And now for something completely different…
Updated, Aug. 25: We received a bevy of responses on Friday and over the weekend in response to one of these two mysteries.
That phrase on the back of the first image is indeed “Celebration 9 ft channel.” It refers to the completion of the series of Ohio River canals that would ensure at least a 9-foot depth for river passage from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill.
One of many reader responses came from Richard Schutte, who provided a detailed description of the project and its purpose. He wrote:
Remember at this time the rivers did not have significant locks and dams for navigable waterways. My father born in 1922 told me how as a child he could walk across portions of the Ohio River. Flood control for Pittsburgh did not occur until after the Great St. Patrick’s Day Flood in 1936.This event was a huge improvement in river transportation for the time.
Mr. Schutte also noted the time of year (October) and chilly morning during which the photograph was made. He even found an alternative angle of the celebration.
Our image was likely taken from one of the decks of that riverboat.
Perhaps the most interesting item here is the photograph’s date: just one week before “Black Thursday” and the onset of the Great Depression. One can also see — in the full resolution version — two or three young boys waving at the camera near the river’s shore.
They were part of a crowd of 100,000 in Pittsburgh that day, according to The Pittsburgh Press, and President Herbert Hoover marked the engineering achievement the following week with a speech in Louisville.
Back to the shelf this goes. (In addition to Mr. Schutte, thanks to William Baldauf, Glenn Heberle, Audrey Iacone, Justin Reese, Jon Schmitz, Al Slowik, Justin Wotus and Rank & Filed for handwriting deciphering and storytelling assistance.)
As for the other image, no one has yet found an answer. We’ll keep looking, too.
Original story, Aug. 22: After our office flood last month, we decided to take a step back and reevaluate our archive digitizing.
It didn’t affect the mission of “The Digs,” except to perhaps increase our ambition and pace.
Still, the water spill did require plenty of cleaning and reorganizing. During recovery, we came across about 4,000 photos in a box that had not been refiled into folders for about a decade.
You can’t digitize what you don’t know exists, and so it took about six weeks, but the last image will be put back in its place next week.
The thousands of miscellaneous photos contained caption details on the back.
Two, however, did not.
And so we present to you these images in hope of you helping us find their story and their proper home in our archive.
The first photo is, we believe, of the Mon Wharf. Thousands of Depression-era Pittsburghers gathered for… something. The reverse side is visible in the second image.
Celebration of channel? Abraham of Channel? Elilsabra after Channel?
The date is legible: 1929. The rest: not so much. Here’s a full resolution version of the gathering.
The second image contained more intelligible writing. Its caption: “Frank Peekes (the cursive leads one to also think his name could be Peckes?) coming up out of old well in back of garage.”
There’s a police constable. A ladder. A few men in overalls. And it’s clearly a scene of relief. The man has been saved.
But who is the man? Why was he in the old well? When did this happen? Internet searches are of no help for “Pittsburgh” and either “Frank Peckes” or “Frank Peekes.”
Do you know the story behind either image? Leave us a note here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.