Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sentimental Sunday: Louis Henry Wolfe family, about 1911

This photograph is of my maternal great-grandfather, Louis Henry Wolfe (1872-1929), and my maternal great-grandmother, Addilee Tennessee Shelton Wolfe Odom Harris (1890-1977), and the three oldest of their four children.  Lloyd L. Wolfe (1906-1993) is at the far left; my grandmother, Sara Melzina Wolfe Guokas Archibald (1907-1997), is standing; and the baby is Edith Elizabeth Wolfe Smith Murff Brown Gould Knox (1910-2006).  Edith was born in December, so the photograph was probably taken in 1911.

On the 1910 census, the family was living in Shreveport, Louisiana, and Edith was born in Louisiana.  However, Louis Wolfe appears in the Morrison & Fourmy Directory of The City of Houston for 1912, and given that listings seem to run about a year behind, they probably moved to Houston in 1911.  The family is wearing beach clothing, so it's likely the photo was taken in a coastal city, probably Galveston because of the seawall in the background.  I think that is a painted backdrop behind the family, however, as the waves don't look real, nor does the ship nor the building on the piers over the water.

The building might be painted to look like the Breakers Bath House.  The 1906 original was destroyed in the 1909 hurricane, but rebuilt in 1909.  I found some similar images online of real photo postcards that are stamped "Taken at Galveston Beach at the Breakers Bath Houses* by L. Tobler, Photographer" *Some images instead said the Murdoch Bath House, originally constructed in 1901 and also destroyed in the 1909 stormMurdoch's was rebuilt in 1911. Both bathhouses, as well as the Surf (built 1908 and only damaged in 1909), were lost in the 1915 Storm. Murdoch’s reappeared once again in 1916, was severely damaged in Hurricane Carla (1961), demolished, rebuilt, destroyed again by Hurricane Ike in 2008, and rebuilt again in 2009.  Murdoch's is at 2215 Seawall Boulevard, while Breakers was at 2315 Seawall, basically next door, so the photographer could have easily worked at both locations.

The photographer Louis Tobler was born in Russia in July 1866, and immigrated to the United States in 1879, according to Catching Shadows: A Directory of 19th-Century Texas Photographers by David Haynes (page 111).  I found a listing for him in the 1911 Galveston City Directory:  "photographer Breakers bath house;" in the 1921 directory, his photography address is Murdoch's bath house.  The 1945 Galveston City Directory shows him as a photographer at 2215 Seawall Blvd (Murdoch's); although he died August 8, 1944.

© Amanda Pape - 2013 - click here to e-mail me.


  1. What a cool photo! I bet the photographer was popular with such a cool background.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Heather! I found a few other pictures online by the same photographer that apparently used other parts of this background.