Circa 1912: Peter Laurence’s Working Animals

Sepia Saturday 589. Fifteenth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

Returning to the history of my direct-line ancestors, this post features a favorite photo of my maternal Italian immigrant great-grandfather Peter D. Laurence (nee Pietro di Lorenzo) with what I assume were his working animals.

To the right stands his horse Nelly and in front sits his dog Diamond. I have two copies of this photo, which was printed on a postcard — so I assume multiple cards were printed to send to family back in Italy.

Photo postcard: Peter D. Laurence with horse Nelly and dog Diamond (circa 1912). I believe this photo was taken at 12 Wells St., Gloversville, N.Y., where Peter and family were living by 1920. This may be the stable shown at that address on a 1912 Sanborn map. Wish I knew what those lapel pins said. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Peter may have been a farmer in his hometown of Limatola, Benevento, Campania, Italy. That’s the occupation his younger brother Antonio listed on his passenger manifest when he came to the U.S. to visit Peter in 1902. So it’s possible my di Lorenzo ancestors had a family farm in the Italian agricultural region.

A mark of prosperity

Owning a work horse — which cost about $150 in 1870 and probably more by 1912 — was a mark of prosperity that any farm family would appreciate. The $150 price would be about $3,100 in today’s dollars — plus the ongoing cost of food, board and upkeep for the animal.

Back of the photo postcard. My maternal grandmother, Liz (Stoutner) Laurence, penned Peter’s name. I added the names of the horse and dog, which were provided by my mom Peg (Laurence) Charboneau. Scan by Molly Charboneau

The same was probably true of owning a dog. Diamond may have been a working dog — whose bark would scare intruders away from Peter’s home/business. Or the canine may have been a pet. Either way, owning a dog presupposed a level of income over and above what was needed to raise a family and keep a roof overhead.

Gloversville stables

To board a horse required a stable — which appears to be where this photo was taken. That took me back to the 1912 Sanborn Map of Gloversville, N.Y. to see just where my great-grandfather’s horse Nelly may have spent her leisure time.

Stables on Sanborn maps are marked with a large X on top, and there were still quite a few on the 1912 Gloversville map — the last year that digitized maps are available for the town.

1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Gloversville, N.Y. Detail of the 12 Well St. stable (labeled E at right) where Peter’s horse Nelly may have boarded. Source: Library of Congress/Sanborn Maps

On the map above, there is a 2-story stable marked X between No. 4 and No. 14 Wells St. — around the corner from my second great-grandfather Antonio Curcio’s home/junk yard.

The address is 12 Wells St. (labeled E on this map) where Peter Laurence eventually built a house and moved by 1920 with his wife Mary (Curcio) Laurence and sons Antonio (my maternal grandfather) and Joseph.

My mom, Peg (Laurence) Charboneau, told me that the photo of Peter, Nelly and Diamond was taken on Wells St. So it’s possible that Peter first boarded his horse there — perhaps purchasing the property when there was only a stable and later building a house.

Diamond in the rough

How Peter’s dog Diamond ended up with his sparkling name leads me down another family history path. In 1992, my mom and I made a family history road trip to her Gloversville home town so she could show me around.

We stopped at 128 E. Fulton St. — the location of the junk shop/garage where our Curcio and Laurence/di Lorenzo ancestors worked and where the Curcio home once stood.

Building at the back of 128 E. Fulton St., Gloversville, N.Y. (1992). Could the vintage Diamond Tires sign have been the inspiration for Peter’s dog’s name? Photo by Molly Charboneau

The house was gone, but I snapped a photo of the remaining building — a wood frame structure at the back of the property with a vintage Diamond Tires sign nailed to the front.

The tire company took that name in 1909 — before the photo of Peter and his animals was taken. While it may be pure coincidence, I have to wonder: Could that sign have been the inspiration for the little dog’s name? Perhaps a nod to the future of car travel while Nelly symbolized the past?

Up next: My grandfather Antonio W. Laurence and his brother Uncle Joe. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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11 thoughts on “Circa 1912: Peter Laurence’s Working Animals”

  1. I agree with your great-grandfather that pets are part of family history, and the fact that he posed in a suit with Nelly and Diamond says volumes about what he thought of them. My own grandfather took several photos of his beloved dog, including some with his youngest daughter, and she has told me how important the dog was to him.

  2. Sanborn maps again! You thing of every possible way to use them! Could you do a post on how to use them, and all the ways you can use them, one day?! Love your family stories! 🙂

  3. That is a wonderful photo. The horse is very muscular, as a working horse should be! The Diamond Tires sign makes for fun speculation. Who knows? I notice that the white spot on Diamond’s chest is kind of diamond shaped.

    1. You know, Kathy, you may have solved the mystery by noticing the diamond-shaped fur on Diamond’s chest — a better explanation for the dog’s name than mine. Still, this post gave me a chance to post a photo of the building, which was the last structure left from Peter’s days as a filling-station owner.

  4. That’s a fantastic photo, and even better is to have the names of Peter’s horse and dog. Though I don’t collect them, I often come across similar antique photos of people with their livestock or pets. Dogs are fairly common but cats are rare for some reason. I think you are right that the purpose of Peter’s photo was an expression of pride in his success in America. His choice of a fine suit and hat, with his fraternal pins too, over ordinary work clothes makes this a special occasion too.

    1. Thanks, Mike. I love Peter’s dress clothes while posing with his animals — his outfit also speaking to his success in his new hometown.

  5. Your great-grandfather Peter was certainly a handsome dude. And he looks so proud – standing there with his horse and dog. I think that might be a fanciful story about the dog’s name being inspired by the sign on the building, but who knows? It is a rather strange name for a dog, but perhaps he/she lived up to the name by being a ‘diamond’ of a worker? 🙂

    1. Yes, the Diamond name story is fanciful — but as soon as I learned the dog’s name I remembered taking the photo with the Diamond Tires sign, located behind Peter’s filling station. As you say, who knows?

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