Monday, September 10, 2018

Welcome to West Point . . . Nebraska

It isn't often that I run across a photographer's imprint from a place so tiny, I have to resort to googling its location. After all, the pictures ending up in antique stores in the northern California foothills region once known for its gold fever may come from all over, but they generally come from locations I recognize.

At first, the picture we'll be examining this week seemed like it would be a snap to return to family. After all, it came with a handwritten note which included a first name and a surname. Even better, it included the photographer's imprint.

That imprint, in my opinion, was next to illegible, so swoopy and swervy was the script used for the studio's name. Normally, that wouldn't be a problem, since researchers have access to hundred-year-old city directories and even histories of local studios in that bygone era of photography. But this? I couldn't clearly make out the nameand it was of an enterprise in the thriving metropolis of West Point, a place whose city directories, if even in existence from that time period, might not be accessible to a researcher in far away California.

While you may easily recognize the name West Point, I suspect the number of people who know that location will be dramatically reduced when I include the qualifier that it must be the place known as West Point in Nebraska. This West Point, as it turns out, is a cityyes, officially a cityof barely over three thousand people. And West Point is the county seat for Cuming County, which in its own right only claims a total of nine thousand people.

To be fair, that is the county population as it stands today. Back at the turn of the centuryyes, that other century of the type producing photographs I usually rescueCumings County hit its peak population of over fourteen thousand people. To give you an idea of how sparse Nebraska population was at the time, shortly after the county population had a second surgeto almost as much as that peak 1900 population of 14,584the state devised a way in 1922 to code vehicle license plates by the number of vehicles eligible to be licensed; Cumings got assigned the number 24, meaning it came in 24th in number of vehicles registered in the state. Even in Nebraska, West Point was small change.

We're talking a not-big-hometown here, as you can imagine. So how hard would it be to find our not-so-mysterious man in the photo? It just depends on how common this subject's very German name was in a place claimingeven nowalmost seventy percent of the population's ethnic heritage as German. And how accessible hundred-year-old records from a city of onlyat the timetwo thousand people might be for a researcher today.

As it is turning out, perhaps not as easy as it seems.

Above: Imprint, greatly enlarged, from the photography studio located in West Point, Nebraska, where the picture rescued from a Sonora, California, antique shop may have been taken in the early part of the 1900s. Koupab?Koupal?


  1. Replies
    1. You have a lot more experience with this sort of stuff than I do, Far Side. Besides, you know my eyes...

  2. Replies
    1. Glad to hear that, Miss Merry. I hope this quest brings another rescued photograph back home to family!

  3. I'm anxious to see the photo. I'm from "28 county", live in "8 county" now, so I doubt I'll know this person. But I've shared your post today in the Nebraska Genealogy Network facebook group, so maybe someone else will. Also, I've heard of the name Koufal. It's a crazy-looking "f", but it could be.

    1. Laura, thank you so much for spreading the word. This is a new area for my searches, as I haven't worked on Nebraska in the past. I'll post the photo tomorrow, along with what I know on the names, and we'll see what happens from there.

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks, Melanie! Hopefully, I'll be able to locate a resource for old photography studios and do some wildcard magic on my search there.


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