Daisy and the Mustard Jar

There are solid ways of identifying the time period of vintage photographs and good lawdy I wish I knew about them when I started on this genealogical journey.

It’s easy enough, though, to find plenty of websites to help with dating those images of yesteryear. The Photo Detective’s blog is full of info you didn’t even know you wanted and Ancestral Findings offers a descriptive example of the different types of photos you may have in your family’s collection. (And if you have a good resource you like, be so kind as to share this in the comment section below, won’t you?)

So you have the straight up things to review such as the type of photo, clothing design, suit buttons, and hairstyles. And then the not-so-obvious in the way of hidden clues require a closer look, sometimes even with a magnifying glass. Got it. Check.

But I want to share another step that doesn’t always show up on the usual Tips & Tricks lists. What can we find out about the photographer? Who are they and where did they set up shop? What are the years that the studio was in business? Was it a single location or did they branch out with several studios in the region?

This is part of the history we’re looking for, right? And besides, if I skipped this step, I would have never known about Daisy Marble.

Ok, so the photo above of the handsome uniform and its mustache is one you may have seen before at House BlackSword, and a heads up that you’ll see it again later when we share how we solved the story behind that mystery image. But before that, let’s talk about this other fine fellow I’ve been creeping on. This is the photographer’s imprint on the bottom frame of the photo above.

H. Howard Littrell & Co.
314 Wayne Ave., Dayton Ohio

The background on Mr. H. Howard Littrell and his Co. didn’t come easy. I scanned through the Williams’ Dayton Directories between the years of 1895 and 1903, which was my estimate for the photo, and I didn’t get a hit until 1901 when this finally shows up.

Now we have some names to work with. The “and Co.” is Mr. Littrell’s wife, Daisy. Just a bit unusual to see the wife’s name included as a co-owner, but the new century was progressing. After all, just another a couple of decades to go and women can vote. The couple purchased the existing photography business from Alfred Downham and changed the name.

A little more research and we get an intriguing hit on Ms. Daisy from an incident that occurred in 1899.

Dayton Daily News, Aug 14 1899, Page 5

And this follow-up printed the next day.

Dayton Daily News, Aug 15 1899, Page 8

I’m not going to take you down the rabbit hole to find out what a mustard jar looked like in 1899, other than it was made of heavy glass and probably hurt like heck to be beaned with one by a “plucky little woman.” Anyhow, there is some justice in that it sounds like Mr. Smith had it coming.

Daisy Marble was twenty-four years old when she married Howard Herbert Littrell, which was just eighteen months before the mustard jar incident likely rocked the marriage boat. Daisy’s marketability in finding future employment was now tainted with an assault and battery charge hanging over her plucky little head. It’s not a stretch to imagine this as the push for the two Littrell’s to take over the photography business.

Unfortunately, this business venture only lasted two more years. In 1903 Howard was working as a bookkeeper and the two moved to a new residence on East Third Street.

And by 1909 they’ve moved again, this time for a new start in Asheville, North Carolina.

And sadly, this is where Daisy’s story ends. In 1909, Daisy dies at the too-young age of thirty-five in Asheville and her body is returned to her family in Rising Sun, Indiana, to be interred in the local cemetery. Daisy’s marker reflects her maiden name and notes her as the wife of Howard Littrell.

Howard remains in North Carolina. A year after Daisy’s early death, he marries a young schoolteacher named Harriet and they have three children together. He makes a living as an insurance salesman and later retires from that occupation. H. Howard Littrell, Sr. dies in Rocky Mount, North Carolina in 1957 at the age of 84. Harriet survives him by another thirteen years.

There’s more to the story of Daisy. There must be. I have so many questions about this passionate young woman and the way she took the challenges of life head on, so to speak.

In the absence of answers, I leave you this limerick. Which doesn’t connect to anything other than it has a Daisy in it.

A certain young man named Carlisle
Had a face that would reset a fisle.
He loved a young daisy,
But alas! she went craisy
When upon her one day he did smisle!
  - printed in The Dayton Herald, May 21 1887, Pinks of Verse, Page 6

Mystery Photo: Massillon Bicycle Repair

This cabinet card was found in our inherited collection of Sword Family photos and documents.

