The closest guess to identifying the photographer came from retired LIFE Magazine photographer Bill Wasson of Brentwood. Wasson guessed that the photographer might be Eadweard J. Muybridge (1830-1904), who had previously photographed the John Marsh House in 1870s.
Wasson learned his trade from a student of Eadweard Muybridge. Muybridge is known for the images taken at Leland Stanford’s horse ranch, now Stanford University, that photographically proved all four hooves of a running horse do leave the ground. Historian Carol Jenson applauded Wasson’s guess, but Muybridge, who sported a full beard all his adult life, would have worn a white beard or might have been deceased at the time the image was taken.
Real photo postcards came into popularity around 1900. The key to dating this mystery image is the house’s original Romanesque crenellated tower, which is missing from the photo. The original stone tower fell in the 1868 earthquake and was subsequently rebuilt in wood. The 1906 earthquake damaged the tower once more – repairs this time removed the tower crenellations to give the building a more “modern” gothic architectural style.
For his guess, Wasson was rewarded with a ticket to the recent John Marsh Gala, an event that raised approximately $10,000 to benefit the restoration of the Marsh House.
Those who can identify the people shown in the postcard should e-mail Jensen at email@example.com.
Stay tuned for the next History Mystery, which will appear in the Press later this month.