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Aunt Mary's Car: 1920

c.1920, in the vicinity of Merced Falls, Calif. My mother's older sister and her car. Maybe someone here can identify it. From original 116 negative. View full size.

c.1920, in the vicinity of Merced Falls, Calif. My mother's older sister and her car. Maybe someone here can identify it. From original 116 negative. View full size.

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Killer TB

I read with interest the comments on Aunt Mary's pictures and her tuberculosis. Those who wrote that it was a killer are indeed right. My great-grandmother, two great aunts, and one of their sons all died of it within a short time. My grandmother had it when she was pregnant with my mother. She was told that that the baby would either be dead in six months or always immune. Since Mom died at age 72, I guess it was the latter. Her first cousin Edna also had TB and was ill for several years.

The picture is of my grandmother and grandfather in the 1930s. While my grandmother survived TB, she died of a brain aneurysm before I was born.


My family has been going to Henderson Park for 50 years especially at Easter.
My uncle Alvin and Grace Halstead have lived near Merced Falls for almost 30 years.

Many great memories of the time spent there.

Tom Mitchell

Re Merced Falls

Merced Falls was at that time a company lumber town. Aunt Mary was a bookkeeper for the Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Company. See her photo with co-workers in "Times of Flu." Aunt Mary and the other unmarried lady employees lived in the Company Hotel. There was housing for families and barracks for the single men. There was a mess hall, pool hall, and a baseball field.

The Lumber company was noted for its Incline Railway system which brought the logs down from the mountains above. The track was 8000 feet long and 3100 feet in height. It started at an elevation of 5000 feet and ended at 1900 ft el. More technical info for train trekkies can be found here.

Aunt Mary married the company town butcher, a young man from a butchering family in England. Later they moved to a house in nearby Snelling. Aunt Mary had moved to Merced Falls from (foggy) San Francisco to live in a drier climate near the mountains, which was thought to be beneficial for tuberculosis. Which it was for a while.

The area today is a county park, the town partly drowned under the waters of Lake McClure, formed by the Merced Falls Diversion Dam.

Merced Falls

Merced Falls, 30 miles east of Merced and just a couple of miles south of Snelling, was quite a place in those days. Mostly gold dredging in the Merced River. Not a lot left today. There was a cement factory there also. It was in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range. There are still a lot of "potholes" filled with water when the dredge would move on to create another hole. The last time I was there (40 years ago) there was still an old dredge in one of the potholes. Great fishing and frogging.

1917 Model T Roadster

I think the car was a 1917 model year produced around March–April 1917. See the rationale at the Model T Ford Club of America Forum.

Others may see additional items that will alter that recommendation.

Respectfully submitted,

Hap Tucker 1915 Model T Ford touring cut off and made into a pickup truck. Sumter SC.

Mary's Model T

The car seems to be a ca. 1917-1919 non-starter car. There is an accessory "keyed" ingition switch on the coilbox on the firewall. I put "keyed" in quotes because the stock Ford switch had a key, but they were all the same! I see an electric taillight, which may have been added on. One popular package on 1919 and later cars that had starter motors and generators included demountable rim wheels and an electric taillight. Those cars had no kerosene side lamps. We can't tell if this car has them because of Mary's position. This car does not have demountable rim wheels. The toolbox on the running board is an accessory item. It looks like something on the end of the tail pipe, too. Maybe a warning whistle. It also looks like there is an accessory dashboard, and auxiliary outside brakes on the rear drums. The outside brakes and keyed ignition tell me Mary was a cautious woman.

Mary's back story

Thank you, Aunt Mary's niece, for more about her and her family, poor things. You are right about TB. It was a terrifying disease with an unpredictable but often fatal course. Even worse, there was considerable stigma associated with having it. When my mother-in-law was a child in the 1920s, her father spent several months in a TB sanatorium (he survived, lived a long life and died of something else). She said the children were forbidden to ever speak of it to anyone, for if it was generally known he would lose his job and friends would be reluctant to be with them. She was still uncomfortable talking about it in the 1980s.

TB's Heavy Toll

My paternal grandmother contracted TB during my grandfather's courtship of her (started with a cold she got while sitting on the ground watching Granddad play baseball), and died when Dad was 5 (1930). Dad, born with TB, was cured of it at Johns Hopkins during his first 5 years, but still worries about a recurrence to this day- and he's 83 now.

My regret, of course, is that I never got to know my grandmother. Indeed, even my father's memory of her is very sketchy.

Aunt Mary's Clothes

"Those clothes" were simply the style of Aunt Mary's era. Yes, today those styles are old-fashioned and pretty silly looking. Just like the clothes we wear today will look old-fashioned and silly looking in 2096 (yes, 2096!). Girls born in 1892 wore those kind of clothes in 1920. Actually, if you take a closer look at Mary, she's pretty easy on the eyes. Some 21st century treatment on her wardrobe, makeup and hair and I'll bet she'd turn a few heads.

About Aunt Mary

If this was taken in 1920, Aunt Mary was pregnant with her first child, who was born in October of 1920. What is surprising is that she had her photo taken while pregnant, something most women of that era were too embarrassed to do. (Even in the 1940s our mother was quite chagrined to find out someone took a snapshot of her while she was expecting.)

Aunt Mary's story has an even sadder ending. During her second pregnancy, her tuberculosis, which had been in remission, flared up again, and she died two weeks after the birth of the baby. The baby, being exposed to TB at birth, died of fulminant tuberculosis at age 6 weeks. Mary left a husband and a 2-year-old. Mary was born in June, married in June, and died in June. This was the tragedy of our Mother's family.

We have forgotten today the toll that TB took on people's lives in the early to mid 1900s. Until medication for treatment was developed in the 1940s-50s, TB was one of the top ten killers.

-- Aunt Mary's Niece, who never knew her

Something About Mary

She was a very pretty woman nevertheless.

Clothes Make The Lady

So Aunt Mary was only 26 years old when this picture was taken?
Those clothes make her look at least 50.

Aunt Mary and Her Car

Thanks for the auto ID, Anonymous Tipster. As for the date, I'm afraid that Mary died in 1922, of tuberculosis, two weeks shy of her 29th birthday.

Mary's Car

The rear license plate seems to say 1928 or 1929---what do others think?

["20." - Dave]

Model T Runabout

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