Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Interurbans & Streetcars, Part 3.

The third and final interurban photo (the next two posts will feature streetcars) is more than a little interesting. To begin with, it's photographed on the north side of the Tarrant County Courthouse, with the photographer standing across Belknap Street and behind a decorative iron fence. This, of course, raises the question of what was behind the fence. Park? Some kind of building? Or was the fence simply there to keep people from walking on the grass?

As for the car itself, the steamcoach roof and the fact that it's car number 16 tells us that it was built sometime between 1903 and 1910, most likely between 1906 and 1908. The sign on the car's side identifies it as Interurban Line, Northern Texas Traction Co. While that's all well and good, photos of the NTTC on websites show a completely different layout of the same sign, as in Ft. Worth-Dallas Interurban, Northern Texas Traction Company. If anyone has information on when each sign style came in or went out of use, it would be possible to identify the exact date of this photo. Finally, the destination board on the front of the car tells us that it's on a Dallas Limited run.

Again, if anyone desires an 8"x10" print, please contact me at tennexican@mindspring.com. Cost is only $10 plus postage for each print.

Interurbans & Streetcars, Part 2.

Still looking north on Main Street from E. Lancaster, this shot was apparently taken a few days later than the first photo I posted. In this view we have a single interurban car that's headed for Dallas. While the buggys and bicycle are no longer parked at the curb, enlarging the picture allows us to see that the Wm. M. McVeigh name is also found at the top of the building facade, above the third floor windows. Undoubtedly, he owned the entire building.

As with the first photo in this series, I can provide an 8"x10" PhotoSmart inkjet print for $10 plus postage. Contact me directly at tennexican@mindspring.com if interested.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Interurbans & Streetcars, Part 1.

Today Ft. Worth has begun planning a new, modern streetcar system. Sounds wonderful and forward looking, doesn't it? Well, the truth is that they're simply going forward to the past. Just about a century ago, Ft. Worth had a fully operational streetcar system that served the public well. If that wasn't enough, interurban cars ran on a regular schedule between Ft. Worth and Dallas. In fact, as late as the 1960s, you could see (and had to walk over when you crossed the street) streetcar rails embedded in Houston Street. They're still there as far as I know, though paved over.

At any rate, a developer who was rehabbing a building in the 600 block of Houston ran across a fascinating photo album that included several 8"x10" prints of streetcars and interurbans in downtown Ft. Worth. While not the original prints, never mind the negatives, it's a miracle that anything on Cowtown's interurbans and streetcars has survived. The developer had no interest whatsoever in the photos, but rather than trash them, he was gracious enough to pass them on to me for the purpose of historical preservation.

There are a grand total of five photos, three showing interurbans and the other two dealing with our original streetcars. All photos were taken in the 1902-1910 time period. Without further ado, here's the first one, along with an analysis of what you can glean from the picture.

This shot was taken looking north from the intersection of E. Lancaster and Main Street, square in the heart of Hell's Half Acre. In the center of the photo is a two-car interurban that is bound for Dallas. When you blow the photo up to the point that the grain begins to break down, you also find that this particular interurban is an express. To the left of the interurban is the Alamo Saloon and Bar. Another sign proudly announces that Mack Bros. are the Mgrs. Just above the Alamo Saloon sign is a rectangular sign, apparently mounted on a pole, that advertises the fact that Miller Highlife Beer is available inside.

If you look directly above the roof of the leading interurban car, you can barely make out a sign painted on a building. Blown up, you find that it comprises two lines identifying a company. While the top line can't be read, the bottom line reads 'Clothiers'. In the distance, just above the roof and slightly beyond the trailing interurban car, is what appears to be a turreted structure. That's believed to be the Knights of Pythias Hall building on the corner of 3rd and Main. It still exists today. Way back in the hazy distance is yet another spire sticking up above the surrounding structures . If my analysis is correct, that is the Tarrant County Courthouse.

Coming back to the front of the photo on the right hand side, the sign on the building identifies it as the Wm. M. McVeigh Transfer-Storage business. And parked at the curb along that side of the street are a couple of horse-drawn buggies and a bicycle.

I sent photos of all of the shots to Don Pyeatt for his input. He came up with a very interesting observation regarding the appearance of the ground. The light color of the ground cover, combined with the darker tones in spots and the type of clothing worn by all the people leads inescapably to the fact that this photo was taken not too long after a snowfall. Whatever year it was taken, the calender period was somewhere between October and March.

Finally, for those who are interested, I can provide an 8"x10" copy of this photo (as well as the other four), printed on an HP PhotoSmart Printer with Vivera ink for $10 each plus postage. Contact me by email at tennexican@mindspring.com.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Interesting Ads from Don Pyeatt, Part 1

Advertisements are a fascinating way of finding out what life was like in any given period. The further back you go in time, the more interesting they become. Besides helping fill in historical gaps, they also frequently prove the old adage that they more things change, the more they stay the same. These, provided by Don Pyeatt, originally appeared in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

First up is this ad for American Dye & Cleaning, located at 806 Throckmorton in 1920. The focus of the ad are the delivery vehicles and their drivers. Note that they are dressed in the typical style of gentlemen of that time; suits, vests, ties and hats. As for the delivery trucks, there's no way to positively identify them, but considering the vintage, they are most likely Ford vehicles.

For those of you who think that flour has always been produced at some distant location and then shipped into stores, I have a surprise for you. Before interstate commerce took over, flour...and most other food products...were produced locally. A prime example of this can be seen in an ad for Bewley's Best Flour. Take a look at the sack in the ad and you'll see that it clearly says Bewley Mills, Ft. Worth, Texas. Underneath in small letters is reg. u.s. pat. off.

