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Personal Treasures: Celebrating Life Through Black and White Family Photographs

Timing is a funny thing. I was fortunate enough to spend last year’s birthday in Puerto Rico alongside my Grandmothers. Eight nights were spent divided among them and I savored each minute of it.

Around the time I booked my flight, I began the process of building my family tree and beginning the research process. Sometimes I forgot how many siblings my Grandmothers have! Both are from large families with kids born between the 1920s and 1930s. I have an obscene amount of second cousins.

As luck would have it, I had the opportunity to pay a surprise visit to my sweet Great Aunt Manuela & Tio Fernando. We had a giggle over a pretty photo of her & her sister (my Grandmother) when they were bachelorettes living in Santurce during the 1950s.

Familia Rivera Torres

I’m so glad we shared that moment. Titi Manuela passed away on Friday, July 11th and was laid to rest today. Sweet memories remain. I’m grateful that my Grandmother had albums intact and shared them with me to digitize. The personal photo archival project and family tree endeavor are ongoing and I look forward to sharing some of the discoveries along the way.

QEPD.

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Have you started researching your Spanish colonial, Moorish, and/or Caribbean lineage? Let me know what familial adventures you’re embarking upon, whether its a family reunion or researching your family tree online.

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How to Scratch the History Itch: Heatwave Edition

Its been noted by plenty that summers in Southern California’s valleys are not very conducive for outdoor activities. I consider poking around in garages during sales as such an activity (see previous Pro Tip post). Given that the past two weekends have required multiple costume changes due to the weather, its safe to say that peak activity hours have migrated into the cooler, evening hours. Not quite in sync with the usual sale schedule though. There is, however, a way to continue exploring different pockets of the LA Basin without braving the heat.

I recently learned (thanks, LA Curbed!) that the USGS has released a catalog of topographical maps that date back to when the topographical map program started in 1884. This is of special interest to me as I’ve joined in on a couple of orienteering events and I happen to call a 128 year old structure “home”. Last summer I began looking into the basic history about the neighborhood and the city founders. I found the original owner’s family’s name through a historical designation web site and have yet to pull any tax or land records. Though I have a lot of work yet to do, its quite lovely to gaze upon maps from another slice of time. That is especially so when you live in an area that has undergone such a radical transformation within a century.

Looks like I’ll be spending some quality time away from the blazing sun, looking at groovy maps while sipping on mojitos. Because, summer.

 

When Neglected Bookshelves Reveal Treasures

Well-read homes require more time to pore over shelves, nooks, and crannies. This home in the foothills had an old book collection tucked away in a slim closet. At first it was the stack of old law books that caught my eye, but then I found it peculiar that all these giant books were on top of a modestly sized leather bound text with engraved details. I had to remove the large volumes in batches in order to retrieve the gem, and it turned out to be totally worth it.

As someone that enjoys learning about local history, I was thrilled to find a textbook that once belonged to a student of Washington & Jefferson college in 1875. This volume of Willson’s Outlines of History is in decent shape. The edges of the spine’s leather binding are worn and the bottom is a little flaky, but the pages are in excellent condition. There are 12 hand painted maps in the textbook. TWELVE! Its an incredible time capsule.

Willson's Outlines of History, 1875

Willson’s Outlines of History, 1875

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A student of Washington & Jefferson College.

I don’t know why I was so drawn to the small book on the very bottom of a stack, but I’m glad that I took the time to dig it out. Now to research how best to preserve a book from the 19th century!

History Hunter: The Steamer Trunk from Eagle Rock

Through a couple of auction sites I’ve been able to piece this puzzle together a little further. There was in fact a company in Denver, Colorado that specialized in leather goods and trunks. The building still stands today.

To date I haven’t been able to find a photo of another trunk that’s the exact same as mine, but we aren’t far off. I’m glad I at least have the company sticker as a clue, but I wish my trunk had a travel label on it that indicated a voyage on some fine vessel, such as this one that traveled aboard the S. S. Empress of France”.

Though the building is of historical value, it finds itself vacant. You may also find of interest: Best Lost Denver Alley Sign 2010 and a photo of the A.E. Meek sign today.

This photo of one of their delivery vehicles is by far my favorite find from the research process.

 

A.E. Meek Trunk & Bag Co. Delivery Truck

A.E. Meek Trunk & Bag Co. Delivery Truck

 

 

 

Remembering the Greatest Generation

Yesterday was a day was filled with reflective moments. I popped in and out of this live stream of the 70th D-Day Anniversary celebrations.

So many sacrificed so much. And I was reminded of that fact while hearing the stories of four American soldiers that were well enough to make the trip back to Normandy. Truly powerful stuff. You can watch the full episode here.

Earlier this year I happened upon a birding book from 1902. When I opened the cover I found a yellowing piece of paper tucked against the crease. Based on the outlines that pamphlet left on the inside of the cover and title page, I imagine the thing had been left untouched in there for a significant amount of time. That little piece of paper happened to be a rubber & gasoline rationing pamphlet from 1942.

I have yet to scan this document, but here are some rough shots. Also of note, the cover of the pamphlet has an illustration of a Japanese soldier by Edmund Duffy. That’s for a later time as I need to research how best to preserve this piece of American WWII ephemera.

Rationing pamphlet, Office of Price Administration, 1942

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Rationing pamphlet with illustrations by Edmund Duffy, 1942

 

 

 

Pro Tip: Always check the garage

Garages get a bad rap. Between the spiders, the weird smells, and their generally unkempt nature, some folks that visit estate sales don’t even step foot into garages. But if you’re a treasure hunter like me, you know that there’s no more unexpected of a place to find a cool collectible than a garage.

While I was at work one Friday afternoon, the mister decided to take advantage of his day off and visit an estate sale in Eagle Rock. I had forwarded the description of the sale to him and he found the mention of vintage tools very enticing. So off he went with $20 in his pocket. The afternoon goes by rather quietly until I receive a text message that declares that I will soil myself upon setting eyes on his discovery. Alright, mister. I am officially intrigued.

I’m thankful for the warning because I almost lost it when I saw what was in the middle of our bedroom. A steamer trunk from the late 19th century!

Steamer trunk by A.E. Meek Trunk and Bag Company.

Steamer trunk by A.E. Meek Trunk and Bag Company.

Look at that label! A.E. Meek Trunk and Bag Company.

Look at that label! A.E. Meek Trunk and Bag Company.

This could possibly be one of the coolest coffee tables ever as there are four canvas-lined wooden shelves that go inside of the trunk. The metal hardware is spectacular. We’re missing the key though, so some sleuthing will need to be done. The entire trunk is reinforced with wood slats and the corners have a metal wrap. From the looks of things, this trunk was made for the rough & tumble stagecoach rides.

The exterior has the general wear & tear one would expect for a travel trunk that has survived for around 125 years. The lid has a couple of drops of (presumably) white paint, which I imagine came from the years it spent tucked away in a garage. I can’t help but wonder if the owner of the house had family that came to California from Colorado decades after the Gold Rush. Oh, if only that trunk could talk!

If it weren’t for the mister’s eagle eye and the brilliant timing we wouldn’t have found this timeless piece of Americana. I can’t wait to have this as the centerpiece of our living room once we’ve dusted off the exterior & figured out a table top solution.

The more I think of it, the more I wonder if a slab of acrylic with rounded edges is the way to go. We definitely don’t want to harm the surface by adhering a permanent bond to to it. If anyone has any tips or recs on how to convert a steamer trunk into a coffee table, please leave a comment below!