It’s been bugging me.

“Can I interest you in our latest model? State of the art, baby.”

As far I I’ve researched, we don’t have any connections to Massillon, Ohio. I don’t recognize these two gentlemen from any other photos in our newfound collection.

Why were these two bowler-capped fellows so important as to keep with with our family archives?

The fellow on the left with the bicycle offers a salesman’s smile of congeniality as in “what will it take to get you riding this fine machine home today?” While that tall drink of water who’s leaning in the doorway likes he owns the place is scowling – complete with a deeply furrowed brow. More bicycles can be seen in the shadows behind him.

Both are in gentlemen’s clothing; Scowl Guy’s watch fob is visible beneath his coat. They have the look of, while not qualifying as the 1% of their day, they are above the status of a physical laborer.

I did enhance the slightly damaged photo to make the text easier to read. The large sign with the lighter text says “General Repairing.” The sign below is “Novelty Works” with “Bicycles” and “Instruments” set as vertical. There may be some text below Novelty Works, but I can’t adjust the Photoshop settings to read it.

I reached out to the Massillon Historical Society for help and received this info from their archivist.

Hello Donna, I can tell you that the Volkmor photography studio was open from 1894 to 1928. He took photographs across the region and stamped almost all of his work, just like this photograph.
Based on the outfits of the two men in the photo, and the bicycles, I believe this is c.1900. The sign says “General Repairing,” which doesn’t quite help us tell what business this is.

Searching through the Business and Industry Database through the Massillon Public Library, I came up with two possible businesses:

Smith Bicycle and Light Manufacturing Company, which also did bicycle repair. It was open in 1898. It was still open in 1929

There was a Novelty Repair Shop open in 1930 (possible to have been open earlier).

So we work with the clues we have.

The archivist’s estimation of circa 1900 fits with 1) cabinet card; 2) bowler hats; and 3) white rubber bicycle tires.

I spent some time looking at Massillon, Ohio newspapers. I’m making an assumption the Massillon stamp on the bottom right of the cabinet card refers to the photographer’s shop, not necessarily the location of the general repair shop in the photo. Still, it’s reasonable to assume the photo’s location to be within a day’s ride by horse and wagon.

Foster & Zinsmaster, formerly Foster & Pocock, have an impressive business in nearby Navarre, only about five miles from Massillon.

Massillon Item, 13 Jul 1898. Included in a list of Navarre businesses.

They sell and repair bicycles almost as a side gig to their carriage works. They appear to be that era’s version of a big box store.

But there’s also this guy.

Massillon Item, 22 Sep 1898

John R. Smith moved his business from 47 W. Main Street to 19 S. Mill Street sometime in 1898. He posted regularly in the classified section of the Massillon Item newspaper for the last quarter of the year reminding his client base of his new location. It kinda makes sense he would want a photo of his grand opening.

And I’m thinking this could be the business identified by the Massillon archivist: “Smith Bicycle and Light Manufacturing Company, which also did bicycle repair. It was open in 1898. It was still open in 1929.”

In the end, I don’t have a resource to confirm who these gentlemen could be. And if I consider that 200 miles separate Massillon from Dayton, I’m still stuck on what possible connection our family had with them. Travel across mid-Ohio territory in 1898 would have been some serious slow-going. You’d have to be doing that trip on purpose and for good reason. Like getting married or running from the law or something.

Still, I’m curious what you think as you look at this. Any insights? I’d honestly appreciate it.

Otto and his German Language Newspaper: Part Two

[Continued from Otto and his German Language Newspaper: Part 1]

It was time for a new plan.

Otto canvassed the German neighborhoods. Promising a quality newspaper, he collected several hundred subscriptions before even publishing the first issue. Otto partnered with Charles Schenk, an old friend from Frankfort that arrived in Dayton a couple of years earlier. They set up shop at the Christian Publishing building at Sixth & Main in downtown Dayton. And with a used printing press and German fortitude, in Otto’s words, “on the first of September 1876, at five o’clock in the morning, Dayton saw its first Daily German Newspaper, and it really made a favorable impression on our German neighbors.” He named the newspaper the Dayton Anzeiger (“Advertiser”).

