26 April 2012

Photo Mystery: Tenino, Washington 1938

While archiving some photos, I came across this picture: 



The couple bears no resemblance to anyone in our family, and they are not familiar to me. I am the holder of the family archives, and have seen hundreds, literally, of pictures in my decade of genealogical research. These folks are not related to us. On the back is a stamp, in blue, it says "Hi-Ko Finish" with the date "Sep 13 1938". 

The timing could not have been better. The first time I saw this picture was about a week before the release of the 1940 US Census, and I put it at the top of my "must I.D." list. I could not believe how lucky I was to have a dated photo from so close to the census. It was almost too perfect. Unfortunately, no one knew who they were. I assumed the photo was from Orting, Washington, as it was in my paternal collection, and that's where they were in 1938; all of them. 

So, I never got to look them up in the 1940 Census. 

Then, a week or two later, I came across this little jewel. Came from the same box, I just hadn't dug deep enough yet. 

See the resemblance? 


The border print around the image is identical, as is the size of the photo. This one also had the blue stamp on the back, and it was labelled, I think by my Grandmother (now deceased): Tenino, WA 1928-1931. Here is the reverse of the image of the house:


The house in the photo looks rather rural, which jives with the family story. Which is this:

William and Emma Brown had lived in Orting, Pierce County, Washington most of their married life, except for just a few years in the late 20s and early 30s, when they lived in Tenino in Thurston County. They were not doing well, and moved from house to house running away from rent collectors. They lost a son there to a rail/car accident, and by 1935 had moved back to Orting. The fatal accident of their son resulted in a lawsuit, and William was said to have used the money to buy clothing, instead of diapers for the baby.

So, the photos are dated 1938 by the developer, which is too late for the family of William & Emma. The handwriting indicates that they lived in Tenino from 1928-1931, but during that time, it was highly unlikely that a ten year old roll of film would have survived to be printed that much later. (I checked on this with a photographer familiar with film development.) It would seem unlikely that they would have gone back to Tenino, as they left debt all around town; they would have been recognized.

We're back to the mystery couple, aren't we? I think it's possible that the Brown's could have lived in the white two story house, but who are the people in the first photo? Maybe I'll never know. Maybe this will hit social media and go crazy and I'll have a descendant send me an email to identify them. That would be neat.