Circa 1919: Tony Laurence & the mysterious vehicle crash

Sepia Saturday 598. Twentieth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

We all have them. Those mystery photos, with no caption, that show a major event in our ancestors’ lives. Those pictures that are worth a thousand words — too bad nobody thought to write down one or two to give us a heads up. So, we are left to conjecture and try to make sense of the images left behind in albums, boxes or file drawers.

One of my more intriguing mystery photos is shown below. It features an overturned vehicle – possibly a car, but more likely a truck – lying belly up by the side of the road. Tires in the air, running boards aloft, license plate askew and debris strewn about seem to indicate a major accident.

Mystery vehicle crash with inset of Tony Laurence (circa 1919). This photo has no caption or other markings. So, what happened and how was my maternal grandfather involved? Scan by Molly Charboneau

Oddly, there is an inset photo of my Italian American maternal grandfather Antonio W. “Tony” Laurence, who may have been about 17 years old at the time the photo was taken. In the distance, past the vehicle wreck, two standing women appear to be pondering what may have happened – much as I am doing now, in the absence of other clues.

A few possibilities come to mind: Tony was in the crash or he saved someone after the crash or he towed the vehicle from the scene long after the emergency was over. So, let’s unpack the possibilities and see what emerges.

Possibility 1: Tony was in the crash

This option does not seem likely. Although this photo looks like a newspaper memorial for someone who died in a vehicular crash, my grandfather Tony lived to age 80. I also don’t remember any references in the family to him being in a serious roll-over like this one. And I have not yet found any newspaper articles linking him to such an accident.

Possibility 2: Tony saved someone after the crash

This option seems more likely. At age 17, according to the 1920 U.S. census of Gloversville, Fulton County, NY,[1]FamilySearch requires free login to view records Tony was working as a junk collector in his father Peter’s junk dealership. He may have been out on his rounds, saw or came upon this accident, and helped the driver/passengers out of the overturned vehicle – meriting an inset portrait in the larger photo of the accident.

Gloversville Morning Herald, 27 March 1919. An ad for my great-grandfather Peter Laurence’s junk dealership, which he took over from his father-in-law, Antonio Curcio. Image: fultonhistory.com

Possibility 3: Tony towed the vehicle after the crash

This option is not out of the question. Peter Laurence had a tow truck, and Tony later operated it to rescue stranded vehicles. However, it seems unlikely that Tony would have gotten a cameo photo for the routine task of righting and hauling off a vehicle after it overturned.

There is no way to know for sure what happened — unless future research turns up some solid evidence. But my best guess is Possibility 2: My grandfather came to the rescue to help people out of the overturned vehicle – earning him a hero spotlight in this mystery photo.

Up next, more mystery photos of my Italian extended family. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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References

References
1 FamilySearch requires free login to view records

Circa 1915: Tony and Joe, the Laurence Teens

Sepia Saturday 597. Nineteenth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

At one time, the teen years weren’t recognized in U.S. popular culture as a special time of life. That changed after WWII, according to Derek Thompson in his Saturday Evening Post article titled “A Brief History of Teenagers.”

“The teenager emerged in the middle of the 20th century thanks to the confluence of three trends in education, economics, and technology. High schools gave young people a place to build a separate culture outside the watchful eye of family. Rapid growth gave them income, either earned or taken from their parents. Cars (and, later, another mobile technology) gave them independence.

This sociological development occurred after my maternal grandfather Tony Laurence (b. 1902) and his brother Joe (b. 1903) were adults. Yet their adolescent photos shown below, from circa 1915, seem to reveal the type of teenage changes we recognize today.

Circa 1915: My maternal grandfather Antonio W. “Tony” Laurence at about age 13. He posed for this photo at Forbes Studio in Gloversville, N.Y. Scan by Molly Charboneau

More mature expressions

In his baby and toddler photos, my grandfather Tony looked playful and sported an infectious grin. In this teen picture, however, he looks more serious and worldly in a stiff-collared shirt, suit jacket and tie.

The same is true of his younger brother, my mom’s Uncle Joe. Although he was a “tween” in 1915 — about the time these photos were taken — he also looks more staid and serious than in his youth. Every hair is in place and he also wears a suit, shirt and tie.

Circa 1915: My maternal grandfather ‘s younger brother Joseph Bernard Laurence at about age 12. He posed for this photo at Forbes Studio in Gloversville, N.Y. Scan by Molly Charboneau

The Forbes Studio

Tony and Joe posed for their photos at Forbes Studio of Gloversville, N.Y. — a different studio than the one their parents took them to as children. So I went online see what I could find about this photographer, and discovered an interesting ad.