A. Otto Moosbrugger
(photo credit: Moosbrugger Family Archives)

Historical records show that there were actually daily German language newspapers founded before Otto’s Dayton Anzeiger, but these were disorganized attempts; all were short-lived and most not lasting even a month in publication. Still, I feel confident Otto believed his claim to be the first, as the other newspapers failed long before and were likely no longer in anyone’s recent memory.

According to Gottfried Paasche in his paper America, Germany, and the Daytoner Volkszeitung, the size of the German language press correlated roughly with the size of German immigration. German language newspapers served a transitional function for the men and women beginning a new life and generally, it was only the first-generation immigrants that read it. A newspaper’s success depended on two things – how well it could keep German Americans informed and interested in German culture and how well it could inform them about life in the United States.

A typical German language newspaper of that time consisted of only four printed pages. The front page held news and advertisements. The reverse side had editorials of international, national, and local news. The third page shared characteristics with European newspapers, with poems, an installment of a novel, some articles giving background information on famous men, or descriptions of faraway places. The fourth page had more local news in the form of legal and social notices.

Dayton Volks-Zeitung Newspaper Office at 308 Fourth St., Dayton OH
L-R: Angelo Moosbrugger, George Neder, Kuno Moosbrugger, Unknown, Ed Neder, Otto Moosbrugger, Unknown
(photo credit: Moosbrugger Family Archives)

Later when the long running Daytoner Volks-Zeitung (“People’s Newspaper”), changed to a daily publishing schedule, it was apparent that the Dayton German-American community couldn’t support both newspapers. In 1882, Otto partnered with editor George Neder to combine the two publications. They form The German Newspaper Company with George Neder as President and Otto as Secretary/Treasurer. Two of Otto’s brothers, Angelo and Kuno, took on roles, as well as George Neder’s son, Max. They moved their operations from 308 Fourth Street and headquartered at the Osceola Mill Building at 310 East Fifth Street. Today the Osceola Mills Block is the parking lot for Thai 9 and Jay’s Seafood in the Oregon District.

Red arrow points to 310 E. Fifth Street located in the Osceola Mills Block. This is now the east facing entrance to the Oregon District.

While Otto was working to make his name in media, he and Wilhelmina bought a cottage for two thousand dollars at 15 Buckeye Street, across the street where they were renting. It was here they raised their eight children. This home is now gone as well, with that northern side of the street replaced by US 35.

Adolph Otto Moosbrugger and Wilhelmina Föhrenbach are my husband’s great grandparents on his maternal side. We’re honored that they are part of our history and we can share their story.

And we think that “Smoky Love in the Mahlberg Cigar Factory” would make a great romance novel.    


  • Moosbrugger, Adoph Otto. Personal Life History of Adoph Otto Moosbrugger. Handwritten Journal, 1909
  • Orear, Linn. Survey of the Germans of Dayton 1830 – 1900; their cultural and economic role. Thesis. Miami University, 1961
  • Paasche, Gottfried. America, Germany, and the Daytoner Volkszeitung 1880-1900. Thesis. Miami University, 1961
  • Rattermann, H. A., and Elfe Vallaster-Dona. German Pioneers of Montgomery County, Ohio: Early Pioneer Life in Dayton, Miamisburg, Germantown. Published for Clearfield Company by Genealogical Publishing Company, 2014
  • Tolzmann, Don Heinrich, et al. German Immigration to America: the First Wave. Heritage Books, 2007
  • Wittke, Carl Frederick. The German-Language Press in America. Literary Licensing, 2000

Otto and his German Language Newspaper: Part One

The City of Dayton, Ohio in 1867 was at the edge of the second industrial revolution and maturing from her agricultural beginnings. Factories were competing for prime real estate along the new railroad lines to transport their goods faster and cheaper than ever before. And as one of the largest Ohio cities, immigrants arrived by the hundreds in search of employment and with romantic hopes of achieving the American Dream they’ve heard so much about.

