Forty-two people gathered out front

What it is:

Photo measuring 7.5 x 9.5 inches, mounted on a (damaged) cardboard backing.

What I know about it:

Nothing!  Undated and unidentified.


People often remark that one of the pleasures of these old photos is making up stories for the people pictured when no hard facts are known.  Well, this one offers plenty of opportunity for speculation, so have at it!  Here are forty-two people.  Who are they?  Pick any two:  what is the relationship?  What is this place they are standing in front of?  I see a sign, but I can’t read it.  Is this an inn, perhaps?  If so, are they all visiting?  Staying there?  Employed there?  Some combination?  Are some of them related to each other?  All of them?  When people talk about old photos, they sometimes refer to “affectionate poses”, not necessarily people who are lovers, but simply friends with their arms around each other, holding hands, hands on shoulders, hands on knees, leaning in together, etc.  Maybe something intimate, but maybe not.  There are some such poses here.  Do they signify anything?  Since some people are standing a bit apart, should we read anything into that, too?  And why is somebody’s hat lying front and center in the dirt?

14 comments on “Forty-two people gathered out front”

  1. That hat really bugs me!
    Also, I’m intrigued by the little girl at the bottom right in the dark jacket and light skirt. I have never seen an outfit like that from this time period–she looks like she could also be dropped into the twenties and not look odd (except maybe 1920’s girls didn’t wear fitted jackets). The woman on the front left all in white, with the little dark bow tie, looks like Mary Astor in a retro costume, rather than a real person in 1908, or whenever this is. Fascinating!

    When I was at my parents’ house for Christmas a few weeks ago, my dad and I spent about 20 minutes investigating my grandfather’s old class photo from about 1922. (A nice change from arguing!) It was endlessly interesting to compare the different outfits, and speculate about the people who wore them. I remember looking at the same picture when I was a kid, and deciding which girls I would have wanted to be friends with.

    • I see what you mean about the girl’s outfit. My first thought after your comment was that maybe she was cold and borrowing somebody else’s jacket, but it seems to fit too well. I really couldn’t say what’s up with that. And I also see what you mean about Mary Astor. Of course, finding something seemingly out of place makes me insecure for a moment, worried that it’s just modern reenactors in a photo that isn’t actually vintage, but that fear quickly passed here. (I should post some photos I have that appear to be modern ladies dressed in period clothes, but the “modern” ladies are from the 1940s or 50s, so they would still be vintage enough for this blog.)

      I had a genuine LOL at your “a nice change from arguing” comment. I know what you mean about looking at old photos and wondering how you’d get along with those people. I recently was given my grandparents’ old high school yearbooks. It’s fascinating to look at the old photos of people and activities and imagine younger versions of my grandparents inserted into those settings, imagining myself in those settings, and, of course, wondering what became of them all. My aunt annotated them with post-it notes and was able to say a few things like “He became a lawyer”, etc., but most of them remain mysteries.

  2. A family reunion? You are right, the hat on the ground in front of the group is intriguing.

    • Yes, a family reunion crossed my mind as an option. The hat is a puzzlement. It seems like one of those forty-two people would have noticed it and picked it up. I can’t imagine for what reason it would be there on purpose.

  3. It definitely looks like a pub or tavern sign. I don’t think it is a family reunion as in that type of photo you’d probably get family units closer together and there seems to be a lot of male and female bunching rather than husband and wife with kids grouping. My favourite person is the man (third along in the back row) with the slicked down hair, tilted head and huge moustache!

    • Good point about the groupings, but who knows, I guess it depends how formal they were trying to be about it. This is definitely a group that could be open to different interpretations. Yeah, that guy you mentioned has an interesting look. It’s fun to scan the faces and find ones that leap out at you.

      • Yes, different interpretations! Hooray! Such a shame there is not way of reading either sign.

      • Agreed! As I look at the blown-up version of the photo, the sign appears to have two words, and the second one appears to be “Inn”, though I wouldn’t swear to it. The first one looks vaguely like Amberson or Jefferson or something, but that’s just total guessing. By the way, I think the white thing lower down on the post is something like a mailbox, not a sign.

      • That is interesting. Now I look more closely I think I can see it has a slanted top. I’m not terribly familiar with US postal service customs, so would that be a box for deliveries to the venue or for collections from it? If for collections, could that make it more likely to be a general store? It would in Australia, as deliveries, even to this day, are taken into shops/business and delivered in person by the postman. A general store would have a small post office inside and a post collection box outside.

      • I would guess it could be used for either collections or deliveries, though mail carriers tend to just march right in to businesses, so it might not have gotten much use if it was actually a mail box. But you raise a good point: I have no way of knowing that this photo is from the United States. For all I know, it could be Australia.

  4. I love these types of group photos, becasue it gives me a wonderful range of variations in the clothing–I can see what might have been a variety of styles for a certain period all at once. I also love looking closely at the relationships, as you do.

    • Hi Lisa, glad you like this one. I don’t have too many that are such large groups (outside of school groups or sports teams that are in matching uniforms), but they are fun enough that I will have to post more.

  5. My instant thought was that the photographer dropped his hat down to go put his head behind the camera–but that would be pretty silly on his part! Although I guess it should have been his job to notice it and have it moved, no matter whose hat it was. But maybe it was one of those old cameras that gives a poor idea of the shot’s final framing, so he thought it was cropped out.

    • The hat isn’t the first thing I notice about the photo, but now that I have, I keep going back to it. I really want to move it, but, you know.

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