Snapshot of History
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BY MIKE AVITT
I posted this photo on Facebook and was asked how I determine the date of a photo. Let’s look at Tingley’s Main Street and I’ll tell you.
The white lettering on the photo tells me this image was a postcard. Penny postcards were most common in Ringgold County between the years 1908 and 1914. In 1907, it was against federal law to write on the address side of a postal card. Postcards were produced with a small blank area on the picture side for a brief message prior to 1907. The law changed in 1907 making postcards more popular. World War I hurt the professional photography industry in a couple of ways which I won’t go into at this time.
Another big clue in this photo is the appearance of automobiles. I see five autos and they all have a canvass roof. Hardtops became common about 1920. The autos all have fenders which became common about 1906. Cars became commonplace in Ringgold County by 1910.
The bandstand in the middle of the street was built in 1912 so now we know the photo is 1912 or later. The one-story frame building on the east side of the Tingley Bank building is visible and it burned in April 1915. Now we know the picture was taken before April 1915. So, after studying my notes, a more accurate estimate of this photo’s date would be the year 1913 rather than the guess of 1912 I posted on Facebook.
The first building on the right, which is the south side of Tingley’s Main Street, is the real estate office of E. D. Sherman that he opened in 1909. Mr. Sherman’s wife was a Bevington from Diagonal. Sherman also had the agency for Ford auto sales. The next building is the Tingley City Hall with the fire alarm bell perched above the roof. Next to the hall is the restaurant of L. M. Lanham. He purchased the business from A. J. Morris in December 1909.
Off in the distance we see the belfry of the Tingley High School building. This schoolhouse was torn down in 1918.
The building where the Breckenridge store was forever was occupied by H. E. Tuttle in this week’s photo. Tuttle sold out to W. W. Miller in January 1918. W. H. Arnold bought the firm in the fall of 1921. In December 1921 George Schwab bought out Arnold and three months later, Schwab moved the stock of merchandise to his other store in Nevinville. This left the building vacant and William Breckenridge moved in about April 1922. It was Breckenridge Store for 70 years.
Tingley was plagued by business fires for decades and most of the buildings in this picture burned. But, Tingley always built back better than before.
Another thing about this photo – it was common for professional photographers to travel to towns without a professional photographer and set up shop for a couple of days in a vacant building or an enclosed wagon and do business, usually family portraits. The pros took very high quality photos and they are easy to identify.