Meanwhile in Ludwigsburg, Germany, Adolph Otto Moosbrugger was struggling to rise above the poverty of his youth. The first-born son of a country doctor and a French refugee, Otto referred to his early childhood as “happy and gay, although always hungry.” His earliest memories were of scarcity and rationed food. He later tells of respect for his mother, Josephine, in how she would split a small loaf of bread among six hungry mouths without giving a preference to any one person.

In 1860 Otto turned 21 and joined the military when the Kingdom of Austria, an ally of Germany at the time, went to war against Italy. After the war, he left the military as rank promotions were slow during peacetime and he then moved through several clerical jobs, but never making much money. It was when working as a bookkeeper at a cigar factory in Mahlberg that his life began to take focus. Otto began courting 18-year-old Wilhelmina Föhrenbach, who also worked at the factory. Surrounded by the aromatics of tobacco and sweat, the two fell in love. They wanted to marry, but Otto knew his clerical career wouldn’t provide the income need to start a family.

A good friend of Otto’s, Gustas Dreher, was a brewer in Mahlberg and had spent several years in the United States. He would tell Otto glorious stories about this Promised Land, “portraying it in the rosiest hues.” With a plan in mind, a 28-year-old Otto bought passage on the steamer, “New York,” and made a promise to send for Wilhelmina when as soon as he could.

Twelve days after leaving Germany behind, the ship arrived at Ellis Island on a cool fall day to deliver her passengers to this new world. With his next step fully decided, Otto continued his travels to the renowned city of industry, Dayton, Ohio.

Otto Moosbrugger on New York’s passenger list. Mistakenly transcribed as “Maasburger.”

Otto was bilingual, being fluent in German and French. However, he couldn’t speak a word of English. He was challenged by this language barrier, especially when trying to find work. He began with labor jobs, such as painting railroad cars for the Barney & Smith Company. He enjoyed the physical work, which he felt held more respect than clerking. But he was frustrated in the low wages that kept him from his goal of bringing Wilhelmina from Germany.  In Otto’s words, he was “unable to earn even the salt for his soup.”

As the labor force grew in Dayton, so did the trade union movement. Many unions had a strong discrimination against immigrants, making higher paying labor jobs outside of their reach. Otto eventually found a better paying job with a German-owned music store as a clerk. After two years, he finally had enough money to send for Wilhelmina. They married in 1869, and moved into the second story of a home at 24 Buckeye Street that was owned by an elderly couple, the Wiedman’s, who lived on the first floor with their adult son.

The German American population in Dayton during this time was nearing its peak. According to Linn Orear’s Survey of the Germans of Dayton 1830 – 1900; their cultural and economic role, by the year 1890, eleven percent of the city’s citizens were of German heritage, with many other Germans living in the surrounding areas. By 1900, the German-born living in Dayton far outnumbered natives in the occupations of bakers, butchers, and brewers.

Because of this large immigrant population growth, nativism supporters were very active in cities across the United States. Nativism was supported by followers of the “Know Nothing Party,” who were political activists rebelling against those who were bringing foreign ideas into the communities. The Know Nothings were against the Irish for practicing Catholicism and they didn’t like the Germans, accusing them of cultural isolation, and their implied superiority and aloofness. Nativism methods ranged from petitions and legislation, but eventually escalated to violence. City riots in large cities were common, sometimes triggered by something like when the German community insisted on celebrating Sunday with parades, picnics, and songfests, when the Know Nothings felt Sundays were to be treated as a solemn day of peace and rest.

The Dayton Herald, March 8 1886

Otto was engaged with the political activities in Dayton and was compelled to protect the German community he lived in. By 1875 he had reached a self-taught fluency in the English language. He took a job as a treasurer with a tri-weekly German language newspaper, intending to support the German American citizens in that role. The paper was so poorly managed by its editors, however, that many times they couldn’t even make payroll.

It was time for a new plan.

