DECONSTRUCTED couple: Part 3

Who is this man whose stare was captured so long ago? What is the story we're not hearing? The blush on his cheeks belies the reality of the life he lead. As he stared at the photographer what was he thinking?

All of these images that have survived through the years without stories attached, are the subjects nothing more than ghosts? Without his story is he real or just an image of a person, a representation of a life long forgotten?


DECONSTRUCTED couple: Part 2

In calm repose her youthful arm rests upon his shoulder. The fingers relaxed so as to not move during the exposure. Any movement and the dainty ring would be gone to history. Even more questions would then be asked of this couple from so long ago.


DECONSTRUCTED couple: Part 1

A tintype found in a box at an antique store. Sadly scarred by time. People unknown. Location unknown. Date unknown.

The image to unfold over the next few days.


THOS. CUSACK CO. billboards

I have another mystery and hope in time some readers will step forward to fill in the gaps.

Click on image to see it larger.

I have no information about this photo; no idea where or when it was taken. The only historical reference point are the billboards created by the Thos. Cusack Co. which these lovely folks are strolling by.
MONDAY OCT. 6, 1924
Time Magazine
In 1875, one Thomas Cusack, a youth in his teens, started a business with only a paint pot and brush and a remarkable personality as assets. The business consisted in painting advertising signs on the sides of buildings in a small way. Gradually, he took to building billboards of his own, and leasing suitable walls and other locations for outdoor advertisements.

After a half-century, Mr. Cusack decided to retire from active work. But it took a banking syndicate to buy out his interest in the Thomas Cusick Co. of Chicago. What his selling price was is unknown. But the company's last balance sheet showed assets over $26,000,000 and annual gross business over $23,000,000. The headquarters of the company are located in Chicago, with branches in about one hundred other cities. The concern owns 100,000 separate leases controlling 40,000,000 square feet (10 10/99 square miles) of wall surface and 1,800,000 square feet (5/11 square mile) of billboards.

The bankers who have acquired the Cusack Co. expect to make a public offering of the stock shortly. This is said to be the first time in the history of U. S. business that Wall Street bankers have taken over an advertising concern, and also the first time that shares in such a business should be underwritten and sold to the public through the Wall Street markets. (SOURCE: TIME)
And then, on July 29, 1929, just a few months before the crash of the stock market this article appeared in Time extolling the great earnings of Thos. Cusack Co.:
Last week many a U. S. corporation issued earnings figures for the first half of 1929, showed general increases over the corresponding 1928 period. The first half of the year is almost always better than the second because of the July and August "summer slump." But even with this qualification 1929 promised to be a banner year of bumper prosperity. Of special interest among many earnings were:

Company Comparison 1929 1928

Congress Cigar Co., Inc.
(La Palina Cigars, makes 1,300,000 cigars daily, no hand work, all machine made)
Net profit, 6 mos. $1,274,707 $1,172,091

White Rock Mineral Springs Co.
(Charged water, sarsaparilla, ginger ale, root beer, "Kentucky nip") Net profit, 6 mos. 589,481 546,728

American Chicle Co.
(Gum; owns 5,000,000 chicle-growing acres in Guatemala, Mexico, British Honduras) Net profit, 6 mos. 1,039,167 892,391

American Chain Co., Inc.
(Chains for jewelers, chains for ship anchors. and all in between sizes including Weed, "Rid-o-skid" and other auto chains)
Net profit, 6 mos. 1,034,029
net loss 354,428

General Outdoor Advertising Co., Inc.
(Largest U. S. outdoor advertising company, responsible for a large proportion of roadside billboards; controls Thos. Cusack Co. and 20 other subsidiaries) Net income, 2nd quarter 806,975 1,180,137

Brillo Manufacturing Co. Inc.
(Combination red soap and steel wool in a green box, used by housewives to scour stubborn pots & pans) Sales, 5 mos. ending May 31 888,042 790,627

