Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mail Call: 15 December 1934 (George)

Letter from George Potter in Sargent, MO to his daughter Mary in St. Louis.

Don't come home for Christmas; the Buick isn't working apparently due to a dead battery and it is "un handy" to get to Cabool and back.  Mary came home anyways, at least for a day or two.

"I almost believe that you will have a steady job in the bank.  Their lady here says that is the way they do, keep weeding out as they go along and try to keep the most useful ones"

Note: "Walt" is Walter Bremerkamp, George's sister Dora's husband.
"Emma" is George's sister back in Pennsylvania

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

George's Photos ca. 1896 page 5 of 5

This set of photos features George Potter's cousin Oren Kennedy (1876-1951).  Oren was the son of George's aunt Emma Hasbrouck (1858-1882) and her husband Frank Kennedy (1853-1884)...thus, he was orphaned by age eight and raised by his relatives, with the Potters most likely taking a turn.  He was very close in age to George, and eventually took up the same profession (machinist).  Oren always sent his cousin George a birthday card, usually with a dollar or two enclosed.

In one of his birthday notes (April 1940), Oren remembered this time (1896) as:

"We have had a hard winter, it made me think of the winter of 1896 when you and I was cutting basswood bolts down at Eden.  And as I recall it was good sleighing when you and Charlie and Uncle Dave took me to the depot on the 14th of March"  

Eden would be Eden, Erie County, NY while Charlie is George's brother Charles and Uncle Dave was George's father David "Max" Potter.

Oren Kennedy and George Potter
Oren Kennedy

Oren Kennedy and unidentified "horse"

George's Photos ca.1896 page 4 of 5

These two photographs from George Potter's collection from ca. 1896 are scenes from life in western Pennsylvania (Erie or Warren Counties) or western New York (Chautauqua or Eire Counties).

I can't say for certain what is going on in the first photo, but maple sugar syrup production might be a reasonable guess.  There is still a commercial maple sugar producer near Corry, PA and many others around in Erie County.  The winters are certainly severe enough there for a decent maple sap run in the early spring.  

The man in the center of the image appears to be tending a long boiling trough with a fire underneath (regulated by a cloth flap) and vented through a sheet-metal chimney at the left (it isn't a tree trunk; the rivets are visible with magnification).  A crude lean-to provides some shelter.  A gent in a suit is visible through the steam off to the right, perhaps supervising the work.  The seated child is not too interested in the proceedings.

Maple Sugar Production ca. 1896?

The next picture is a hunting scene, probably in western Pennsylvania.  There is a partly-illegible notation on the cardboard mount which seems to focus on breakfast being served.  The portly gentleman on the left with the rifle and axe is identified as one of George's maternal Hasbrouck uncles.  Perhaps this is William Hasbrouck (1864-1919) whose eventual cause of death was "Diabetes (with) contributory cause imprudent eating."  

Hunting Breakfast Scene, ca 1896.

Friday, December 9, 2016

George's Photos ca. 1896 page 3 of 5

More of George Potter's photos from the period he was trying photography as a profession (ca. 1896, at age 21 or so).  These photos are mounted on the same cardboard backing as the Findley Lake photos and are of approximately the same size.

"Midnight on Bookenshaw Creek"
(Probably Brokenstraw Creek, near Corry PA.  George's spelling was usually accurate; the creek name was likely never something he saw spelled out)

A picnic, although the bent-trunk tree and its reflection are the main feature.  Also Brokenstraw Creek?

Skinny-dipping in some old swimming hole.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

George's Photos ca. 1896 page 2 of 5

The next two of George Potter's photographs from around 1896-1898 may also be from Findley Lake, NY.  Unfortunately, they are not captioned.

Findley Lake was created when a mill dam raised water levels enough to link two smaller, natural lakes.  The dam is the starting point of one of the branches of French Creek, near where George Potter was born in 1875.  French Creek is part of the Allegheny River watershed.  This could be a different mill dam on a different part of the watershed, but the people in the background seem rather well-dressed; even the kids appear to have ties.

In the following photo, the sign on the building describes it as a hotel and summer garden, but the rest of the text is blocked out by the tree trunk.  This might part of the Findley Lake, NY, resort community, as everyone seems dressed up.  The buck's well-developed antlers, still covered in velvet, suggest that this would have been taken in late July or early August.

A Hotel and "summergarden" with a deer pen, possibly at Findley Lake, NY
George seems to have let himself into the pen to take the photo, unsettling the deer.

George's Photos ca. 1896 page 1 of 5

One of the stories that my mother, Mary Potter Lavery (1911-1994), told about her father George Potter (1875-1943) was that he had tried his hand at professional photography when he was young. 

I recently found a collection of George's early photographs which perhaps represent work he intended to sell.  These photos are mounted on cardboard and most of the cardboard backings have pinholes, suggesting that they may have been displayed for show or for sale.  The photo papers seem to have been trimmed as they are slightly irregular in size; most are 4.5x6.5 inches (around 114x165 mm).  

The two photos below have a common theme.  They capture the resort area of Findley Lake, NY, which was the site of a "Lakeside Assembly" on the Chautauqua model at the turn of the past century.  Structures for lectures and concerts were on one side of the lake, while lodging for the visitors was on another; the two were connected by paddle-wheel steamboats.  The steamboat in George's photo matches up with one illustrated in the Findley Lake historical website:  

The vessel in these photos is almost certainly the "Silver Spray", which operated in this single-deck configuration during the 1896-1898 seasons.  It was converted to a two-deck plan after 1898 and continued to operate until 1910.

The titles in quotes are George's in his hand.

"Moonlight on Findley Lake"
Paddle-wheeler "Silver Spray"

"On Findley Lake"
Waiting for the next boat at Findley Lake.  The owner of the "Silver Spray" added a top deck for the 1899 season.