This vintage real photo postcard features the Powell Street Cable Car Trolley on it’s turn-table at Powell and Market Streets in San Francisco, California. This image offers a great look back at early San Francisco history. There is a lot happening in this photograph. Look carefully and you will see two conductors working to turn the trolley around. Actually one seems to be doing all the physical labor while the other checks out the action on the street. In addition to the pedestrians in the image, you can also see a woman and her child boarding the cable car as it turns around. It is also interesting to note the businesses that appear in the photograph. The Clinton Cafeteria and the Owl Drug Company are clearly seen. Preliminary research reveals that the Clinton Cafeteria was located at 18 Powell Street. The book, San Francisco Art Deco (2007) asserts that the restaurants basement dining room had marble floors and potted plants. From six to eight PM the restaurant offered self served diners live dinner music provided by a string orchestra. The second business in the photograph, The Owl Drug Company, was a drugstore chain headquartered in San Francisco. It was established in 1892 and was a subsidiary of Rexall. The photographer of this photograph is Alexander J. “Zan” Stark (1889-1967). He was born in Michigan and moved to California in his early twenties. Zan Stark was a postcard photographer. He worked out of his studio in Mill Valley.  He used the professional name of “Zan of Tamalpais” between the 1920’s and the early 1950’s. This postcard is credited to Zan (no. 316). The stamp box on this vintage postcard indicates that it was published on Eastman Kodak paper  sometime between 1939 and 1950.



Published in: on October 27, 2016 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Being in San Francisco in the 1880’s or 1890’s was a prime time for exciting and interesting experiences. Mr and Mrs Springgat were in San Francisco during this era and decided to document their presence by having their portrait taken at the Elite Gallery. The reverse of this cabinet card reveals that the studio was operated by Mr. Jones and Mr. Lotz. To view another photograph by this pair’s gallery, click on the category “Photographer: Jones & Lotz”. The reverse of the cabinet card also informs us of the identity of the couple seen in this image. Preliminary research failed to find information about this couple.

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Published in: on May 12, 2016 at 12:00 pm  Comments (3)  
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A pretty well dressed young woman poses for her portrait at the Anderson studio in San Francisco, California. She is wearing a beautiful dress with a large bow and a feathered hat sits atop her head. She is also wearing what appears to be diamond earrings and a collar pin. I would guess, and it’s only a guess,  that the woman in this photograph is an actress. The woman’s beauty, attire, and poise leads me to hypothesize her theatrical background. Perhaps a visitor to the cabinet card gallery will recognize her and be able to provide the rest of us with her identity. The photographer of this image is Hugh S. Anderson. He was born in Scotland sometime between 1820 and 1828.  Anderson was a California photographer who operated studios in Eureka (1858-1865), Hydesville (1859-1860), San Francisco (1866-c1895), and Petaluma (1875). The Valencia Street studio that produced this photograph operated between 1879 and 1884.


officer and lady

This vintage photograph features a uniformed American soldier and a young woman who is likely either his girl friend, wife, or sister. The young man is handsome and his uniform is crisp. His expression has a military air about it. The young woman in this image does not seem very comfortable with the process of being photographed. This portrait was produced by the Johnson studio which was located in San Francisco, California. This photograph measures 3 1/2″ x 5″. A close-up of the soldier and his companion can be found below.

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Published in: on April 1, 2015 at 5:20 pm  Comments (1)  


worden front

A pretty young woman poses for a cabinet card portrait at the Worden studio in Boston, Massachusetts. This profile portrait provides a nice view of her lacy dress and pinned flowers. The reverse of the photograph has an inscription that states “Compliments of Miss Gertrude Foster”. Research was unable to find an actress, dancer, or singer with the name of  Gertrude Foster. It seems likely that the Gertrude Foster seen in this cabinet card was not a celebrity. Researching Miss Foster was unproductive because her name is too common in the Boston area. To view more photographs from the Worden studio, click on the category “Photographer: Worden”.         ADDENDUM: I stumbled upon some biographical data about Miss Foster. It turns out that Gertrude Foster was a stage actress during the cabinet card era. The Capital (1898) reported that she was the “leading lady actress” at the Alcazar Theater in San Francisco before accepting a place in the touring Belasco  & Thall Theater Company. Miss Foster is mentioned again in the San Francisco Call (1900). The newspaper reports her marriage to Edward W. Mansfield who was the manager of the Fisher Opera House in San Diego, California. Apparently Mansfield was smitten with her when they met professionally some years before. Mansfield reportedly waited to pursue her until she had an opportunity to garner some “fame”.


