Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?
A Friends of the Library Mystery
Part VII
 (To Review, Part I)
(To Review, Part II)
(To Review, Part III)
(To Review, Part IV)
(To Review, Part V)
(To Review, Part VI)


The researcher pursed her lips in frustration. It had been two weeks since she’d had time to work on the mystery of the photos. Now she had a house guest. Why is it that the call of the computer was loudest when the time was the least available?

In desperation she turned to her houseguest. He had done a lot of genealogical research in his day. Maybe he'd have some ideas.

“Dad,” she started, “would you look at this photo and tell me whatever you can about it?” She handed him the photo of the man in large clothes.

His eyes brightened, and he pulled out his jewelry loupe. The researcher started to clue him in but he said, “No! Don’t tell me anything about it!” She shrugged, smiled, and left the room.

When she returned he was furiously writing notes in longhand. She got a cup of coffee, refilled his, and tiptoed from the room.

As she was finishing her last work e-mail of the day, he knocked at her office door upstairs.
She turned to him with a big smile. “What have you found?”

His report was detailed and thorough. It was the type of report that had made him a successful military officer.

Near the time of the maximum growth season: the trees and shrubs are in full growth. What appears to be tomatoes are on the vine; but have not darkened to show the red. Tomatoes are typically a late August ripener in the middle latitudes. The tree on the left is showing some non-productive limbs and the other visible limbs are sparsley leaved. Could well be dying.

The house appears to be a two story structure. There is a window at the upper story level. It shows most likely the rear of the structure. Note the posts with wire climbing limbs to facilitate vine climbing to his right as he faced the photographer. The plant supports to his left are sturdier as indicated by the dowel top support which would be natural with tomatoes. The vines to his right look to be two grape vines which were cut as you walked between them.

There is what appears to be a lean-to outbuilding with one open side (south) for feeding animals. Could be pigs. Note the slop bucket with partially closed lid made of galvanized metal. Usually slop buckets were containers that had outlived their normal duties. To spend money on a commercial “garbage can” is an indication there may have been some money to spare.




Looking at the young man starting at his head, he has a typical haircut of the late 20’s/30’s. A high & tight and combed back in the “valentino” style. His wing type white collar is high and larger than his neck and may be a transferable collar that fit on a usually light blue collarless shirt. The collars and tie were worn for special events (such as a picture taking). The tie collar combination typically was secured at the back of the neck by hook and eye. He has a sporty tie pin which enters the tie at the top, under the front of the tie and emerges about an inch further down and had a cap that fit over the sharp end of the pin.

His bib overalls have a pencil pocket and he has a pencil secured in the pocket. Typical button fly. These may well be used by more than one member of the family. If they were used by one individual the cuffs were usually cut, turned, and secured to the individual’s length. For a family where there was more than one individual working, the cuffs were turned by the using individual when he or she went out to work. They often hung by the back door and were put on or taken off near the main house entry. Under the coveralls the individuals wore house clothes -- light or heavy depending upon the season. Typically a flannel shirt was worn even in the summer to facilitate wicking, evaporation and cooling.

His shoes seem to be his best shoes – they are soft round toe and reflect a shine. There is not any evident wear which would come from wearing mucking boots during the course of a days work in a barnyard.

The hat is leather, lined cap with pull down ear flaps for cold weather. It is billed to provide a bit of sun glare protection.

His jacket is very typical of the more prosperous county man of the time. Heavy denim like material. It has rivet style buttons. The collar can be fastened across his throat as protection against the cold. His cuffs can be fastened down to avoid getting hung up while working. They appear to have a flap, buckle, slide size adjustment capability. The chest pocket has a slash opening without a flap which made for easy access and retrieval of items. The lower pocket has a flap to help keep items from falling out. On his left arm is a slash pocket which has some sort of Identification #. The number 811 is large and can easily be read at a distance. It could well be connected with his employment away from the family.

The jacket seems to be new. It is clean, unsoiled, unpatched, sized both for growth and accommodation of multiple layers of sweaters or undergarments in cold weather.

My guess is he is a younger man 18 to mid-20’s in the early 30’s and the photo was taken as part of an “event’ with a box camera. The clothing, hat, shoes, collar, tie, would indicate a young man who is bridging farm and city world. He appears to be quite serious and determined. He is clean shaven and appears to have come from or is getting ready to go to some special event the family wants to have a memento of.

He is very typical of the young man I used to see as a child in the 30’s in the mid-west, Iowa and Missouri. I am assuming he is from somewhere in the Midwest along the area between northern Iowa or Nebraska and Southern Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, or South Dakota. My strongest guess would be Iowa, southern Michigan or Wisconsin. The steepness of the roof is an indication of heavy snow fall. The family appears to be somewhat better off financially than the average of the time. End.

The researcher put the report down and shook her head. “Dad,” she asked, looking at him. “How on earth do you do that? And what do I do next?”

He just smiled.

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