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This is an original photograph given to me as a remarkable gift by the generosity of the Fresno Bee Newspaper. The photo was taken in 1897 according to markings. In the forward-center of the photo, appears a name attached to an arrow; pointing to a student named Anna. Another arrow points to an unnamed boy. (I'd bet it's Anna's Brother.) Some of the students are wearing Graduation Caps. (About a dozen are capped.)
From this, I assumed the photo to be an 1897 Sixth-grade Graduation photo. I assume Emerson was a K-6 School as it was when I attended. In 1940 when the age of enrollment was four and a half years old. Seven years later, one would be 11 or twelve years old. Anna looks to be 12 years old. She was probably from a poorer family and could not afford the trappings of the cap, as was my case when I graduated from Emerson in 1947.
Next I noticed the shadows in the photo. Since I know the orientation of the building, I concluded that the awnings were facing west. Further, I noticed that the north-south shadows were projecting north of the awnings. I also noticed a very slight projection of the student shadows to the rearward (east) direction; indicating the photo was taken just past noon PST.
The awning lower-left is enlarged and an inset inserted above it. The rectangle outline is where the shadow of the awning would have been on June 21, 1897 (Summer Solstice) the time of year when the sun is at its highest point. The angle of the shadow tells us that the sun is a little south of being directly overhead. So, we know the photo was taken after June 21st.
Assuming that Graduation would occur on the last day of school and on a Friday, looking at the calendar for June 1897, we see that the only possible date for a Friday, in June, after Summer Solstice, was June 25th. Therefore Anna's photo was probably taken on that date. Zooming in on the flag atop the school there are 45 stars. Utah became a State on January 4th 1896 and the 45th State, a year before the photo was taken. This lends credibility to the 1897 marking on the photo. This Flag became the Official United States Flag on July 4th, 1896 and was to last for 12 years. The Presidents to serve under this flag were Grover Cleveland (1893-1897), William McKinley (1897-1901), and Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909).
A search of the Fresno School Records in all probability shows an Anna Graduating June 25, 1897. She probably was born in Fresno County and a search of "Anna" born between 1885 &1887 would probably result in Anna's birth record.
About the Author
Lloyd E. Lawrence Sr. is a native Fresnan now living in Arizona. Now retired, Lawrence has been a high school teacher, college engineering instructor, and founder of several Silicon Valley corporations. He is 71 years old. For a copy of "A Nostalgic Journey" a more complete version of Early Fresno Schools, Email: Lloydsr1@cox.net.