Bewley Mills also sponsored a western singing group called the Chuck Wagon Gang on WBAP radio. According to a posting on the Fort Worth Forum, which can be found on the Fort Worth Architecture website, the Bewley Mills Chuck Wagon Gang went on location, serving biscuits made with Bewley Mills Flour, while the Carter Family became the Chuck Wagon Gang on radio. Incidentally, this Carter Family was no relation to the famous Carter Family.

Between the 1920 ad and the fact that Bewley Mills was still operating on the east side of downtown in 1963, you have a company with at least a 50 year presence in Ft. Worth and probably most residents never heard of them. Kind of an out of sight out of mind situation. But it does make you wonder just how many thousands of loaves of Mrs. Baird's Bread were made with Bewley Mills flour.

By 1920, the U.S. was getting cranked up for the decade (which actually lasted 13 years from 1919 - 1932) that would be known as The Roaring Twenties. Women bobbed their hair, Flappers were all the rage, bathtub gin was in as was any other form of bootleg booze, rumrunning, gangsters and dancing. Everyone wanted to learn the latest dance and, as a result, dance studios were just as popular as you would imagine.

How many dance studios or dance halls were in Ft. Worth during that time period is anyone's guess, but an example of what you could find is seen in this ad from 1920. Located at 310 1/2 Commerce, this establishment apparently targeted the more well to do members of society. Remember, at that point in time, there was still a considerable emphasis on proper behaviour and appearance. At least in public. Incidentally, when an address had 1/2 after it, that was an indication that it was usually upstairs.

You'll notice on the ad that lessons were given by Professor O.B. Rucker. Whether or not he was actually a Professor, the title definitely added a touch of class and respectability to the business. One other item of interest is the phone number: Rosedale 3246. Rosedale today is a major street, but then it was a telephone exchange.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More Mystery Photos from Don Pyeatt, Part 4

Still working on the same batch of photos that came out of an Estate sale in Ft. Worth, neither one of us has a clue about either of these photos. The first one in this post shows three people posing against either a Connestoga or freight wagon. If you look between the people and under the wagon, a section of lattice can be seen, which implies...but doesn't prove...that the wagon is sitting in the yard of a house.

This photo raises even more questions. We have the same three people posing for their picture. But this time one man is sitting in the seat of a sleigh that is built entirely (except for metal bracing rods) from wood, including the runners. It also appears that it had not moved for some time due to the weeds that have grown up around the runners.

Where the photo was taken is anyone's guess and we still have the lack of identity for the people. Note that the lady is carrying a tooled leather purse.

Time period for either photo is unknown, but since it came out of the same batch of Estate photos, it's reasonable to postulate a time frame of 1925 - 1945.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

More Mystery Photos from Don Pyeatt, Part 3

Yeah, I know. It's been over a year since I've added anything to this blog, but things happen. Marriage for one and a total computer meltdown that has consumed the last four or five months.

Here's a couple of more photos that Don picked up at a garage sale. As with the others I've posted, absolutely nothing is known about them beyond what can be determined...or guesstimated...by analyzing the pics themselves.

In my last post, I mentioned that you could see a grocery display and the A&P name across the street from the Dodge Brothers automobile that was parked at the curb with four kids standing by it. Here's a very grainy, pixelated cropped enlargement that there was, indeed, an A&P grocery in the photograph. Now for the interesting question: Where was it located? It almost certainly had to be in downtown Ft. Worth...or did it. If anyone can offer enlightenment, it would be greatly appreciated. Right now all we have is mysteries on top of mysteries. And I'm about to add another one.

Take a look at this shot...and then check out the one from the last post. The one with four kids standing beside a Dodge Brothers car. This car has the same winged radiator cap as the other, along with an identical external sunshade. That in itself doesn't prove a lot, though it certainly suggests that they're one and the same. And the 1928 Texas license plate definitely places both vehicles in the late 1927, early 1928 time period. Whatever year it is, the full foliage on the tree puts the photo somewhere between April and October, most likely 1928.

But the thing that really gets your attention and tends to tie the two photos together is the boy leaning against the car. If you look closely at the two shots, the shoes are identical as are the socks (although the socks on the boy in this shot aren't pulled up as neatly). Moving upward, the shorts are the same but more interestingly is the belt. Not only does it look like the same belt, but the buckle hangs down in a similar way on both boys.

Both wear a long-sleeved white shirt with the left sleeve unbuttoned and hanging in an identical manner. Facial shape is identical and the hair is disheveled though not identical in appearance.
Finally, both boys are standing in almost exactly the same pose. The only difference is that one is standing on a sidewalk while the other gets to use the car for support.

Do the two photos show the same boy? Can't tell you for sure unless someone can identify him. But the odds are at least 9 in 10 that it is. But that leaves us with many questions as far as this photo is concerned: Who is he? Where was the photo taken? What time of year? As far as that goes, what year? It would also be helpful to positively identify the make and model of the car.

Start dealing with historical photos that have no identification on them and the questions mount up in a hurry. And if you think we're done with photos and questions, guess again. There are still more photos that Don sent my way, along with my own memories and photos. Believe me, the questions will continue. Maybe, with luck, I'll also have some answers to share with you.

In the meantime, if any of you have memories, photos, advertisements or any other kind of memorabilia that is part of Ft. Worth history, I'm appreciate it if you would email me at tennexican@mindspring.com I'll be happy to copy anything you have and share it with readers of this blog. And, of course, appropriate will always be given.