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Fourth of July, 1887

Fourth of July, 1887

This family photo was taken on July 4th, 1887. My grandfather is seated on the floor at front left. That's his helpful dog next to him holding a hammer in its mouth. He was twenty years old in 1887, but he was already a contractor and this was his crew. The building they were constructing was the AT&SF train station at San Dimas, California. View full size.


Do you suppose this rough looking group of men might have been inclined to celebrate the Fourth with a Fifth?

Completed Train Station

According to San Dimas history this station burned down and was rebuilt in 1933.

Poses for workers

That's one of my favorite things about it. There seems to have been a 19th Century custom for workers to display the tools that symbolized their work when they posed for photos. The hammer-holding dog is probably a hint of my grandfather's sense of humor, but also a sign of his enjoyment in being "good with animals." In addition to raising well trained dogs, he later bred and trained Belgian draft horses for logging work in Oregon.

Hand tools

Obviously someone deliberately choreographed this so that everybody is holding, and in some cases brandishing, a tool. The crossed saws in front is a nice touch. Including the dog in the production is the kind of ironic, even slightly mocking twist we don't often associate with this period - probably because the conventions and photo techniques of the time usually resulted in people looking so darned serious.

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