Broken Neck Wonder


I came to own this very unusual photograph when I purchased a family album in a shop near Pioneer, Ohio. With the photo secured in the album, I couldn’t see the text imprinted on the bottom of the card, and my mind went wild with ideas about why this man’s head would be in such a contraption.  Once at home, I carefully pulled the photo out of its page and that’s when I came to know Barney Baldwin, the Broken Neck Wonder.

Barney’s story is explained in the following article printed in the St. Paul Globe, St. Paul, Minnesota, December 15, 1887.

Now, whether Barney’s tale is truth or fiction, I’ll let you be the judge.  I like to think that it’s a little of both.  There is evidence that Barney worked in a railroad yard in 1883 and in several articles it mentions that people witnessed scars on his legs and arms.  Possibly he did meet with an unfortunate accident of some sort.

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Pugs in history!


Abt. 1896

How awesome is this cabinet card ?  A little boy with long ringlet curls, wearing a beautiful dress, and the icing on the cake is his adorable pug puppy wearing a plaid bow!  And look at how he’s resting his little hand on the puppy’s paw…it’s just too sweet!  I want to know how they got that pug to sit so still. The photographer must have had mad skills.

The little boy is De Vere Charles Haskell.  He was born in 1893, grew up in Arcade, New York and later lived in Buffalo with his wife, Fannie (nee Smith).  He graduated from the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science and the Arts in 1916 and after serving in the military for three years, began a career as a bookkeeper and accountant.


Abt. 1899

Also in the album was this family photo of De Vere and his parents, Frank and Elenor (nee Charles) Haskell when he was the only child.  In 1902, his sister, Helen Francis, was born. And look, it’s the same backdrop and the same furry rug as the earlier photo.  They must have been photographer favorites.

This image is part of an album found in an antique shop in Fremont, Indiana.  The album contains photos of friends and family of Will Pinney of Arcade, New York.  De Vere was the grand nephew of Will’s wife’s aunt’s husband.  Just a little confusing, right? I hope to feature more photos from this album in the future.

Census records
New York County Marriages
New York Abstracts of World War I Military Service
University of Michigan records




Criminal Cowardice


This cabinet card was found in an antique mall in Maumee, Ohio.  Judging by the woman’s hairstyle and fashion, I date it to be from the mid to late 1880s.  On the back is written Mrs. Sarah Oberdorff, and in pencil above someone added Sarah Ecrement.  A quick search and I located the sitter and with further sleuthing discovered her story.

July 4, 1889
Canton Repository; Canton, Ohio; Pg. 2

When Sarah Ecrement’s soon to be husband couldn’t venture into the city and procure their marriage license without falling drunk and ending up in jail, that should have been enough to make her run the other way.  But, Sarah was pregnant and this wasn’t her first pregnancy out of wedlock, so I imagine she felt pressure to go through with the marriage. Of course, it’s very possible that she was head over heels for David Oberdorff and as the old saying goes, “love is blind.”  They were married July 11, 1889 and welcomed a son, John, on December 29th.  John lived just 21 days.

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