Four rugged men

By: usermattw

Jun 02 2019

Tags: , ,

Category: Groups, Men


Click here to view it larger.

What it is:

Real photo post card, trimmed to approx 3.25 x 5.5 inches.  There are traces of black paper from having been glued into an album.


What I know about it:

One person on the front is identified as Joe O’Hearon.  The postcard is addressed to Mr. Joe O’Hearon / Island / St Louis Co / Minn.  As far as I can make out, the text reads  Dear Mother: – Send me that letter you got from A&M Co.  I sent you a card like this once before.  … a word … it.  It was mailed from Canada using a 2-cent King Edward VII stamp, narrowing the date range to 1903-1911.  (Edward reigned 1901-1910, but the stamps were available 1903-1911.)



Here’s another image with some intriguing clues.  Is it safe to assume the sender is sending a picture of himself to his mother?  The fact that it was pasted into an album suggests a personal connection to the image, as opposed to it being a fanciful novelty picture purchased somewhere.  Does the fact that the man on the front and the addressee have the same name mean that the sender is Joe Jr.?  I assume the name was written on the front at a later date.  Also, I love the way old addresses could be so vague.  There are plenty of lakes and islands in St Louis County, Minnesota, so addressing it to “Island” probably wouldn’t work today.  And who are these men?  Cowboys?  Ranch hands?  Miners?  Trappers?  Maybe they’re touring Canada with a rodeo or carnival?  Joe Jr., if that’s who he is, has some interesting guards on his forearms that might be a useful clue.  And that’s assuming they are wearing the garments of their trade, rather than just being four guys dressing up in costume.  I also assume they are friends and co-workers, rather than family, though the two men on the right have what might be a family resemblance.  In any case, it’s a fun image that I enjoy looking at.

11 comments on “Four rugged men”

  1. From the hints of letters sticking out from under the black paper, I’m assuming the last few words are “haven’t [or hasn’t] said a word about it.” Is there any hope of taking off more of the paper, or have they essentially fused together at this point?

  2. Also interesting: The card says “Dear Mother” and yet it says “Mr. Joe” rather than Mrs. Might it have been customary to address mail to the “man of the house” regardless of the intended recipient? Or maybe Joe is short for Josephine or whatnot.

    • My best guess is is that Joe, Jr. sent a picture of himself to his parents, addressing the message to his mother, but addressing the card, as a formality, to his father.

  3. I love this! Those leather wrist-protector things were a standard part of a lot of early cowboy film characters, if that helps. The very first cowboy movie star, Broncho Billy Anderson, wore them sometimes, as did William S. Hart. (They call them “cowboy cuffs” online today, if you need to buy a pair! Supposedly they protect the wrists from rope burns and the like.) I don’t really think these guys are in costume (the shoes seem too authentic), but something about how they’re all sporting scarves seems a little unlikely. Maybe they added a few rarely worn accessories for a big trip to town?

    • The fact that they are wearing things like the wrist cuffs and bandannas make me lean toward the idea that they are part of a traveling rodeo or something. If they were ordinary ranch hands who came to town for the day and decided to get their picture taken, I’m guessing they’d have spruced themselves up a bit. Also, I almost labeled this post “Four Rugged Men in Canada”, but realized that, just because this postcard was mailed from Canada, that doesn’t mean that’s where the photo was taken. Probably, but not necessarily.

  4. Is it just me, or does the guy on the bottom right bear a resemblance to the actor Jerry O’Connell?

    Also, the hats don’t look very cowboy-ish. Almost more like women’s hats of the day?

    Super interesting!

    • Glad you like it! And I see what you mean about the Jerry O’Connell resemblance. As for the hats, I’m not an expert. They don’t look like classic American cowboy hats, but I’m guessing one factor is that they are soft and limp with age. Also, the one in the top right is deceptive because the part of the hat above the band blends into the background, making the hat look flatter than it is.

      • Wow! It sure is! I hadn’t noticed that. Of course, I’m sure modern cowboy hats can’t really be relied upon to give us an idea of what was really worn back then.

  5. Even today bandanas serve many purposes for cowboys and are not simply a fashion accessory. They are used as a face mask to protect from dust while driving cattle or in a wind storm, as a washrag or napkin, as a potholder for pots or branding irons, as a bandage or tourniquet and many other uses. Wearing a bandana around the neck kept this “tool” available and easily accessed.

    • Yes, I agree. So I wonder how it is that four, what, cowboys? ranch hands? came to have their photo taken together dressed as is. Do they always dress like that, even when they go into town for the day? Were they specifically getting pictures of themselves taken to represent their trade? Did a traveling photographer haul his mobile studio out to their ranch? I’m just not sure.

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