[continued at Otto and his German Language Newspaper: Part Two]


  • Moosbrugger, Adoph Otto. Personal Life History of Adoph Otto Moosbrugger. Handwritten Journal, 1909
  • Orear, Linn. Survey of the Germans of Dayton 1830 – 1900; their cultural and economic role. Thesis. Miami University, 1961
  • Paasche, Gottfried. America, Germany, and the Daytoner Volkszeitung 1880-1900. Thesis. Miami University, 1961
  • Rattermann, H. A., and Elfe Vallaster-Dona. German Pioneers of Montgomery County, Ohio: Early Pioneer Life in Dayton, Miamisburg, Germantown. Published for Clearfield Company by Genealogical Publishing Company, 2014
  • Tolzmann, Don Heinrich, et al. German Immigration to America: the First Wave. Heritage Books, 2007
  • Wittke, Carl Frederick. The German-Language Press in America. Literary Licensing, 2000

I mustache you a question

This is a blog post from our sister site, Raising a Super Dog. I originally shared this story when I was still fresh in the beginning of our family research.

Since I’ve found myself in the position of Keeper of the Family Photos these last couple of weeks, the immersion into family history has completely hijacked my daily routines. What I call “going down the rabbit hole again” while doing genealogy research, my husband refers to as “have you even showered today?” Right. About that.

Don’t ask.

See, for every photo that I can actually link to a name, there are so many more faces – some bearing a no-nonsense grim expression, others beaming in black and white glory – I just can’t seem to identify. I carefully pluck an intriguing image from its four photo corners, where it’s been safely secured for the last, oh, hundred years or so, and turn the thing over to find … nothing.

And this is where I silently scream in frustration.

Just kidding. It’s more of a throaty, aargh-ish grunt; like the sound I make when I try to stand up from a too-soft sofa. With the contrary ancestral photo in hand, I hold it at arm’s length and cry out “who ARE you people?”

They never answer.

rcu knight of st. john cabinet card=-sword family
What impresses me most about this gent … is it the uniform? The intense gaze? Let’s be honest here. It’s that wondrous cookie catcher.

Oh, and did I mention? This isn’t even my family, really. It’s my husband’s paternal side.

With that, let’s all pause here to write ourselves a reminder note to label your historical family photos. All of them. Before it’s too late, people. I’ll grab a cup of coffee while you do this.

Ok, y’all. I’m back. You know, your descendants will thank me later. Because what I have before me now are more than fifty photo albums and scrapbooks, plus another four storage boxes of loose photos and documents. And no one left in the family with a living memory of most of this collection of images.

So many magnificent mustaches, so few clues.

Speaking of furry facial features, this portrait of an adorable bearded dog has been gracing our walls since being gifted to us a few years ago after my husband’s uncle had passed. Before reaching us, this fella was in a place of honor in Uncle Jay’s study, right alongside the newlywed portraits of Jay’s mother and father, who married in 1911.

1917 Portrait of a Sword Dog
Right. So where’s *my* portrait?

When we first received the portrait, I had a deep curiosity about the dog. Jay’s love of this companion was strong enough to have the dog’s image framed and on proud display. Yet today we have no historical context for it. Name, gender, when the dog was around to do his (or her) part in the human:animal bonding experience … nothing to offer us, but the solemn over-the-shoulder hundred yard stare and the knowledge this photo was taken decades ago. Or perhaps even a full century ago.

So maybe you can imagine the wonderful dopamine response when going through one of the newly acquired Sword Family turn-of-the-century scrapbooks and I find this treasure trove of vintage images.

Vintage Sword Dogs
Vintage Sword Dogs

Six glorious pages of nuthin’ but dogs and cats and chickens and ducks, all in the general era of 1911-20. What kind of person scrapbooks this stuff? My people, that’s who.

Then this.

Portrait Dog 1917
What is this “Photoshop” you speak of?

Do you see it? It’s the same photo as in the oval frame. Except that it’s been altered to remove the background. The 1917 version of Photoshop.


This photo has generously rewarded me with info on the back. Handwritten there is my husband’s grandfather’s name and address – and instructions to the photo processor to create a block background.