Company Comparison
1929 1928

General Baking Corp.
(Spent $10,000,000 in expansion in last three years, acquired seven smaller bakeries east of the Mississippi last year; plans to build six new plants in 1929 and 1930) Net income, 27 wks. 4,115,833 3,418,375

Chicago Yellow Cab Co., Inc. (operates 2,800 Yellow Cabs in Chicago; also Drive-it-yourself companies in New York, Chicago, Delaware) Net profit, 6 mos. 1,196,791 957,843

S. S. Kresge Co.
Net income, 6 mos. 7,013,456 6,527,111

General Motors Corp. (1930 Buick model to be introduced shortly; new Chevrolet plant planned)
Net profits, 6 mos. 150,000,000 * 161, 267,974

* Approximated. Decline in 1929 net is reported due to introduction of several new G. M. products, entailing big production costs. (SOURCE: Time Magazine)
So who was Thomas Cusack? Well, I can tell you he was no longer alive when the stock market crashed.
Thomas Cusack of Chicago was born in Kilrush, County Clare, Ireland, October 5, 1858, and died in Oak Park, Illinois on November 19, 1926. He was a pioneer and entrepreneur in the outdoor advertising industry and a politician, serving as a Democratic U.S. Representative from Illinois' 4th District from 1899 to 1901.

Thomas Cusack immigrated with his family to New York City from Ireland in 1861 when Cusack was a young boy. Shortly after the move, his parents died, leaving Cusack and his younger brother orphaned. Cusack was raised by relatives in Chicago, where he received his education and learned how to paint, a skill that would ultimately make him a very wealthy man. At the age of 17, Cusack established his own sign painting business, the Thomas Cusack Company, in Chicago, Illinois, making him one of the pioneers in the field of outdoor advertising. The business soon grew to be very profitable, leasing over 100,000 billboards and advertising spaces and turning Cusack into a prosperous and influential Chicagoan.

In addition to business saavy, Cusack had a strong sense of civic duty. In 1890, Mayor of Chicago Hempstead Washburne appointed the "billboard baron" to a seat on the city's school board. Cusack's fervent support of public education drew the attention of Progressive Party Illinois Governor John P. Altgeld, who invited Cusack to serve on his general staff. In 1898, Cusack was elected to his first and only term in the United States Congress from the 4th District of Illinois. After his term, Cusack decided to return his attention primarily to his outdoor advertising
business, which had grown considerably in size to more than one-hundred offices and was producing an annual revenue of over $20 million. Cusack was known for his fair labor practices and amicable relationships with his employees, and was most proud of the fact that, in a city known for labor strikes, his workers never walked off the job. In his day as a sign painter, Cusack remembered getting $8 a week in wages. By the time he sold his business to a New York banking syndicate in 1924, he was paying his workers $10 to $15 a day.

At the pinnacle of his success in business, Thomas Cusack bought the entire unincorporated town of Cascade, Colorado at the Ute Pass in the Rocky Mountains. He hired architects and contractors to build a plush mansion nestled in the Ute Pass, which he named "Marigreen Pines" after his wife, Mary Green. Having lived through the Great Chicago Fire and experienced so many early losses in his life, Cusack built Marigreen Pines out of brick, marble and concrete to safeguard his family from harm. Marigreen Pines became a much loved mountain home for Cusack and his family, where he routinely and graciously hosted many friends and relatives, engaging them in lively conversation and debate.

Thomas Cusack died on November 19, 1926, at the age of 68. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, Illinois. In the 1970's, Cusack's last surviving daughter donated Marigreen Pines to the Congregation of Holy Cross to serve as their novitiate. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
To see remnants of Thos. Cusack Co. signs click here, here, here for a bit more history about Cusack, here, here, and here. I'm sure if I kept looking I'd find many more.

While doing my search I came upon this little scrap from The New York Times. A sad little story.

Now that we know something about the billboards in this shot and the family that owned the company, it would be nice to find out which city this is. A generic looking city except for the ummmmm...rather phallic looking monument in the background. Perhaps someone will see this and let us know where this is located. Someone somewhere must recognize this ummmmm...thing.

