Eye on the Past: Roaring 1920s Photobomb

Photobomb_1920s_V2

This photo from 1926 or 1927 has always intrigued me. At first glance, it looks like the man passing before the camera was the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. For years, I could not figure out who was in the photo or where it was taken.

One day I opened the digital file in Adobe Photoshop and zoomed in on the details. There, hidden to the left of the man’s suit lapel, was my grandmother, Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman. Now the photo made some sense. No doubt my grandfather, Carl F. Hanneman, was taking a picture of his lovely bride when someone pulled the 1920s equivalent of a photobomb. Wearing a hat and fur coat, Ruby is facing the camera, but looking to her right. The photo intruder’s identity remains a mystery.

Photobomb_Detail2
Ruby Hanneman looks to her right just before being obscured by the belly and suit coat of this strolling gentleman in 1926.

I concluded the photo was most likely taken on the streets of Janesville, Wisconsin in 1926. At the time, Carl was a pharmacist for the McCue & Buss Drug Co., 14 S. Main Street, Janesville. Ruby was wearing her Sunday best, so perhaps the couple were going to lunch after Mass. The other possible location for the photo is Fond du Lac, where Carl once worked as a druggist for the Staeben Drug Co. 

It seems natural that Carl and Ruby were pioneers of the photobomb (or at least early victims of it). As we wrote on these pages in 2014, they took selfies” on their honeymoon in July 1925, generations before invention of the iPhone or the selfie stick. “Photobombing” is a somewhat recent term referring to the practice of inserting oneself into a photo scene, usually to play a joke on the photographer.

Carl was an avid photographer. His photo collection includes a number of Janesville street scenes from the mid-1920s (see samples below). Early in his career, he had short stints working in Janesville and Fond du Lac before returning to his hometown, Wisconsin Rapids. In 1936, he moved his young family to Mauston, where the couple spent the rest of their lives. He was a pharmacist for more than 50 years.

©2016 The Hanneman Archive

5 thoughts on “Eye on the Past: Roaring 1920s Photobomb”

  1. I agree. On each of these photos, I try to imagine myself in the scene and wonder what life was like at that time. Oh the questions I would have if I could pop into these photos with my grandparents!

    Like

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