1/6/11

GEORGE STECKEL, photographer, and MINNIE CHOPIN DUNNING, dancer?


These photos come from Bert's wonderful collection of vintage photos and are my submission for this weeks Sepia Saturday.

Click on any image to see it larger. Believe me, it's worth it.



I have virtually no information about these shots other than some meager info about the photographer, George Steckel. At first I thought the name was Steekel looking at the rather confusing calligraphy. I have not found any biographical information about Steckel, but did discover the following at Google Books, Pacific Coast Photographer, Volume 2 published in February 1893:


As you can see from the back of the mounting boards, Steckel was the recipient of a lot of awards and honors. As to when these actual photos were taken there is no information given.


The few links for Steckel are to collections which contain some of his images, some of "famous" people such as this opera star in 1910, Claudia Albright. And here is a link to a woman, Mrs. Bob Kammey, in a stunning dress.

It seems strange that there is nothing substantial online about this man who won so many awards. I imagine he is referenced in many books that have yet to make it online. If anyone has any information or links to information I'd appreciate your update.

As to the subject of the photographs, well there is the real mystery. The name of the one lovely young girl on the left in the horizontal photo is Minnie Chopin Dunning. That's certainly a hard name to live up to. They appear to be a dance troupe, though the guys could just as easily be members of a circus in those costumes. Lion tamers? Master of ceremonies?

It's a shame nothing is available about this troupe. I put them out here on the net hoping someone someday finds them and sends along information about the lovely Miss Dunning and friends.

UPDATE: Thanks to a reader I now have some biographical information about George Steckel. Thank you Meri!
George Steckel was born about 1865 in Pennsylvania. He was married at least twice. I haven't learned the name of Wife 1, but they had a son John Henderson Steckel who died in infancy January 21, 1901. 



Wife 2 was named Evangeline. Evangeline's maiden name may have been Buck, as there was an obit for Florence Jane Buck, mother of Mrs. George Steckel, in L.A. in 1912. George and Evangeline were married in about 1905-06. She was born about 1875 in Illinois. By 1910, they had a son George Steckel, Jr. He was killed in an accident in Yellowstone in 1933 -- apparently with a friend because there was a similarly worded accidental death obit for another young man who died in Yellowstone on the same day Steckel, Jr's obit ran. Evangeline and George also had a daughter Margaret about 3 years after George, Jr. was born.

George himself appears to have died September 22, 1938 in Covina, California. No cause of death was listed in the obit.
UPDATE: Thanks to reader Mark I can now add this additional information. Thanks Mark!
Edward Weston worked in Steckel's studio around 1908-09 before moving on.
It'd be interesting to see images from this studio around that time frame to see if any were Weston's work. 
I agree with Mark that it would be fascinating to see more about Weston's work with Steckel.

22 comments:

  1. What a photogenic bunch and a great mystery. One of my blog commenters came up with a lot more information than I could find on one of my posts. I suspect it was because he subscribes to one of those newspaper archive services. I've been tempted to do this too, and then reminded myself that this is an already excessive hobby which does not provide me with any income. Anyway, I wonder if those newspaper archives wouldn't provide a whole lot more information about Mr. Steckel.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's a good question. All I can do is hope someday someone finds the post and points me in the direction of some information. It's highly unlikely my local library has anything that can be easily accessed about George Steckel.

    And if you clicked on the link for the photo of the opera singer you'll see she was part of a collection once owned by the San Francisco Examiner. So somewhere there's information to be found, but it's not online searching "photographer George Steckel."

    ReplyDelete
  3. Charming dancers..or performers of some sort. I hope someone comes by with more info for you:)

    ReplyDelete
  4. well they certainly look like they are enjoying themselves! One can spend hours and hours chasing and trying to solve things....I do the same with the unidentified family photos and memoribilia...and yes it is a consuming hobby! Keeps us entertained fully! I will keep an eye out for his name, Steckel...

    ReplyDelete
  5. George Steckel was born about 1865 in Pennsylvania. He was married at least twice. I haven't learned the name of Wife 1, but they had a son John Henderson Steckel who died in infancy January 21, 1901.

    Wife 2 was named Evangeline. Evangeline's maiden name may have been Buck, as there was an obit for Florence Jane Buck, mother of Mrs. George Steckel, in L.A. in 1912. George and Evangeline were married in about 1905-06. She was born about 1875 in Illinois. By 1910, they had a son George Steckel, Jr. He was killed in an accident in Yellowstone in 1933 -- apparently with a friend because there was a similarly worded accidental death obit for another young man who died in Yellowstone on the same day Steckel, Jr's obit ran. Evangeline and George also had a daughter Margaret about 3 years after George, Jr. was born.

    George himself appears to have died September 22, 1938 in Covina, California. No cause of death was listed in the obit.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh I just knew there was a genealogist out there who would go digging. I just knew it when I posted it for Sepia Saturday. Thanks Meri. I will add this to the actual post so it is searchable. Bravo!

    ReplyDelete
  7. What fabulous photos both of them, the clothes and poses are wonderful.
    Interesting information about the photographer.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Seems that Mr Steckel had a leaning towards the theatrical. Nicely captured moments, here.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Because Mr. Steckel's studio is opposite the L. A. Theatre, I wonder if most of his clientele were dancers and performers. The photographs are very interesting. I like the background on the second photo.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Good point Nancy and a possible direction to search for information about his career. I will have to see what I can find about the L.A. Theatre.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great post : and a fine example of Sepia Saturday at its collaborative best.

    ReplyDelete
  12. What wonderful photos. Love the clothing

    ReplyDelete
  13. gorgeous, gorgeous pictures!! i luv' them!! maybe he was appointed by the theater to photograph the performers. what a great find!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thrilled all enjoyed these and I can't wait to pass along to Bert, the collector, the information Meri provided. Bert gets a huge kick out of knowing his collection has some stories.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Interesting photos. I like their faces. Great story starters.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I really like these. The gilrs look beautiful and their men handsome, a timeless look to them all too, like they could step out of that photo and be put in something of today and they would fit perfectly! A happy group for sure! I enjoy the mystery of not knowing, and putting your own story to their tale!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Ah yes, Time Travelers. It's often fun to look at old photos and look for the people who look as if they could cross the time threshold and walk through our lives today.

    And if you look carefully at the men's "boots" you'll notice they aren't boots at all. The upper part is removable.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Anonymous9/19/2011

    I am working on old family photos and I googled George Steckel since that was the name on several photos of my great grandparents - They lived in Oxnard but traveled to LA and SF. They were not entertainers so it appears that Mr. Steckel also took portraits of regular folks!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm glad you dropped me this note. I'm guessing your great grandparents were probably pretty entertaining even if they weren't entertainers.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Anonymous12/04/2013

    Would anyone know the value of one of his photographs?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I personally have no idea, but perhaps someone will someday find the post and comment.

      Delete
  21. Edward Weston worked in Steckel's studio around 1908-09 before moving on.
    It'd be interesting to see images from this studio around that time frame to see if any were Weston's work.

    ReplyDelete