Every so often we are asked to identify images and try and determine just where the subject/building/home/etc., is located. The above photograph is an example of an image long identified with Lansing, in fact it appeared in two books on Lansing history. The problem is that neither book identified where the business in the photograph was located in Lansing.
The first clue is in the top right-hand corner. It is the name of a physician, Dr. McPherson, the second clue is the number 73 below the window pane with Dr. McPherson’s name. So, we have a name and street address number, but not the street name. After reviewing the Michigan Gazetteersand census information all signs point to Dr. James A. McPherson, a well-known physician who practiced in Grand Rapids. We have a last name and street number. After searching the Lansing City Directories in the 1890s, we find no McPherson practicing medicine in Lansing in the 1890s. Why was the decade of the 1890s chosen? Well that is based upon the style of dress of the individuals in the photograph. Reviewing the Grand Rapids City Directories’ for the 1890s we know that Dr. McPherson’s office was located at 73 Canal Street in 1892 and 1893. However, this is not enough, we need corroboration.
If you look closely in the above image, under the poultry you can barely make out the name of the company next door to Dr. McPherson’s office. The front of the awning the words ‘Wholesale and Retail’ appear, the rest is obscured. So, given that this was either a butcher shop or a commercial hide company, there are bear and deer carcass hanging in the windows, it had to be one of the two. The Grand Rapids City Directories’ for 1892 and 1893 listed the Western Beef and Provision Company at 71 Canal Street. Given all these factors it can be stated with a high degree of certainty that the image is from Grand Rapids and not Lansing. Of course, today there are a variety tools that can be used to aid in the identification of a photograph that were no available to earlier researchers. Now an image can be scanned, then changed to a negative and manipulated in a variety of ways that allow more information to be pulled from a photograph then was possible just 20 years ago. The researcher can also examine a wide range of City Directories and other sources electronically, while back in the day the authors of the books where these images were published could not. So, if you are willing to stretch the definition of Lost Lansing, this really is a loss for Lansing, but a gain for Grand Rapids.
© Lost Lansing 2018