What are these gentlemen up to?
March 26, 2021 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Photograph is from an upstate New York relative's home, all 6 have identical outfits, curved sticks, leather pouches. (Old?) Milwaukee beer sign so it was probably taken no earlier than late 1930s. It doesn't seem like a sport. What the heck was their vocation?
posted by blueprinter to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
They sure look similar to some of the old hockey sticks. Maybe field hockey? Or shinty? That wouldn't explain the pouches, though.
posted by stormyteal at 4:37 PM on March 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

maybe the early Mi'kMaq (sp?) sticks - or the irish hurling sticks?
posted by megan_magnolia at 4:51 PM on March 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Lamp lighters?
posted by nickggully at 5:03 PM on March 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hurling maybe? It used what looked like hockey sticks in the 1930s. Not sure about the pouches, though.
posted by Meldanthral at 5:08 PM on March 26, 2021

the common gear has a forester/military/outdoorsy kind of look, and the pouches remind me of handlebar tool bags...small bags for carrying something that is small but heavy, so you don't want a huge bag. Looks more work than sport.
posted by th3ph17 at 5:11 PM on March 26, 2021

I was going to say hockey sticks, but the hockey team uniforms from that time seem to be more about shorts and sweaters. The fact all these boys are wearing the same outfit seems important. The cross tied white shirt, the little cap, the sturdy boots, the belts... I suspect those pants are velvet. Is it possible this is an outdoor walking group, or some kind of dance thing? Is there a German connection? Would that be an avenue to explore?
posted by EllaEm at 5:13 PM on March 26, 2021

The name on the photo is of a person who was a laborer for an aluminum company (per the 1940 census), if that helps anyone ID a 1930s/1940s work uniform for that industry.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:19 PM on March 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

^So as not to abuse the edit window: there's an adult with that job in the census. There's also a teenager with the same name, if there's any youth group which might be kitted out this way in that time and place. (The guy on the right looks older than the others, like he'd be troop leader.) I realize the name may just be that of the photographer, with no personal relation to the subjects.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:25 PM on March 26, 2021

Best answer: You know those really old-fashioned ice skates that strap on outside of your boots? They’d fit in a pouch like that. So maybe it is some kind of sports team.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:36 PM on March 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Are you assuming the date based on the beer sign, or do you also have reliable information about someone in the photo? Because I'm not sure that sign is for Old Milwaukee. I think it could be for Valentin Blatz Brewing Company, which made a "Milwaukee Lager Beer" that was distributed nationally as far back as the 1880s.

The clothing and the boots also read earlier than 1930s to me.
posted by theory at 5:39 PM on March 26, 2021 [7 favorites]

Would the beer sign have stayed up during Prohibition (ratified January 1919 in NYS)?
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:05 PM on March 26, 2021

Do an image search for "roller polo." You'll see people with similar curved sticks and uniforms. Apparently this was a thing in the late 1800's and early 1900's. I'm guessing the bags in your picture have skates in them.
posted by Redstart at 6:39 PM on March 26, 2021 [13 favorites]

Check out the sticks used in "ice polo" that you can see here.
posted by gudrun at 7:01 PM on March 26, 2021

Burling! I think they look like log drivers.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:26 PM on March 26, 2021

Look at that! The boots are roller skating boots!

(I am way to invested in this thread)
posted by EllaEm at 7:27 PM on March 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow! 35 year mystery solved, thanks all. (One of our favorite parts of the photo is all the faces peering through the windows and door.)
posted by blueprinter at 3:13 AM on March 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Looking into the history of roller polo: looks like there was a huge craze in New England and New York in the 1880s, then pro leagues in the 1890s, and by 1907 there's an article in Buffalo saying how roller polo had died out around 1900, but that there are leagues in the midwest and a group trying to drum up interest in a resurgence in Buffalo. So I agree your photo is probably earlier, and since the players don't look to have specialized uniforms or padding, I'd guess it might be on the earlier side of the craze, so maybe 1880s?

(Let me know if you know the town or any of the players names, and I can try to find specific references to this team in the newspaper database if you want.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:57 AM on March 27, 2021

Response by poster: photo is from a home in Oriskany, NY. Don't know any names. Written on the back of the photo in separate spots "Eddie Floyd for identification" (very clear) and "Mrs. G Maxhall 300" or "Mrs. G Jaxhall 300 (not so clear, guessing on the M vs J and the 300)
posted by blueprinter at 12:31 PM on March 27, 2021

(I've been searching but haven't found anything yet. Will update you if I do.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:33 PM on March 29, 2021

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