Oh sure. But you know what’s not recorded in that brief script? That’s right. The we-love-him-so-much-let’s-frame-him dog’s name.

There are more photos of this guy. Like this one, which is my father-in-law, George, captured in time as a toddler enjoying a bonding moment with the dog.

george and dog
This is the photo that helped me to date the portrait image and to, well, know it’s a boy dog. I’m savvy like that.

Oh, mysterious terrier of 1917 House Sword. Who are you?

Seriously, don’t be that family. Why put your heirs through the awkwardness of monikers lost to history. Label those old photos before you, too, lose the living memories of your clan.

And hey, let’s bring those magnificent mustaches back, too. How did those ever fall out of style?

And by the way, I’ll make a guess that perhaps his name was Skippy.

The dog, not the stache. Don’t make it weird.

i approve this post
I approve this post

Family Catalyst

As I consider which story to be the best launch for this blog, it feels to me to that sometimes you just need to begin at the beginning.

And so, I share this photo as the catalyst that heralds everything to come next. Because isn’t that the very definition of a catalyst – something that incites activity?

Clara Cecilia Boga Sword

Our Sword family historian and keeper of all things memorial had been my husband’s Uncle Jay, the middle child of the three Sword brothers. A man of details, we had may talks with Jay about his travels to find the Sword family origins and knew that his efforts were done old-school method during the pre-digital age. But what we didn’t know was the full extent of what he had researched. We could only guess.

Jay and his wife, Jean, married late in life, Jay at 61 years old and Jean at 53. And while they didn’t have children, there was always extended family to share their lives. A remarkably smart and classy pair, the two of them shared the next twenty-nine years together traveling, having new adventures, and generally living life to the fullest.

After Jay passed in 2008, Jean was hesitant to part with the extensive genealogical research done by Jay, a decision we of course respected at the time. When Jean died eight years later in 2016, her family was surprised that shortly before she passed, her will had been changed to benefit individuals outside the family circle. It was all controversial and rather sketchy, to be honest. But there it was. So instead of personal items being distributed among Jay and Jean’s families, we had to crash the estate sale to buy our family’s stuff back.

And by crash, I mean the estate sale company was sensitive to what happened and allowed two of us to come in before the sale so that we’d have a chance at reclaiming our heritage.

So early on a cold January morning, I’m in Jay and Jean’s three-car garage sifting through countless cabinet card photos, documents, albums and family scrapbooks that have been stacked on long folding tables.  I finger-walk through a box to pick up a photo, then replace it back into its cardboard home. Strangers in sepia; I’m making eye contact with people I’ve never met.

“That’s Grandma,” says my brother-in-law when I choose an albumen-coated photo of a young woman in a wedding dress. It’s from the early twentieth century, maybe around 1915 or so.

“Is it?” I ask. I’m intrigued by this dark-eyed girl sporting a cinnamon-roll hairstyle sixty years before Princess Leia made them famous. “She’s pretty. What about this one?” I show him another photo. He doesn’t know. We see that Jean’s family photos are mixed in with ours.

We gather everything we can find. The cabinet cards are a dollar each, later photos are more if they’re still in their black paper frame. The photo scrapbooks are mostly from the 40’s and 50’s and are priced between ten and twenty dollars. We find an original birth record from 1819 written in German and a gallon-size zip-lock baggie with personal correspondence from the mid-1800’s. And more. So much more.

Invaluable to our family, all of it. Absolutely priceless. And still, it came with a cost to make it ours again. We finally had a documented connection to the Sword Family history and we were grateful for it.

Later at home, I spend hours reviewing it all, and along with the detailed research from Jay, put together a lineage for my husband and my son. And that, people, was just the beginning.

Consider this.

Right? That edges towards overwhelming and really threatens to tip the scale when we realize that’s only one side. I also have an itch to research my own maternal and paternal lineage as well.

But no matter. I’m doing this for the stories, really. You know? It’s all about what happens before and after The Dash (click here to see what I mean).

Because that’s where family lore lives. The good stuff.

So welcome to House BlackSword. I hope you enjoy this trip into history as much as I have sharing it with you.