UPDATE: Thanks to WJY I can now say that this shot was taken in Chicago, headquarters of the Thos. Cusack Co., and that the monument is actually the Chicago Water Tower.

UPDATE: Thank you! to an Anonymous reader for the following:
North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. Four story Building on the right is Lake Shore Bank (now a Chase Bank Branch) and the building under construction is probably the Allerton Hotel (also still there). Elsewhere, I saw you already Identified Old Water Tower. Love the old 21st Ward saltbox.

UPDATE: Three images of the same area in Chicago provided by reader Chuck Zornig. Thank you Chuck. Fascinating to see! I believe the first shows the opposite side of the street from the image above, the second from the same angle as my original image.

500 N Michigan Ave [1931 c] Grand Ave

From Chicago Daily News Collection: Michigan Ave & Grand [1924] Lake Shore Trust Building (605 North Michigan Avenue)

700 N Michigan Ave [1982 c.] Woolworth's

UPDATE: Another image provided by Chuck Zornig of an old advertisement. This is really nice. I love when these get discovered on an old building. Thanks Chuck!

UPDATE: Reader Normando has provided the following interesting information.
Edgar Rice Burroughs' nephew, Studley O. Burroughs worked at the company as an advertising artist. During the period 1931 to 1933 he provided the dust-jacket art and illustrations for the first four books Burroughs published from his own company, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
UPDATE: Reader Jamie sent the following photo with this comment:
I recently bought a building in downtown Port Huron Michigan. We are remodeling to move my salon into it. I wanted the brick wall opened up and was so excited to find a Thomas Cusack painting! The building next to me was a grocery store in the 1800's so that is why the sign is a Coca Cola advertisement.

I think it's so exciting when vintage signs like these are found! Thank you Jamie for sending this in.

UPDATE: It's so much fun when an old post brings a new response!

I wanted to share a photo I took in the spring of 2018. It happens that I work for Nebraska’s only statewide historical organization. We are headquartered in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska (the state’s capitol). I noticed construction was taking place on a historic building across from the only Starbucks in downtown Lincoln. They were in fact razing the building, but leaving its unique fa├žade. This area (1200 block of P Street), is in the “core” of downtown Lincoln, as there is very little left in the way of historic buildings. I kept an eye on things out of interest.
Fast forward a few days, I noticed a colorful painting appear behind the razed bricks. This Thos. Cusack Co. painted bulletin was painted sometime in the early 1920’s or late 1910’s. The building that covered the mural was built in 1923. It seems that it was covered soon enough to leave it looking fairly new.
Ben Kruse
Nebraska Historical Society

Thank you Ben!



I bought this photo for a dollar. Actually, when looking through the messy stack of photos at the antique store I threw this one back in the pile until I saw the back.

Click on image to see it larger.

Alan’s post for this weeks Sepia Saturday makes mention how the photo he’s shown “is one of those photographs you can almost read like a book.” He’s right; sometimes one photo tells a story far bigger than the tiny piece of tattered paper.

Click on image to see it larger.

This is a mystery that most likely will never be solved. The photo is not particularly interesting, but turn it over and you step into someone’s nightmare.

There’s simply so much on the back that I can’t decipher all of it. I get bits and pieces like quick cuts in a movie. Something horrible happened, but I can’t completely make sense of it. I’ll leave it to you to see if you can read the lines, let alone read between them.

“Never saw her again”

This is my contribution to this weeks Sepia Saturday.


Summertime is nearly over. Months of anticipation down to weeks. Fall will soon be here. Some leaves have already started to turn. Soon the abundance of color will be upon us.

So let's end this summertime series with three "familiar" people, the Kallman family.

Click on image to see it larger.

Little George Kallman has his back to us. Lorena Aina Beck Kallman stares at the camera, her daughter Gladys by her side. There's no indication as to where on when this shot was taken. I imagine it was taken by Alfred Kallman, the patriarch of the family.

