Friday, May 4, 2018
Still the Same, No Matter the Place
People find the oddest things to note on the back of photographs. Perhaps that is only because they view such an activity in the context of their current situation: here's a picture from that fun outing we did last week, and, oh, you need to know this unusual detail about some extraneous point about the trip. No names, no dates. Nothing, at least, that an audience one hundred years later might be curious to know.
Of course, the person sending the note on the back of a carte de visite in the 1870s would not normally consider that someone in 2018 would be trying to decipher just what that fountain pen was trying to communicate. What I suspect, however, is that the great-great-grandchildren of the subject of that photograph would like to know a bit more about the thing—at least, if those great-great-grandchildren are anything like me.
Thanks to input from those of you who know people from Germany—or, in one case, someone who actually spent some time living in Heidelberg—we may soon have a verdict on exactly what that handwritten scrawl said on the back of that photograph I found in an antique store in northern California. In the meantime, I thought perhaps the rest of the material written on the back of that small photograph might reveal enough details for us to learn more about the photograph's subject.
So I put the phrases on the back of the picture through their paces at Google Translate and Google Maps.
The photographer listed on the back of this picture, Eduard Schultze, had a studio located in Heidelberg. Above the photographer's name was the entry, "79. Plöckstrasse 79." Though I know nothing about the German language, I thought it might be an educated guess to assume that entry was actually the address of the studio. So I went to check it out on Google Maps. Maybe there was a Plöckstrasse in Heidelberg in 1876, but apparently there isn't any such location there now. Düsseldorf, perhaps. But not Heidelberg.
There's no missing the fact that the photograph was taken in Heidelberg. I had to set aside that puzzle and move on to the next clue: the line printed on the bottom of the card: "Die Platte bleibt für Nachbestellungen aufbewahrt."
How very German I feel, even managing to write all that! But I still have no idea what it means. So off to Google Translate I went with my newfound ability to add umlauts to my English keyboarding capabilities. (Truth be told, I actually cheated here: having selected the translate-from dialog box's target language as German, I clicked on the keyboard icon in the window at Google Translate which said, "turn on Virtual Keyboard." Instant umlauts, which can then be cut and pasted into my text here.)
Being so smart still didn't help my cause. No matter where our ancestors posed for their portrait, all studios seemed to serve up the same offer. In Germany, as in the United States, that offer essentially gave customers a variant of the Schultze studio's promise: "The plate is kept for reordering."