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Rare Occupational? 1882 Photo of Uniformed Man with Binoculars

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Cabinet Card Photographs66 of 429Could this be the WEIRDEST photo ever shown on Collectors Weekly??California man with a photo brooch
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    Posted 6 years ago

    (40 items)

    I recently purchased this intriguing 1882 cabinet photograph of a gentleman in some kind of uniform posing with a substantial-looking set of binoculars. This photo measures a rather large 8 x 4 inches.

    I initially assumed that it was maybe a train or trolley conductor, but I've seen at least 40 or 50 such photos and in EVERY single case there is some type of badge on the cap- usually reading "conductor".
    Then I thought this might be of a ship's captain, but the other ones I've seen all have uniforms that look different than this, and none were photographed holding a professional-looking set of binoculars.

    Perhaps a clue may be through the Photographer: a gentleman named Reiman, who had a studio in San Francisco in 1882. The following year he merged with another photographer and their logo was thereafter no longer "Reiman & Co.".
    By the way, I love that it states on the back: "Photography by Electricity"!

    In any event, I'd appreciate it if anyone out there in CollectorLand could help me to identify the profession of this man....

    Thanks for looking!

    Unsolved Mystery

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    1. scottvez scottvez, 6 years ago
      I'd think something related to SEA Travel (because of the binos and SF), but without much of a uniform to go on you may be hard pressed to pin it down.

    2. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago
      Thanks Scott- I was thinking pretty much along those lines too.
      So far I'm fairly certain that it's NOT of a train or trolley operator, and
      the binoculars and location might well indicate a sea-related profession,
      but his uniform doesn't really resemble other ship captains I've Googled.
      Perhaps a tugboat captain....?
    3. TheGateKeeper TheGateKeeper, 6 years ago
      Lighthouse Keeper?
    4. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago
      Thanks GateKeeper- that sounded like a good suggestion, but I Googled that too and their caps ALSO have badges!
    5. scottvez scottvez, 6 years ago
      Good idea gatekeeper.

    6. PostCardCollector PostCardCollector, 6 years ago
      I'd give a vote to Lighthouse Keeper too.
    7. fhrjr2 fhrjr2, 6 years ago
      He doesn't appear to be terribly old. I wonder if he might have been in training and not earned his badge yet?
    8. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago
      I just researched the lighthouse "keepers" at Alcatraz around 1882, but apparently their uniforms were also adorned with special badging:

      "The three lighthouse keepers, known as “wickies”, were dressed in prescribed formal uniforms which consisted of a “navy blue hat, sack coat, vest and trousers”. Decorative buttons and insignia patches adorned their uniforms. The keepers worked on an eight-hour shift with the beacon lighted all through the year."
      (from the internet)

      Still, maybe one of the other (less historically "glamorous") lighthouses in San Francisco remains a possibility. Unfortunately though, I haven't been able to find any photos of "keepers".....

    9. Padit, 6 years ago
      Hyp-storian, This man appears to be an American steamboat Captain to me.
    10. Gillian, 6 years ago
      He's got the tie right. Great id Padit!
    11. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 6 years ago
      Thinking along Padit's idea, I'm thinking Merchant Marine.
    12. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago
      Thank you AGAIN Padit- looks like you're 2 for 2 today...!!
    13. scottvez scottvez, 6 years ago
      The buttons on this guy are non descript sew through buttons with holes in them.

      The linked guy shown by padit has larger domed buttons with some sort of design on them. I have seen steamboat and shipping line folks with company made buttons.

      I don't know that every company had its' own buttons, but I also wouldn't agree that finding a guy with a SIMILAR jacket and SIMILAR hat definitively identified THIS photograph.

      "The devil is in the details".

    14. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago
      Uh oh....."back to the drawing board"....?
    15. scottvez scottvez, 6 years ago
      Hyp-- I think all mentioned are possibles. I just wouldn't call any of them definitive.

    16. TheresasTimeMachine, 6 years ago
      The steamboat Captain's looks like it. But the lapel is much more lower. I have been looking on the internet and the closest that I have seen is one of the uniform of a mailman and lighthouse keeper (but are not the same). This uniform has six buttons but everywhere I look they have eight or more buttons ( except the steamboat Captain one). In your picture it looks like the uniform was not officially in use anymore but kept as regular clothing. The buttons do not match and if you super size the picture you can see at the top of the hat/cap/kepi that there is a small hole where there use to be a badge. But the question still remains what uniform it was.
    17. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago
      Why didn't the guy simply write his name & profession on the back of the photo?
      ; - )
    18. Padit, 6 years ago
      Hyp-storian, Yes, way too easy. I believe he has something to do with being on or near water due to his old long binoculars (or dual telescopes as some call them). I have a short attention span I guess, as after I picked apart all the clothing, I went to that. Finally I've decided I better get something else I should get done here. Looks like we get carried away, as I think you know more about Alcatraz than the inmates knew about the place they lived at. Well, you probably know as well I do, how much time can pass when you start on some of these. Have a good day-night.
    19. scottvez scottvez, 6 years ago
      Short of finding this SAME photo with subject IDd, we will never know with any certainty.

      Also, I would note that what is described above as a "uniform" by many posters; is typical wear of the era. The hat, while similar to some used by military, fraternal and other organizations, was also popular and sold to folks outside of the those groups.

      The binoculars are unusual, but also available to folks outside of sea service. And while I do think he is involved in some sort of sea service, the subject could just as easily be a bird watcher!

    20. Gillian, 6 years ago
      The real and only correct answer is this. The poor guy lost all his fancy buttons, and the badge on his hat, hoping to win a poker game because his wife was going to have their 7th child, and they needed food. He lost.

      His friend lent him the binocs just for the photo, (he sold his for the above reason, but for their 6th child). He lost three fingers on his left hand, and two on his right when he fell overboard, and got tangled up in the ropes (sorry no shark story).
    21. Hyp-storian, 6 years ago
      Let's see if I got all this:

      The guy (or perhaps even a woman spy disguised as a man, or a bearded carnival lady?) might be a bird-watching steamboat captain who moonlights in his spare time as a lighthouse keeper, or maybe he just stole the "uniform", cap/kepi and binoculars or won them in a poker game (either honestly or by cheating)?

      Thanks folks- that certainly narrowed it down for me (LOL)!
      I think I need a drink now.......

    22. Padit, 6 years ago
      Gillian, That's good, Really good and you've got me sitting here chuckling to myself. Have a good day and thanks for helping mine!!!
    23. Padit, 6 years ago
      O.K. Hyp-storian just sent my last comment and now I'm laughing again. Wish I could get as much humor out of all of these.
      Wann'a Thank both you Hyp-storian and Gillian

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