The “Coney Island Express” Family Photo Mystery
A few year’s ago I was able to locate surviving family members of a recently discovered branch of my grandfathers side of the family. From that came the above photo, with names written on the back, passed down to a distant cousin from a cousin of my grandfather to her daughter.
Attempting To Date An Old Photo
First off, this photo is a goldmine for me as it is the one and only photo I have ever seen of my great grandfather William “Billy Murray”, the shorter man on the left side of this photo. When trying to place a date on this photo I had several clues, mostly surrounding the apparent age of the people in the photo.
First we have William Murray born 1883. Next, his brothers widow Margaret, born 1884, Margaret’s sister, Pauline, born 1882 and Pauline’s husband, John, born 1878.
Next, I need to know the years this subway car would be in service and available to have a photo taken on it. That is when I found this incredible photography blog, from which I learned that this train was subway car #983, built by The American Car & Foundry Co in 1935.
Clue #3 in this case is that fact that my great grandfather passed away in September of 1937. Assuming the car was not in service during a summer until 1936, that gives me the window of 1936 or 1937. This make the approximate ages of these folks to be 53, 52, 54 and 58. They somehow all look younger then that to me.
Coney Island History
Although I do not believe the photo is taken upon the actual train car, I do imagine that the new car to Coney Island would have been a big deal, and I have to assume this canvas backdrop behind a railing would have been the type of thing that families would get a photo on the same way families might have a photo taken at a staged setting in a modern amusement park. This type of thing would probably be staged by some local photo studio, so if anybody happens to have any info on that, I would be interested in hearing it.