Following the Clues – Dating a Photograph

by Kristine Schmucker, Archivist/Curator

On Facebook, we recently shared about a collection of negatives that were donated to the museum. We posted the photo of the 400 block of N. Main, west side, but we had not researched the date of the photo at that time. So how does one date a photo?



There are several clues that helped us date the photo.

  • The Randall Building was built in 1911 and is present in the photo.
  • Murphy’s Hotel was well established and the sign “furnished rooms” is visible.
  • The Clark Hotel was torn down in 1913. From the photo, one can see that the hotel building is gone.
  • Far in the distance, one can see the Ragsdale Opera House, which burned January 1, 1915.

The photo had to have been taken after the Clark Hotel was torn down, but before the Ragsdale burned.  From those clues, we  know the photo was taken sometime between 1913 and 1914.

The businesses along the 400 Block of Main according to the 1913 city directory included:

  • 411-413 Murphy’s Hotel
  • 415  Postal Telegraph Cable Co
  • 417 Palace Billiard Parlor
  • 419 Royal Billiard Parlor
  • 421 W U Tel Co
  • 421 1/2 Frank Ollinger
  • 423 Rexall Drugs
  • 425 Bang Woods Co
  • 427 Pear; Theatre
  • 427 1/2 Fugate & Fugate