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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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