Four men pose atop the crop, and across the image are inscribed the words “No. 14 Balfour Guthrie Warehouse Brentwood CAL.” There are a few physical clues to help date the card. “CAL” was the preferred USPO abbreviation for California from 1873 to 1943. USPO approved the use of divided-back cards, which provide a space for both address and message, on March 1, 1907. The postcard stock indicates that the paper is Kodak professional AZO paper, as identified by the stamp box design manufactured from 1904 to 1918. But this is where the trail goes cold.
For this month’s mystery, readers are asked to identify the men featured in the photograph. They might be the great-grandparents or grandparents of those still living in the area. The Delta was a major grain growing area in the United States from the 1870s through 1910s, exceeding exports from New Orleans in some years. The warehouse with covered dock (between the two horse teams) is a huge wooden structure. Can anyone shed some light on its location, dimensions, years of use, blueprints, or other items of note pertaining to its use?
Also, this card is numbered “No. 14,” so where are cards 1 through 13? Itinerant photographers with a mobile darkroom wagon were common prior to the affordability and popularity of Kodak cameras in the 1910s. The professional photographer would arrive at a location, shoot the image, and print on postcard stock for instant sale. Many of these postcards found their way to friends and family out of state or abroad. Photo postcards provided tangible evidence that the emigrant family was healthy, alive and prosperous in California.
The prize for information regarding the identification of the men is a yearlong membership in the Contra Costa County Farm Bureau. E-mail your discoveries to Carol Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Contributed by Carol Jensen