Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Who Was That (Un)Masked Man?

The collection of unmarked photographs left behind by Samuel Bean’s twin brother, William Bean, included so many puzzles, it had driven me to distraction. I’ve salvaged as many as I could throughout this series on the Bean family—sometimes posting the nameless images just to say I got them out there for all to see—but I’m still left with so many more.

I’ve sorted them every which way I could think of. In this last pass through the photo box, I’ve settled on grouping them not by subject matter, nor by time period, but simply by their sizes and the frames that surround those mystery subjects. Some of the groups now have a sizable number in their category—yesterday’s mystery property shots, for instance—and some still have very limited numbers.

One such set contains the picture I’ll share below. At first, I thought it was a series of two stop-action shots of the same subject—and I had assumed the subject was Bill Bean, himself. But now that I’ve put the two photos together—especially after I’ve scanned them and examined them—I realize that the two photos are one and the same. The only difference between them is the level of exposure on each copy of the picture.

One of the virtues of scanning photographs is the ability to manipulate the digital version. Of course, for an amateur like me, that simply means I get to blow up the pictures and take a closer look at the subject matter.

That’s where I discovered my error in presuming this was a photo of Bill Bean. While, admittedly, Bill did show up in all sorts of unexpected places in his photographs—and while it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Bill had mastered the equestrian arts along with his many other interests—this time he had me fooled.

In taking a closer look—blowing the thing up to twice its size—I realized the facial features weren’t quite right to have been Bill’s. For one thing, this subject was wearing glasses, while Bill generally did not. He also appeared to be sporting a mustache, which was not Bill’s habit. The chin and nose—just about the only details I could discern—also didn’t match. The frame also didn’t seem to fit.

The thought did cross my mind briefly: what if this was Sam, Bill’s nephew of the Ice Follies company? After all, the younger Sam used to work as a horse trainer.

But somehow, that didn’t seem quite right, either. For one, Sam was tall and lanky. While it’s true that I can’t tell the size of the horse in this photo—and thus can’t gauge the relative size of its rider—the proportions don’t seem quite Sam-like.

I guess whatever the reason was that Bill Bean chose to keep two versions of this photograph will have to remain a mystery to me.

stop action photo of unidentified man riding horse circa 1920s through 1940s


  1. There is a car that looks rather like a VW Bug in the left horizon - it likely isn't one - but it might perhaps maybe ;) serve to date the photo to some a later time (I'd say 1935-ish?) than the earlier photos.

    Also, I noticed that "Bill Bean" was listed as a draftsman working for an Oil Co. in the 1920 US census - from 1930 onwards, he owned/operated an auto garage. The mysterious shots with the oil rigs might be from his time as a draftsman.

  2. P.s., that is one beautiful horse.

    Perhaps someone trained the horse the Lone Ranger used in the TV show -- Silver!

  3. The car looks like a coupe of some kind..1935 ish works for me. I second what Iggy said Beautiful horse! If Bill liked to photograph things like I think he did then he would have photographed the horse just because he could..and to capture a horse in motion is not easy:)

  4. He reminds me of that Grant guy. (Is that the right name?) Of course, I've lost track of time periods so this might not be a sensible guess.

  5. What a mane and tail on this horse! Looks golden or white. It's hard to tell degrees of "lanky" with the legs in that position, and the pants maybe blowing in the wind. But this is one handsome photo of both man and horse. It would make a great book cover. : ))


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