At Play In The Archive
No, I’m not learning the latest dance craze. I’m trying to interpret this photo from my great-grandpa Leo’s collection. On the back of the photo, someone wrote, “1900.”
I spent a lot of time with my loupe on this one, because there are many interesting things going on here.
First, notice that the American flag is hung backward. At first, I thought that the photographer must have simply printed the negative in reverse, but when I flipped the image, all the text (such as on the sign of the shop next door) showed up backwards.
So, it seems that the photographer did it right the first time — it’s the person who hung the flag that got it wrong.
Next, I peered in the window to see if there were any other identifying clues, and I got lucky.
The sign inside the window identifies the location as an office of the Hamburg American (Something) Company. Unfortunately, part of the company name is obscured, but I think the missing word might be Packet, as in Hamburg Amerikanische Paketfahrt Aktien-Gesellschaft (HAPAG for short). I’m not certain if this office was located in Hamburg or New York, because none of the words that show in the photo are entirely conclusive.
If I really go out on a limb, I think this guy is my great-grandpa Leo. However, if that is the case, then this photo couldn’t possibly be from 1900, because this guy is clearly older than 10 years old (Leo was born in 1890). So, it’s a mystery.
My money is on this office being located in Hamburg. It seems unlikely that some passer-by in New York wouldn’t have immediately pointed out that the American flag was hung up backward. How embarrassing!
According to Leo’s HAPAG pin, he worked for HAPAG from 1912 to 1937. Many other members of the family also worked for HAPAG, including Leo’s brother-in-law, Bruno Keil, who was married to his sister Emmi Lessiack Keil, as well his future father-in-law Hermann Spielmann, and future brother-in-law Walter Spielmann/Spellman. Much more on HAPAG to come in future posts — my People just could not stay off the boats.
Happy Sunday, People!