A couple of years ago I wrote a piece for the blog on my favorite eight guys from Trenton. I have updated information on these fellows. I still don’t know who they are, but I know a lot more than I used to about the image itself.
I’m not why, but in a fit of boredom, I searched on the name of the frame shop (Kalen’s) that had framed the image. I’d done this search before without success, but this time, to my surprise, I got a hit — a fine arts business in California that is the descendant of Kalen’s Picture and Frame Shop. I wrote to them and received an email back from one of the descendants of the owners of Kalen’s. Here’s what he told me about the picture of my eight guys:
The sticker on the back of the picture is obviously one of ours. It comes from my grandfather’s ownership days. You did not mention, so I wonder if anyone noticed that the phone number on the Kalen’s sticker is 25446. Ever since I was a kid and until the return to all-number phone numbers of the 1960’s the phone number I knew was EXport2-5446. So the label predates that type of phone numbering. I am told that the letter prefixes came into play when an exchange had more then 10,000 phones on it. Anyway from what I can tell, that sticker would have come from a time between 1919 and 1933.
The dating of the image is one of the things that bedevils my students all the time. Now we can narrow it down to a couple of decades. My correspondent continued:
You already know that the Roma Photography Studio is not a current business in Trenton, NJ. But given the ethnic cohesiveness and the pretty specific neighborhood-centricity involved in the Trenton I know about, makes me feel that the people in the photo were probably Italian. It might also explain why these 8 were all together and the skin tone variation. I did not run it much further than that, But there is an Italian American society and others in and around Trenton that might be an interesting avenue to pursue. Given the dress of the men, the fountain pens in the jacket pockets (an interesting cultural item in itself) and the gold vest chain on one fellow, these were not poor folks. There was an Italian owned Building and Loan, and some very prosperous attorneys who invested in Trenton businesses. Joseph Felcone, eg, and the guys who all formed the Roma Building and Loan might be an idea too. OTOH the mob did not pose for pictures very often.
The Roma Building and Loan is now the Roma Bank. I’ve written to them to see if they can help and to the Trenton Historical Society. Anyone who has done this sort of scavenger hunting in local and out of the way collections knows that each step in the process is a longshot and the whole thing could come crashing to a halt at any moment. But for now, there is a certain thrill at the thought that I might actually find out who my eight guys actually are.