Monday, June 17, 2013

Someone Might Want This Picture

It’s the rare photograph, from among the collected odds and ends saved by Bill Bean, that managed to include any identifying labels. Today’s picture includes just enough to make things frustrating.

Clearly, the first line written on the reverse of this composition states, “Leo Harrington.” The last line adds, “Stanford U”—presumably referring to the well-known college in Palo Alto, the town where Bill, himself, grew up.

If that were all that was included in the label, this might have been a straightforward search. There does happen to be a Leo W. Harrington listed in a directory of Stanford students ( subscribers can view the directory here)—the only drawback being that the directory dates from 1914. Assuming that this Leo were born the same year as Bill Bean—1896—that would mean he was a freshman at Stanford University at that point. Perhaps Leo and Bill were childhood friends?

There is, however, a glitch. The label on the back includes one more word. On a line of its own, another word is inserted: “Tonopal.”

photograph label

What is that supposed to mean? Is this a picture of a man named Leo H. Tonopal? Hardly. At least, not according to records I could find on A search for that surname draws a blank.

And don’t suppose that is the name of Leo’s residence hall. According to the directory, the men’s dorm was known as Encina.

Nor is it the name of the street pictured behind this mystery gentleman. There is no street by that name in Palo Alto.

At this point, unless the real Leo Harrington—or one of his descendants—stands up and claims this picture, “Tonopal” will just have to remain an enigma.

Leo Harrington standing in front of palm tree near canal or waterway


  1. There's a Tonopalo Resort in Lake Tahoe. The photo looks rather resort-y.

  2. Given the big palm tree - and the "canal" or lagoon behind the fellow - I'd say he's either in Southern California (perhaps a place like Venice, Los Angeles) or in Florida or other southern state.

    But I've no clue as to what tonopal could be! :)

    There is a Leo Harrington, a college professor of Mathematics teaching at University of California, Berkeley who (although much greyer) looks sort of like this fellow.

  3. Maybe this makes sense?|0|1652393|0|2|3249|7|0|2071|0|0|&cpxt=0&uidh=6l5&cp=0&pcat=ROOT_CATEGORY&h=22513&recoff=5+7&db=nevauto1913&indiv=1

    ...shows a Leo W Harrington registering a car in Tonopah, 1918. The 1910 US Census shows him living in Tonopah, Nye, Nevada, age 17. He could well have attended Sanford U (as the record you link to show).

    Was this man someone Bill sold a car to?

    I think that particular Leo W was Leo Walter Harrington, born 15 Oct 1893 in Butte, Montana. He later lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma with his wife Vessie and died Jun 1954.

    1. I've a couple theories (aka W.A.G.s)...

      1) Since a bunch of the photos appear to be "Leona's" and since Leona and Bill (and Sam) lived in Palo Alto at the time (c. 1910-1916), perhaps Leona, who was older (and old enough) dated this Leo Harrington?

      2) Bill was off somewhere (perhaps in Venice, Los Angeles, perhaps not - I found some canals in Alameda and they have some palm trees too!) when he encountered this guy "far from home" and discovered they were "neighbors" from back home.

      The Leo Harrington that went to Sanford graduated and became a lawyer, first in Oklahoma, and then in Washington DC (where he died). He wouldn't have put Tonopah on the photo after sometime before the year 1930... since Leo moved to Oklahoma after his college years (I can't find him in the 1920 US census). If this "logic" holds - Leo was a "contemporary" of Leona and/or Bill (i.e., the photo is circa 1914-1918 or even 1920-something) and they were linked by geographical proximity if by no other reason.

  4. That's intriguing! I like the suggestions in the other replies. I was going to say that maybe Tonopal was a small town where Leo was from, or more likely, the name of the place where he is posing in the picture. I's guess the second, since the label is ON the picture.

  5. Hi this is my grandfather Leo Walter Harrington....from Tonapol...

  6. My grandfather went to Stanford and studied law. He was born on October 15th, 1896.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...