Thursday, February 16, 2023

mystery solved

Every picture tells a story, season 2, picture 23.

In the old album from which I scanned two of the photos of Gertrud Gross last week I also found a possible solution to a mystery that had troubled me for a whole year, so here's a little detective story.

A year ago I discovered a huge frame with a photo from around 1900 showing a large group of people posing outdoors, on the edge of a forest. Only trouble is I had no idea who these people were or why my grandparents had kept this photo apparently showing random people of their grandparents' generation (at the very least it is quite obviously not a family gathering). As their combined eight grandparents come from five different geographic areas spanning the entire East-West width of the German Empire as it was before 1914, this photo could come from just about anywhere.

Here it is (in a hurried 12 megapixel snap, I need to get a better scan of it some time, if I can find a big scanner):

In my desperate quest for clues, I even posted the photo on Flickr where it attracted lots of views, but other than the amusing suggestion that the uniformed guy might be Hindenburg, I had no luck there either.

In an old album compiled by either Heinrich the cellist or his only child Richard in an attempt at visual family history, I found the possible answer. The album starts with photos of Heinrich's parents, Johann Friedrich Richard Groß (*1852 in Breslau) and Maria Louise Mentzel (*1844 Skronskau). On the first page we have young Heinrich as a schoolboy in 1892, and then this:

which strikes me as a similar if slightly smaller grouping of nature lovers. In a barely legible marking (dark blue on black cardboard) we are informed that railway man Richard is the guy on the left (looks consistent with the very few other pictures I had from him so far, see these pics from Tangermünde), while his wife Maria is the central figure on the top of the rock. Going back to the big mystery picture with this new reference point, I would suggest that Richard is this guy, just right of centre (which I define by the mirror symmetry of the two men reclining on the ground):

Still not sure if his wife Maria is also in the big picture. Come to think of it, one of the younger women could be Gertrud. May have to go back to it, get it out of the frame and do a proper scan.

And we still don't know who everybody else is and what the group activity was. Maybe a Wanderverein (ramblers' association)? There were many such associations in Kaiser Wilhelm's empire, see this wikipedia entry (in German) for a bit of history. What is today the Deutscher Wanderverband counted 60 local associations and 165,000 members on its 25th anniversary in 1908.

The "Wandervogel" movement also happened around that time, but that was all about young people, while here we clearly have a more middle-aged gathering. Richard and Maria lived at Tangermünde / Stendal, which isn't all that far away from the Harz mountain range, a classical Wanderer territory.

Should anybody have any answers to some of the many questions I am raising in this series, please leave a comment here (I'll need to vet it, so it may take a few days before it goes public) or contact me at michaelgrr [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk

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Season 2 so far:

  1. could be a cousin
  2. two weddings in Silesia
  3. off to Canada
  4. off to Australia
  5. a very romantic poet
  6. fireman August
  7. 50 hundredweight of coffee
  8. mysterious Minden people
  9. horses for Hedwig
  10. guessing the great-grandmothers
  11. cousin Charlotte
  12. three sisters
  13. travelling saleswoman
  14. family portrait
  15. dancing chemist
  16. games time
  17. desperately searching Wilhelm
  18. the third Hedwig
  19. patchwork portraits
  20. missing brothers
  21. the oberlehrer's family
  22. a double wedding
  23. mystery solved

I started a twitter thread for season 2 here. However, as the bird site seems to be turning into an evil empire, I have now switched to logging the entries in a similar thread on Mastodon.

The twitter thread for season 1 is still here. It only loads 30 tweets at first, so you have to click "show more" a couple of times to get all 40 entries. Alternatively, visit the last instalment and find the numbered list of entries at the bottom.

I'm also adding all photos from this series to my family history album on flickr.

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