C.W. Tucker was a photographer based in Randsburg, California during the towns boom years in the late 1890s. This December 1897 photo (taken just weeks before a devastating fire burns most of the town) captures a seemingly typical scene of a busy main street in a frontier mining camp, but closer inspection of the photo reveals many interesting details.
The most obvious and unusual detail is that this is a photo of C.W. Tucker taking a photograph – certainly an odd scene for a photograph of this era.
What was this staged scene all about? Zooming in on the details of the photo reveal a comical scene. Apparently the photo captures men on a sled being pulled by horses while being pummeled by snowballs.
This seems to have been a big event in town as a large crowd is gathered to watch.
There are many interesting signs in town like “Nugget Saloon”, “Yellow Aster”, “Post Office”, “Real Estate”, and “Boston Bakery”. One sign, to the left of the photographer was very difficult to read. The first two lines appeared to be “Shorties Homemade” but the third line could not be read. I took a close crop of the sign and posted it on the WMH Facebook Group looking for insight on the third line. While we will probably never know what Shorty was selling, the group came up with a few phrases that might fit the sign and several agreed that “Chili & Tamales” was the best fit.
All in all it seems that the citizens of Randsburg were enjoying a bit of fun. It wasn’t all hard work back then!