM IN KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI (FEMALE PHOTOGRAPHER)

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Two uniformed men strike an affectionate pose for a studio photographer in Kansas City, Missouri. Magnifying the photograph did not help definitively determine if the men were railroad conductors, firemen, police officers, or some other uniformed occupation. The photographer of this image is the Driffill studio. Mrs. Kittie Driffill operated a photography studio at 615 West 6th Street, in Kansas City. City business directories confirm that she had a studio in Kansas City between at least 1887 and 1910. According to the 1900 United States Census, Kittie worked the business with her son Edward Mack. In 1907 she worked with her husband Thomas Driffill.. Kittie Driffill also used the first name of Katherine.

UNIFORMED MAN WITH A LANTERN (OCCUPATIONAL CABINET CARD)

This cabinet card is a staged portrait of a man at work. The man is wearing a uniform and most likely he is a railroad worker. He may be an engineer or possibly a conductor. He is holding a brass lantern and writing on a pad. The man’s facial expression seems to say that he means business. One can easily imagine seeing him standing next to a train at a railroad station taking notes. The photographer of this cabinet card  is  Lyman & Wells, of Columbus, Ohio.

Published in: on September 23, 2011 at 12:01 am  Comments (2)  
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LADY PINNED BY A CONDUCTOR IN SIOUX CITY, IOWA

This cabinet card portrait features a young nicely dressed woman wearing a tintype pin or brooch. The jewelry holds a photograph of a train conductor; presumably the woman’s husband or suitor. The cabinet card was photographed by Rugg, whose studio was located in Sioux City, Iowa. Research reveals little to assist in gathering information about Rugg. Investigation found that there was an artist that resided in Sioux City named Elliott I. Rugg  (1862-?).  There is a reasonable possibility that he is the photographer that produced this image. Elliott Rugg was a relative of another photographer, Arthur Rugg, who operated out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. To view photographs by Arthur Rugg, click on category “Photographer: Arthur Rugg”.

Published in: on September 22, 2011 at 12:01 am  Comments (3)  
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Railway or Trolley Car Motorman in Omaha, Nebraska

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This Cabinet card is an image of a railway or trolley car worker. The badge on his cap is labeled “motorman”. If he worked for a trolley line, than he worked for the Omaha Cable Tramway Company which operated in Omaha between 1884 and 1894. Instead, he may have worked on a train belonging to the Union Pacific Railroad which was one of several railroads operating in Omaha, Nebraska. It would be great to read some comments from readers who may have expertise or knowledge concerning the railway history of Omaha. The photographer of this photograph is Gray, of Omaha. To view other photographs by Gray, click on the category “Photographer: Gray (NE)”.

Published in: on January 7, 2009 at 2:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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Pullman Car Conductor: Boston Railroad Worker

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This photograph is of a Pullman Car Conductor. The photographer is Gray of Boston, Massachusetts. The Pullman Company manufactured railroad cars beginning in the mid to late 1800’s. In 1898 Robert Todd Lincoln, son of  Abraham Lincoln, became President of the company. I am hoping someone can help me identify the name of the railroad that employed this conductor. Take a close look at his collar buttons and try to identify the railroad by the insignia, or perhaps you have knowledge about  Boston’s railroad history. To view other photographs by Gray, click on the category “Photographer: Gray (MA)”.

Published in: on December 10, 2008 at 4:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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