I imagine most people would see this stained, worn cabinet card as trash. Luckily someone knew better and it ended up in an antique shop in Indianapolis where a dear friend bought it as a gift for me.
Not only is this image interesting in itself but it’s identified as well! I believe the men whose names are written on the reverse are standing on either end and that the guy in the middle is what you might call a ‘human prop’ for lack of a better term.
Why did these three men pose together? What is the meaning behind the props, especially the scraps of flag tied around the man in the middle? I believe it’s possible this photo was taken in June 1890 when the residents of Kaukauna, Wisconsin marked the city’s 100th anniversary with a centennial celebration. Someone wrote a word on the sign, after the fact, but I can’t make it out. If you’d like to give it a go please click on the image to view a larger version and leave your thoughts in the comments.
I was quick to locate George Brenzel and his wife Annie living in South Kaukauna. I’m not sure if the first word below George’s name is a nickname or an abbreviation of a name for the second man but there are a few of Annie’s McCabe cousins (on her mother’s side) that were close in age to George and living in the area, including William, Thomas, and Peter. Maybe one of them is our mystery McCabe.
I found a photo of Peter McCabe (back row) on ancestry but unfortunately, he’s much older and the image is very small. I feel like he could be either one of our sitters.
As a young man, George operated a saloon and often found himself in trouble with the law. He married in 1891, at the age of 28, and by 1901 his saloon days were over and he went to work for the Union Bag and Paper Company as a stationary fireman, maintaining engines, boilers, and other mechanical equipment at the factory. He died, aged 66, in 1929 and is buried in St Patrick Catholic Cemetery in Kaukauna.
Find a Grave
The OskKosh Northwestern, Oshkosh, WI
The Post Crescent, Appleton, WI
Wisconsin marriage index
1895 Milwaukee (Kaukauna) City Directory