Gloversville Morning Herald, Oct. 12, 1915. Source: fultonhistory.com

Forbes Studio apparently joined other Gloversville businesses in the raffle of a “Pony outfit” — which I am guessing may have been a Halloween costume, since the ad appeared in October 1915.

Forbes Studio placed other ads in the Gloversville newspapers over several decades encouraging parents to bring their children in for portraits at the start of each new school year.

Headed for adulthood

Whatever the impetus, I am glad my great-grandparents Peter and Mary (Curcio) Laurence/di Lorenzo took my grandfather and Uncle Joe to have these photos taken at a transitional point in their young lives.

In 1915, my Laurence/di Lorenzo ancestors were still living at 128 E. Fulton Street — in the crowded Curcio household of Mary’s parents (and my great-great grandparents) Antonio and Antoinette (Del Negro ) Curcio. My grandfather Tony and his brother Joe were both still in school.

Yet how handsome and mature they looked as they headed toward adulthood. And how grateful I am for these portraits — the only adolescent images of Tony and Joe that I have found in the family photo collection.

Up next, my grandfather Tony in a mystery photo. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1905-06: The Other Laurence Brothers (The Two Peters)

Sepia Saturday 596. Eighteenth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

Most family history discoveries are happy ones — finding previously unknown relatives, linking up long-forgotten branches of a family tree and generally adding richness to ancestral stories.

Yet there are also sad discoveries — and finding evidence of children who died young are among the most heartbreaking.

Alas, such untimely deaths were not unusual in the 19th and early 20th centuries — and my maternal Italian second great grandparents Peter and Mary “Mamie” (Curcio) Laurence/diLorenzo experienced two such tragedies in 1905 and 1906.

Memorial cabinet card for Peter Laurence, Jr., who died in 1905 at age 2 months. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Remembering a lost son

Among the photos of my Italian ancestors I found a memorial cabinet card for a child my Laurence ancestors lost — their third son Peter Laurence Jr., who died on 9 April 1905 at age 2 months. The card was printed by H.F. Wendell & Co. of Leipsic, Ohio — a company that specialized in memorial lithography.

Peter’s card features a lovely poem below an angel of peace carrying a child and a bouquet of flowers, with pastoral background images of a waxing crescent moon, stars and a church.

Grave stone of the first Peter Laurence, Jr., Prospect Hill Cemetery, Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y. (1992). Photo by Molly Charboneau

I was already aware of Peter’s untimely 1905 death from his gravestone in Prospect Hill Cemetery, Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y. — which my mother and I found during a 1992 trip to her home town. However, the memorial card was an unexpected discovery in an album of ancestral photos.

A second heartbreaking loss

On the same trip to Gloversville, my mom Peg (Laurence) Charboneau and I discovered a second stone nearby with the same inscription — only that one was dated 1906.

That’s how we learned that Peter and Mamie had lost a another son — who they also named Peter — the year after their first loss. How devastated they must have been by these tragic deaths so close together.

Grave stone of the second Peter Laurence Jr., Prospect Hill Cemetery, Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y. (1992). Photo by Molly Charobneau

There is no memorial cabinet card for the second Peter among the Laurence family photos. Could my second great-grandparents have been too overwhelmed by this new loss to have one printed?

The brief lives of the two Peters

Having discovered the two Peters, I wondered if I might be able to memorialize their brief lives in some way. So I turned to the New York State birth and death indexes to see if they had been recorded.

Amazingly, they both appear in the birth index — and the second Peter’s death appears in the death index. The first Peter’s date of death is not in the index but is printed on his memorial card. So below is a record of the brief lives of the two Peters — the lost, but not forgotten, Laurence brothers.

NameDateWhereNYS No.
Peter Laurence 1Born 17 Feb 1905G’ville#4936
Peter Laurence 1Died 9 Apr 1905G’ville
Peter Laurence 2Born 25 May 1906G’ville#21839
Peter Lawrence 2Died 26 Sep 1906G’ville#40340
Birth and death dates of the two Peters, the other Laurence brothers.

Fortunately, Peter and Mamie’s older sons — my maternal grandfather Antonio W. Laurence, born in 1902, and his brother Joseph B. Laurence, born in 1903 — lived into their senior years. That they survived and thrived must have been a healing balm to their parents.

Up next, the Laurence brothers Tony and Joe as teens. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf at a time