SF CHILD 1888_0006A very young child, holding a box by the handle, poses for his portrait at the Morse Studio in San Francisco, California. The child is standing in front of a small house. The faux house is a studio prop. Note that that the number “1888” is above the open window. The number likely indicates the year that this portrait was taken. The reverse of the cabinet card has inscription with the name “Lloyd Brundage” and a note that states that Master Brundage was 21 months old at the time he was photographed. Research reveals that the subject of this image, Lloyd Jeffers Brundage was born in San Francisco on New Years day in 1887. He appears in many US censuses. In 1900 he was thirteen years old and living in Bridgeport, California with his father and mother. His father was named Marshal and was a 46 year-old laborer who was a native Canadian. Lloyd’s mother was named Nillie and she was 31 years old and a native Californian. Her maiden name was Smallwood. Lloyd had a five year-old sister named Delphine. The 1920 census found Lloyd living in Chico, California, with his wife Anna. He was employed as an “agriculturist”. Ten years later he was working as a mechanic in an industiral plant. He and his wife remained in Chico. The 1940 census discovers Lloyd working in a governmental general maintenance position. Lloyd died in 1955 in Butte, California. To learn more about the photographer, George Daniels Morse,  and to see other examples of his work, click on the category “Photographer: Morse”.


Three adorable kids wearing doilies (just kidding) around their neck pose for their portrait at the Williams & Norton studio in San Francisco. The studio was located at 914 Market Street. The child in the middle is holding a walking stick with a string. All three kids are sitting on a pile of hay. It is likely that the children are siblings. W. I. Williams was partners with Norton between 1885 and 1886.


Published in: on March 4, 2014 at 9:42 pm  Comments (1)  
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SF FASHION_0005A very pretty woman poses at the Thors studio in San Francisco, California. She is quite fashionable in her attractive large buttoned coat and her hat. Note her ruffled collar and cuffs. She is wearing earrings. The reverse of the photograph is dated “November 1879”.  To learn more about Louis Thors and to view more of his photographs, click on the category “Photographer: Thors”.


Published in: on December 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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This cabinet card portrait features Stanley Matthews (1824-1889).  This image was produced by the Reynolds Photo Company of Chicago, Illinois, and shows Matthews wearing his judicial robe.  The photograph was part of the “Photo of Celebrities” series. Matthews served as a Supreme Court Justice from 1881 until his death. He was appointed by President James Garfield. At the time of his appointment he was a United States Senator from Ohio. Matthews was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He attended Kenyon College and then practiced law in Ohio, and later on, in Tennessee. He was the editor of the Cincinnati Herald for two years. He served in the Ohio State senate and then became a US Attorney until 1861 when he resigned to become a Lieutenant Colonel in the 23rd Ohio Infantry. At the time that Matthews was appointed a Supreme Court Justice, his nomination passed Congress by just one vote. As a judge in the nation’s highest court, he wrote the decision in the Yick Wo vs. Hopkins case. Politicians in San Francisco had passed a law asserting that laundries could not be operated in wooden buildings without a special permit. This permit would be required in addition to the other permits already required. This new law  had much impact considering that ninety-five percent of the city’s laundries were in wooden buildings. Two thirds of these laundries were owned by Chinese businessmen. When the new permits were issued, all non Chinese owners received permits and all Chinese owners were denied the permits. Yik Wo continued to operate his laundry without the permit and was convicted, fined, and later jailed for refusing to pay the fine. His case rose up the hierarchy of courts until it reached the Supreme Court. In his decision, Matthews wrote that the permit statute was discriminatory and that the Chinese laundry owners were entitled to equal protection under the fourteenth amendment of constitution.








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.