Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Eve Mystery!

Youth, Middle Age, Old Age

A recently acquired photograph is Shades Christmas Eve Mystery! This photograph is perfect for Christmas Eve. On the verso (back), of the card mounted photograph is written December 24, 1904, Honolulu, Hawaii. The three stages of life on the recto (front) remind me of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The sitter's name appears on the reverse, but I am unable to read what it says. Hence a Christmas Eve Mystery!

Can you make out the name? Can you solve the mystery! I have my own opinion, I'd like to hear yours.

Select The Photograph Sans Enhancement. For you to tinker with.

Select The Photograph With Enhancement.

There is no photographer listed.

I'm looking forward to your opinions!

Merry Christmas Eve!


Blogger Leah said...

I'm probably way off but the surname definitely looks like it says 'Thurtell' and the first name looks like it could be 'Walter'. I just looked over at Ancestry for a Walter Thurtell in Honolulu and he shows up in passenger records and the 1900 and 1910 census, looks like he was born around 1847 in Wisconsin.

December 24, 2010 at 6:04 PM  
Blogger Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Walter Thurtell ?

December 24, 2010 at 6:26 PM  
Anonymous Barbara Mathews said...

Walter Thartell

December 24, 2010 at 6:36 PM  
Blogger Miriam Robbins said...

Walter Hurtell/Hertell? I'm going to do a little hunting in directories and censuses for Hawaii during that time period...

December 24, 2010 at 6:42 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Thank you all. You guys are just plain good! I must admit I agree with Apple and Leah.

I believe the name is 'Thurtell.' I was not sure about the first name, but had settled on Walter after having found him in the 1900 and 1910 census in Honolulu searching for the surname only. Actually, I believe I found him twice in the 1900 census. I believe it is the same person recorded with an incorrect age in one listing and enumerated two days apart at different locations. I believe he was 53 in 1900 and 63 in 1910. His occupation was listed as journalist.

I believe this particular Walter Thurtell was a proof-reader for the Honolulu Advertiser. He left for a two-month vacation in the States on or about July 9, 1904. This corresponds with the July 19, 1904 Passenger list for the Mongolia leaving Honolulu with a destination of San Francisco.

If anyone has found more information on Mr. Thurtell, please share.

I think we've put a dent in this Christmas Eve Mystery.


December 24, 2010 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger Brett Payne said...

How about this:

Regards, Brett

December 25, 2010 at 7:50 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Brett - That is fantastic! Everyone please go read what Brett has found.

I am disappointed that the pictures can't be seen.

So, Sherlock Payne, thank you for another piece of the puzzle. Even if he did turn out to be less than admirable.


December 25, 2010 at 8:38 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Brett - I came into the site you sent from another direction and was able to see the photograph. It IS our man, our Christmas Eve Mystery! -fM

December 25, 2010 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Barbara Murphy said...

Checking the 1900 Census for Honolulu, there are two Walter Thurtell aged 53. It appears to be the same person. This looks to fit the ages in the photo. I can make out the last name as Thurtell and the first name ends in "ter". When I searched in the 1900 census I searched for "*ter" and "*tell". The Walter Thurtell was the only one to surface in Honolulu. He is again listed in the 1910 census in Honolulu. I believe this is a photo of Walter Thurtell of Honolulu.

December 26, 2010 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger Craig Manson said...

I apologize for the length of this comment, but as every schoolchild knows, there are at least two sides to every story (and if not, any lawyer will make it so). Before we hang Mr. Thurtell as a deadbeat dad and wife-abandoner, let us consider some particular facts. The Dubuque Herald of Sunday, January 15,1899, reported at page 8, col. 6, that "Walter Thurtell left Friday for Honolulu. Mr. Thurtell goes there on advice of his physician that it will benefit his health. If he can find a business opening, he will probably stay there permanently."

Furthermore, it seems that Walter Thurtell kept in regular contact with folks back in Iowa. According to the Dubuque Daily Herald of January 3, 1900 (p. 8, col. 3), Thurtell sent "a beautiful pictorial history of the Hawaiian Islands" to his friend Joseph Needham in Dubuque, who "values the gift highly." (That piece notes that Thurtell was then an editor with the Honolulu Commercial Advertiser).

On Sunday, April 20, 1902, under the headline "People We Know--Former Dubuquers: Where Are They and What Business Are They In," the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald noted that "Walter Thurtell, [a] former employee of the Dubuque Times, is engaged in the newspaper business in Honolulu." (p. 8, col.5). Indeed, Thurtell seems to have acted as an unpaid overseas correspondent for the Dubuque newspapers. For example, on September 8,1900, the
Dubuque Herald printed a dispatch of "interesting news items from that distant city [Honolulu]." Thurtell's report included an account of a young German immigrant who was swept out to sea and whose remains were discovered in the stomach of a great white shark caught five days later by a native Hawaiian fisherman. The remains were "positively identified" by the German man's wife, who recognized an ingrown toenail on an intact foot. Thurtell also
reported an incident in which a native Hawaiian killed his wife "with a revolver and a razor . . . and then with the [same] razor almost cut off his own head." Although doctors gave the man only an hour to live after he was found, Thurtell related that ten days after the incident, the man was still alive,"tak[ing] nourishment through a tube and sleep[ing] well."

Despite his apparent interest in the macabre side of life in the Islands, evidence shows Walter Thurtell to have been a man with a social conscience. The Waterloo Evening Courier dated January 4, 1912, reports that in Honolulu Thurtell "is fighting with every ounce of his strength" an order of the city board of health. The order required that all banana trees within 150 feet of a residence and within five miles of the Honolulu harbor be cut down and

Thurtell objected on the basis that bananas were the cheapest crop grown on the island and "that nearly every poor family . . . obtained a good supply of food" from bananas. The health board's order would, according to Thurtell, create two classes of people in Honolulu, "the oppressors and the oppressed." Thurtell himself had
cultivated several hundred banana trees and swore to defend them with his life. He was eventually charged with criminal offenses for his civil disobedience. (see "Fighting Spirit of Iowan Aroused," Waterloo Evening Herald, 4 Jan 1912, p. 4, cols.7-8). By the way, Emma Thurtell was granted a divorce in December, 1920, "after waiting twenty years for her husband who never came back". (The Elgin [Ia.] Echo, 9 Dec 1920, p.3, col 1).

December 27, 2010 at 8:58 PM  
Blogger Paul North said...

Brett, FM, and all,

The photo of Walter and Emma Thurtell and their children can be seen here: Whoever coded the "Walter and Emma Bechtel Thurtell" biographical page should have written "" instead of "". In fact, the correctly coded page can be seen here:

January 3, 2011 at 2:27 PM  

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