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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, October 13, 2008
Postal Clues and a One-Glove Mystery
Posted by Maureen

In honor of an upcoming article in the print Family Tree Magazine, this week's photo mystery is a postcard.

In the January 2009 issue, I wrote a piece called Getting the Message on the ways our ancestors communicated and the types of records they left behind. One of the methods highlighted was postcards. (The issue mails to subscribers near the end of October and goes on sale Nov. 11.)

Sue Stevenson sent me this postcard of four men:

Lance and Elmore Melson.jpg

In the front row are supposedly
(left to right) Lance Melson (1907-1988) and Elmore Melson (1896-1938). It's a real-photo postcard—a photograph with a postcard back.

Sue's big question doesn't concern the men's identities, but the mysterious single glove on each man in the front row. Before looking at that puzzle, let's backtrack and look at the other clues.

Let's start with the postcard back. One of my favorite postcard sites is Playle's Auction Site. It has an online directory that details the stamp box designs.

According to this site, the AZO box with upright triangles in the corners appeared from 1904 to 1918. Uh oh—if Lance Melson was born in 1908, he'd have to be 10 in this photo. That doesn't add up.

The men's clothing is a bit odd. Are their pants legs rolled up, or do they just have very wide cuffs? Cuffed pants were common on casual clothes in the early 20th century, but the cuffs on these pants are a bit extreme.

Neckties are the other interesting clothing detail. The man on the right in the front row wears a soft polka dot tie, a pattern that first appeared in the late 19th century. This style may be unique to his area, since it's not the type of tie you'd see in most of the country in the early 20th century.

Based on a working date for this image between 1904 and 1918, it may depict Lance's and Elmore's fathers, rather than the boys. More family history information would be necessary to verify that conclusion. 

As to the one glove? It's curious that one man wears a glove on his right hand and the other on his left. This could indicate their dominant hands. I haven't found other images like this, but I suspect these heavy leather gloves were worn for work. Or perhaps the men were just clowning for the camera.

Sue's right about their ears, though. This facial similarity indicates the men are likely related.

If anyone else has a photo of men wearing one glove—decades before Michael Jackson made it fashionable—send it along to me.

1910s photos | group photos | men | photo postcards
Monday, October 13, 2008 4:44:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]
Thursday, October 16, 2008 7:24:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Interesting photo! I'm not up on period fashion, but could it be a glove for golf or tennis or some other sport? It could explain the pants too. I hope you are able to find out about the mysterious glove!
Thursday, October 23, 2008 7:51:05 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Did you notice that on the hands with the gloves there are extra "sleeves" that do not show on the other hand? Also, the coat sleeve on the man on the left seems to be a bit larger than his other coat sleeve. Just a thought provoking "thought"
Debbie Deaton
Thursday, October 23, 2008 8:52:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Yes, that's right. The sleeves are very odd and support the theory that it's an artificial limb. I'm trying to contact the owner of the picture but so far no luck. Sue if you're reading this please send me an email. I'd love to chat about your picture and find out the real deal behind this family mystery.
Thursday, October 23, 2008 10:53:47 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
maybe these young men just dressed up and shared the gloves- i have some family photos of my husband's great aunts dressing up in boys/men's clothes and such- seems to be about the same era- his grandmother shared the information with me she died at 95 and married at 15 and was there when the photo was taken- remember most people in rural area's especially didnt have alot of clothes, just 1 good set, 1 working set and 1 clean one
Thursday, November 13, 2008 2:32:55 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I think the hands on each fellow close match. I think the extra sleeve that you are seeing is the bottom of the glove rolled forward. Could they be ranch hands, wearing their gloves over overworked callous hands.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009 7:02:46 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
In the 1930 census, there is a Joel Melson of Hastings, Adam Co., NE who was a brakeman for the railroad. That seems like a job that might require a glove on one hand.
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