Thursday, October 11, 2018
Spotting the Details
in Old Family Photographs
Since the hundred year old photographs I am examining are of people whom I don't even know, I need to look for every clue I can find to help identify time, place, and subjects. As we've already seen demonstrated so many times, just because I find a picture in northern California doesn't mean that was home base for the subject's family—the photos could have come from Ireland. Or Quebec.
In the case of "Grandpa and Grandma Tucker, my mother's folks," I once again relied on the assistance of a greatly amplified computer scan. I can find more detail camouflaged in a picture that has been scanned at a high resolution than I can with my own eyes, even using a trusty magnifying glass.
Take the picture we examined yesterday. The likeness of someone's Grandpa and Grandma Tucker—whom we now can assume were Samuel James and Anna Goodman Tucker of Oregon—was presented in a beautifully embossed sturdy paper frame with no other notes than the line I quoted above, and an additional note, written on a now familiar-looking white label affixed to the reverse of the frame. That note only added the information that the picture was likely taken "circa 1925."
Since there wasn't that much information provided—our only clues were that I found the photo in an antique store in Sonora, California, and that it seemed to be part of a collection of pictures bearing that same white-labeled provenance—I hoped to find some other confirmation that we are on the right track in identifying the right Tucker family. After all, Tucker is a fairly common surname; it would be easy to misidentify our subjects' photograph.
That's when I took a closer look at the photo, itself. Using the scan—not the original photo—I enlarged it as much as I could, then scrolled down to the bottom of the frame to see if anything else could be found. After all, the embossed treatment on the paper had so many swoops and swirls, it would be easy to hide a detail of significance.
There was, on the bottom of the frame, right in the center, curious insignia that I thought might reveal some useful details to us. As I took a closer look, I could make out a fancy letter "S" at the far edge of the swirling decoration, but the frame had such a busy background design, my eyes began tricking me into thinking I was seeing words where maybe there weren't any.
Taking a second—and then a third, then a fourth—look at the enlarged image, I did make out something else that, in contrast to those circular designs, looked like block letters. Not all the letters could be discerned easily, but if I strung together the letters I could read, I began to see more. It looked like K L - M A T - - F - L L.
Some of the letters seemed more soundly imprinted than others. I kept thinking, "What ends in F - LL?" It was then that I realized there was a second line of information, a word ending in, possibly, C O N—or was it G O N?
"Something-Falls?" OREGON? Klamath Falls? The guess made sense to me—better than my hopeless eyes could determine. After all, our Samuel and Annie Tucker did live in Malheur County in Oregon.
Not being familiar with Oregon geography, my next step was to check out distances on Google Maps. Unfortunately, Malheur County and Klamath Falls were not exactly cheek and jowl. An eight hour drive apart, in fact.
There was one redeeming piece of information, though—something that connected Anna Jane Tucker to Klamath County, Oregon. It was her death record, dated November 27, 1925—same as the estimated year of her photograph with her husband. Not long after, Anna Jane Goodman Tucker was buried in the Linkville Pioneer Cemetery, in that same Klamath Falls, Oregon. It was another twenty five years before her husband joined her.
As it turned out, the Tucker family had likely relocated from Malheur County to Klamath County before the 1920 census. By the time of that record, farmer Sam Tucker already owned his land, free and clear, and was working that land with his two youngest sons, Carl and Ralph. Somehow, after the couple had their portrait taken—at whatever studio in town used that swoopy-swirly letter "S" as part of their logo—among the copies they distributed to friends and family, one made its way to their granddaughter, the wife of the Brockman family relative who, eventually, moved to Sonora, California.
As far as that photograph traveled to make it to its hiding place in the antique store up in the northern foothills of California, hopefully, it will soon make a return trip to be reunited with an interested Tucker family member.