Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sepia Saturday - Tuna Hunting

Having grown up in the Cincinnati area, my childhood is full of memories that include activities along the Ohio River. Naturally, when I was out on an antique shopping spree, hunting for old photos, this one had a uniqueness and familiarity that immediately connected with me.

The photo was purchased somewhere here, in the central Kentucky region, and with our close proximity to the river - only a few counties away - I didn't give the photo much thought. I purchased it, put it away for awhile and would re-visit it from time to time as a curiosity, always with the intention of digging deeper into its past.

I always noticed that there was some writing on the back, but very faint. I could make out some letters, but never tried exceptionally hard, resigned to the fact that I may never be able to read the letters. I also noticed the photographer's stamp on the back from Pennsylvania, but as a border state to Ohio, and since photographers traveled quite a bit, I wasn't immediately drawn to Pennsylvania as a possible location - but I was open to possibilities.

As a piece of sepia curiosity, I pulled this out for our Sepia Saturday post, with the intention of connecting this to some unique resources for Steamboat Study. Since the photo does provide the name of the boat, "Tuna", I decided to try some of the registries out there that have been put up by some very enthusiastic hobbyists. However, I was very aware that the Tuna appeared to be quite a small vessel, and probably not one that would be recorded in these larger registries.

With no luck in the registries, and some categorized by state, I was pretty close to giving up on any fruitful search. I did come across a published registry from 1856 as digitized by Google Books, but it listed a Steamboat called the Tuna as one that burnt in Natchez in 1854. Of course, we can tell by the photo itself and the style of dress that we are looking at a photo taken post 1860s. One of my favorite segments of this photo is the couple in the foreground with their umbrella, turned to look at the photographer - very reminiscent of Renoir, Cassat, Monet, Caillebotte etc.

Just before this posting I took one last look at the writing on the back while standing in the sunlight. The pencil is very faded, but beyond the words "Military captain", I can make out the letters Jno. Above this line was the most faint line, but this time I could make out letters.....a long C word followed by Lake. I typed in how the word appeared in Google, and a couple of the suggestions sent me to Conneaut Lake in Pennsylvania! After looking into this lake, and how it looks today, I took a closer look at the photographer's stamp, which read: From F.E. Maas, Ground Floor Gallery, Conneautville, PA.

In conclusion, this appears to be a small excursion boat on Lake Conneaut. I'm not sure if the group is there honoring a military captain, or if someone there served in this role, but either way, the more scrutiny, the more these photos reveal their secrets. As a side note, the size of this little vessel reminds me of the tiny one seen in Steamboat Willie.....that old classic cartoon, also in sepia.

I have included some of the Steamboat and Conneaut Lake links that I came across - very interesting databases and photos.
Happy Saturday!
CD 9/4/10
P.S. Upon finishing this blog post and including the links below, I made a surprising new discovery. The very first Conneaut Lake link has a series of 4 small slide shows at the top of the page. While there, I noticed that the first block of slides rotates to a close up segment of the very same photo as the one I have shared with you! It appears this photo was mass produced in some format as a souvenir. I still believe it to be an original from the time period, but, even in my own family, we have duplicate cabinet cards that were purchased to pass around to different family members - I'm just not sure how many were produced. It makes me want to do further research into the availability of this photo, as the historical society may have an answer as to the event shown. I will provide an update later if I learn more!
Links of interest:


Alan Burnett said...

What a marvelous post. You start from an old photograph and weave a web of interest, intrigue and excellent investigations. This is just what Sepia Saturday is all about. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Martin H. said...

Some great detective work in this post. I love that close-up of the couple turning to the camera.

PattyF said...

Excellent post! Persistence does pay off, doesn't it? Very interesting, very informative ... and, like you, I really like the couple with the umbrella.

Caroline (Frogmum) said...

Great find, great picture, great post :)

Southwest Arkie said...

Wonderful post, great photo, and love the detective work done to give us all a little history to go with the picture. Love it!

Marilyn said...

I enjoyed reading this post, I am learning so much from the history you and others in Sepia Saturday share. Thank you.

Crawford Pa said...

I realize this is an older post, but in the event you are still monitoring comments I can share a little more specific history on the "Tuna." It was one of the earliest steamers to operate on Conneaut Lake (in NW PA). The "Tuna" was hauled to Evansburg (now Conneaut Lake) by rail in 1881 and then drug by bobsled to the lake. Prior to this she ran up and down the Allegheny River. It was owned by Frank Parker and Sylvester McGuire from Oakland Beach on the east side of the lake with John Whiting as the Captain. The "Tuna" was intended to be a direct competitor of the lake's other large steamer, the "Keystone" and the owners originally gave rides for free but eventually charged 25 cents for a round trip. This is a splendid picture of what it was like for passengers waiting to load up for a trip around the lake. The boat's significance takes on more meaning within the great context of the full history of the lake and Conneaut Lake Park (then known as Exposition Park). The park is still in operation and is opening for its 125 season this weekend. You can find more about this steamer and other in "Conneaut Lake Ferry Tales" by Don Hilton, and in Bronson Luty's book, "The Lake as it Was."


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