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.
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: