By: John Beatty

How does one assign a date to a historical photograph? Recently, the Genealogy Center was presented with two digital images of a saloon owned by Jacob Poinsatte, located at 1016 Maumee Avenue in Fort Wayne.  The photos are remarkable for a number of reasons. First, images of Fort Wayne saloons are relatively scarce, and second, these images depict the exterior of the same building from nearly exactly the same angle in two different time periods. Comparing them for clues can help us place them in their historical context. 

First, we need to determine when exactly the saloon existed, and Fort Wayne city directories provide a logical starting point. A search beginning in the 1890s determines that Jacob Poinsatte had worked as a brewer for the Berghoff Brewery through 1901, then left its employment to open his own saloon, which first appeared in the 1902 directory at 1016 Maumee Avenue.

The donor has provided some useful information to assist us. One of the photographs (the older one, immediately below) dates, she believes, from 1916, because the poster in the window advertises the appearance of Eva Fay, a stage clairvoyant from Ohio, on April 2 at the Palace Theatre. Researching Eva Fay’s name in Newspapers.com affirms that she made several appearances at the Palace in April 1916. Since the trees on the street have no leaves, we can be fairly confident in dating the photo from February or March of that year.



 

 


















Having the date of this first image fairly well established, we turn our attention to the second image, displayed below, which is slightly later, but its exact date remains in question. The name of the saloon appears to change in the two photographs. In 1916, it appears as Jacob Poinsatte Place and East End Park. Later it is called simply the Hayden Park Saloon, though neither name appears in the city directories. 



 




















One can compare architectural elements of the two buildings along with the clothing styles. The large circular advertising sign is gone in the later photo, and a second-story porch railing appears that is not shown in the earlier photo. The poster of the woman in the window is not identifiable, though above it to the left is a sign for Unicoco, whose origin is mysterious but may have been a soft drink. Snow appears on the ground in both photos, so, like the other, the image was likely taken in the late winter or early spring. The donor identifies Jacob as the man standing in the center, with the two others unidentified.

With all of the beer advertising gone, the second photo probably dates to the Prohibition era, perhaps from about 1920 or slightly afterward. City directories continued to list Jacob’s saloon as a retailer of soft drinks through 1925. He died in December 1926. What we have, then, is a set of photos that juxtapose the impact of Prohibition on a small Fort Wayne saloon between 1916 and about 1921. They represent an interesting slice of our early 20th century history.