Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Perhaps I Should Call In the History Detectives?

If you’ve not watched the History Detectives on PBS, then you’re missing a really unique program. If you are familiar with the program, then you know that the History Detectives research questions asked by viewers like me, usually about some historical artifact (a photograph, a book, a diary, a weapon, etc) in possession of the viewer.

For example, on the program I watched last night, the History Detectives researched an autograph book filled with the signatures of historic folks, including two U.S. Presidents, which a man found among the African American memorabilia collection of his deceased mother. After traveling innumerable miles and doing intense research, the detective historian determined the signatures were authentic and, not only that, but the last owner of the autograph book, Nora Holt, was herself a significant person in early Twentieth Century African-American history.

Well, I have a mystery that could be submitted to the History Detectives, even though I rather doubt they could come up with an answer. While cleaning my house with the assistance of the home health care folks that the Veterans Administration so benevolently contracted for me, we came across the photograph below:

Click the photograph to (greatly) enlarge it

I have no idea who this couple is. There is no identifying information on the photograph, except that the cardboard frame has the name of a Louisville photographer who, according to my research, went out of business more than seventy years ago.

I suspect that it may be the wedding photograph of my maternal grandparents, Adam and Anna Hertle. However, the only photo of my grandmother than I have ever seen was taken when she was in her sixties or seventies. I have never seen a photo of my grandfather, who was hit and killed by a train when my mother, the youngest of eight children, was only about eighteen months old.

Another problem is that I have been executor of the estates of two of my mother’s relatives, her oldest sister, Lillian, and her brother-in-law, Frank, who was to me like the grandfather that I never knew. The photo could have come from either of their homes.

My mother has no idea who the couple in the photo may be. She has suggested that the couple is possibly German because of the way they are posed: the groom sitting and the bride standing, indicative (in the German mindset of the times) that she is to serve him. I have emailed the photograph to my mother’s only surviving sibling, John; however, he is only a year older than my mother and was also a toddler when his father was killed. He has yet to respond to my email.

So, the photograph remains an unidentified one that I doubt the History Detectives can solve.

It is, for me, a mystery!


  1. The man isn't wearing a wedding ring. That seems odd.

    I love looking at old photographs, and thinking about the lives they led.

    In a way, it's kind of sad that photographs have become so casual. Photographs used to be a Very Big Deal, much more special than they are now.

  2. Cool mystery, but probably one that won't be solved without more information. Which is OK, since it allows you to fill in the blanks any old way you like.

  3. How fascinating! I was just watching a show (not sure if it was the same one like the one you saw), but this couple moved into an old federal/colonial type of house, and found a dresser that was located in the attic of the house. Inside, there were tons of photos, artifacts and signs of what they did for a living- such as iron little mechanisms. It turns out that the couple who used to reside there were newly wedded, and the husband was married once before to another woman. The current wife hid the dresser upstairs in the attic so that she wouldn’t be reminded (or the husband wouldn’t be reminded) of his past with his ex-wife.

    I would definitely investigate! How interesting!

  4. Such a handsome couple! That is a fantastic old photograph. I believe that you should display it in your house no matter who they are.

  5. Beautiful photo and great story, Nick! I would totally call History Detectives because one never knows, especially with a wedding photo, I think.

    And wow, so great that the VA is helping you with the housework! As a sister air sign (Libra sun/Aquarius ascending - makes me a double airhead, er air sign), I think there's just something in us air signs that makes housekeeping dull and awful even when we're well, let alone chronically ill!

    And I read that post from May 2005 about your grandmother Anna, and I think Sec. Madeleine Albright's family has a similar history, i.e., they think . I think it would make sense that many present-day families have Jewish heritage but don't know it because their grandparents or great-grandparents managed to hide it during The Holocaust.

    I'm just guessing on that last one there...

  6. What a lovely couple. I would definitely display it in my home.


  7. Found many old photos when cleaning out the old home place when Mom and Dad passed - many I recognize and many more I do not. The only ones that would know them are now deceased. ec

  8. Rev. Saint, that certainly is quite a project you have with that photo. If not Anna and Adam, who else could it be? Do you know what year they came over on the boat from Germany? When they were married? Lots of questions. I hope you can find the answers.

  9. Oooh, a mystery in the family. I love mysteries like that and I hope you find out who it is, Nick. For your sake...and mine...hehe!

  10. Nick, it appears that you are regressing to our college days and the study of history and primary sources and secondary sources, etc., etc., etc. I hope you get a break or two in identifying the couple in that picture.

  11. Totally fascinating! Thanks for sharing.


  12. That's a lovely old photograph! I hope you'll frame it and display it in your home...

    I have a number of old pictures framed and hanging in my home. Sadly there isn't anyone left to tell me about who the people are and their relationship to me and mine...But nonetheless I do enjoy looking at them and wondering, even making up my own stories about them!

    History Detectives is a great show! Glad to know there are some many HD fans!!!


  13. Wonderful photograph! Good luck identifying the coupe.

  14. Ooh I love a good mystery. And I love love love old photos. What a pretty dress.