Water is a big part of summer. We play in it, we refresh ourselves on a hot day with it, we long for it when the ground is parched in the summer sun. And we create memories with it.

A warm summer afternoon playing in a stream. Good times. Good times.



Summertime is meeting friends on a warm day at the swimming hole beneath trees covered in Spanish moss. Your senses will create a memory you can return to for the rest of your life.

Click on image to see it larger.

On the back of this photo is written:

Swimming Hole

I'm guessing there's a sign on the banks saying "Watch out for gators and water moccasins." Mind you, I'm just guessing and my guess is based on nothing more than the stories my mother told me about living in Banana River, Florida in the 1940s.



Summertime is sitting on the porch reading a book with grandma.

This post actually has multiple levels, none of which really have anything to do with the other.

Sitting as a child in someone's lap as they read to you is one of the great simple pleasures. Turning the pages, feeling the paper between your fingers; all of your senses are at play. Sitting with an iPad or a Kindle is not the same. A book is not a shiny object. You have to invest yourself into a book. Years later you may again find the same book and have the memories come flooding back. Taking it from a shelf and again holding it will for a few moments bring back that flurry of sensations you remember from so long ago.

The book this grandma is reading to her granddaughter is "Kiddie Land" by Margaret G. Hays.

Margaret G. Hays was the sister of Grace G. Wiederseim who became Grace Dayton, creator of Dolly Dingle and the Campbell's Kids.

Margaret is the author of "Kiddie Land" and her sister was the illustrator. You can see the title page to this book here.
Margaret G. Hays, sister of Grace Drayton, was a comic artist in the first decade of the twentieth century. She created 'Jennie and Jack, also the Little Dog Jap', and was also known for making paper dolls for postcards. She sometimes teamed up with her sister, for instance on the strip 'The Turr'ble Tales of Kaptin Kiddo'. (SOURCE: LAMBIEK.NET)
The next part of this post has to do with grandma herself. Does she look familiar? Is this a face that bears some resemblance to...oh I don't know...maybe Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States? Maybe it's just me. I see what I call Time Traveling Celebrities once in a while in old photos. In this case both grandma and Roosevelt are dead so grandma is not exactly time traveling as the two examples below are.

This photo was taken on April 28, 1939 when Roosevelt was in office. And mind you, this is not the first cross-dressing celebrity I've found.

I give you Will Ferrel in drag. Actually, I have no idea who this woman is. She was in my grandmother's album so she might actually be a relative of mine. This photo was originally posted April 30, 2009.

And then there's Matt Damon, originally posted November 21, 2008. I have no idea who this fellow actually is, but I do remember seeing him staring out of a pile of photos and being dumbfounded by the resemblance to Damon.

Really, you just never know who you might see in photos of people you don't know.

And to tie everything up with a piece of broken wire I'll admit that this hodgepodge is my contribution to this weeks Sepia Saturday. The theme was trees. As you can see I'm not even in a broken branch. More like low hanging fruit.



Summertime is hanging the "Gone Fishin'" sign on the door even if you don't fish.

Tomorrow: sittin' on the porch



Summertime is being able to go outside and enjoy the weather and the long afternoons before the sun sets.

Click on image to see it larger.

Tomorrow: hang out the sign that says...



Summertime is going to a baseball game and enjoying yourself whether your team wins or not.

Click on either image to see it larger.

This weeks Sepia Saturday theme seems to be a blushing romance and dare I say it, hoping to get to first base? Since I’m still working on my summertime theme (if that’s what you want to call it) I’ll have to say the only romance in my shot is for those who are truly enamored with baseball.

I’m okay with baseball. I’m not big on watching sports of any kind, but I have been to a few professional baseball games in my life.

For anyone who has read this blog for the past few years you may remember this photo being shown once before when a friend called and said, “Meet me at the ferry on Wednesday. We’re going to a Giant’s game.” I did enjoy it. I don’t remember which team won, but I LOVED the park. I mean really LOVED the park with its views of the San Francisco bay.

This photo comes from the Bill and Dick Excellent Adventure album. I have featured a variety of photos from this album the past few years.

As you can see from the handwriting at the bottom, this was taken in Portland Oregon sometime around or after 1916. I have no idea the name of the team. I do know there are a heck of a lot of straw boaters in the stands.

As to the other words at the bottom, Mazie King…take a listen (open this link in an additional window) and try to sit still. Is it not the perfect tune to go along with this image? It all becomes a silent movie with the actors about to come to life at any moment.

As to who was Mazie King and why is her name on the photo? Well, I believe the curly haired woman in the foreground IS Mazie King. Take a look at this photo and tell me if you think it's the same woman. From what I've been able to find she was a dancer and appeared on Broadway and in vaudeville.

UPDATE: Thanks to readers I can add the information given below in comments into the actual post.

From WYJ in regards to the baseball team: The team would be the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League. There have been several versions of the team over the years. The latest was evicted by the city in 2010 so the stadium could be used by a MSL soccer franchise.

From Anyjazz in regards to Mazie: Yes, that's her. According to Wiki, "The Passing Show" was a music and dance revue staged annually from about 1894 on. From 1912 to 1924 it played on Broadway in New York. Mazie King was probably in it as a "Toe Dancer."

Thank you!

Tomorrow or possibly the next day or the next: more summertime


Summertime is remembering the water's fine so have fun and just go with the moment.

Tomorrow: buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks



Summertime is spending the day by the river without a phone.

Tomorrow: letting go



Summertime is camping in the redwoods with family beneath thousand year old trees.

Tomorrow: wait and see



Summertime is boys at the beach trying to impress the girls.

Tomorrow: camping



Summertime is bathing beauties at the beach trying to impress the boys.

Tomorrow: the guys of course

I've added a new site in the Other Sites, Other Worlds column to the left:

It appears to be a site that just got up and running this month. It looks like it has potential.

Sadly, many of the sites in the list are close to dead. Many no longer post new images, but I think it's worth leaving them on the list for what they did post. I basically keep the list for myself so I remember all of these other places to visit to see old photos.

Should you ever come across a site you want to share just let me know.


Summertime is a picnic on a lazy warm afternoon with family and friends.

Click on image to see it larger.

Tomorrow: bathing beauties

I collect vernacular photography which I think of as photographs of the ordinary by the ordinary. Snapshots are my favorite, especially showing people involved with their surroundings and not lined up and posed.

There are people who believe collecting these photos is odd and a waste of time. Why collect something taken by an amateur of people you don't know? It has no value? Why not collect something with a pedigree?

The obvious answer for me is money. I can't afford photos by the greats, but I can afford these. But more important it's the challenge of searching through junk to find a jewel. An amateur snapshot that is as beautiful as many I've seen by professionals. And since I know nothing about the photographer who am I to say they were an amateur? Perhaps the photographer was a professional or it was just a very lucky shot by an amateur. Makes no difference to me. The shot is perfect.

Others might not agree with me and that's fine. It's my little gem and I have no idea if there are more copies floating around somewhere. This may be the only one in existence and I might be the first person to react this way to it. For awhile it was someone else's trash. Not anymore, at least not for now.

This is my contribution to this weeks Sepia Saturday. To see more summertime shots click here and here. More will be added over the next several days.



Summertime is sitting and laughing in a hammock with friends beneath the shade of an old tree.

Tomorrow: picnics



Summertime is carefree days and rollerskating along the shaded sidewalk in front of your house.

Click on image to see it larger.

Tomorrow: hammocks and friendship



Have you ever been to a carnival when it's virtually devoid of customers? There's an eeriness to all of it. It's sort of like clowns; you know it's supposed to be a happy place, but without all the people covering up the ugliness it just becomes a bit creepy.

These photos are from the Ten Buck Box and most likely were taken by Arthur Bowen around 1951 when he was living in Germany. Arthur is Gertrude's son.

Look at these and tell me what you see?

Click on any image to see it larger.

I can't stop thinking of the finale in Strangers On a Train.