I reunite identified family photos that I find in antique shops and second hand stores with genealogists and family historians. If you see one of your ancestors here and would like to obtain the original, feel free to contact me at familyphotoreunion [ at ] yahoo [ dot ] com. I hope you enjoy your visit!
~The Archivist

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Mystery of Two Names: Fred Lueben or Ernest Koch, Horicon, WI ca. 1890s?

I find this to be a strange portrait with its empty chair and unusual composition.  The focus seems to be on the bare wall, which, if you look at it carefully appears to have a few odd shadows cast there.  There's also that ribbon tied to the chair.  What might its significance be?

The photograph was taken at the Sawyer studio in Horicon, Wisconsin.  The photo is labelled, "Fred Lueben" on the front and ""Ernest Ludwig Koch, 1850-1928" on the back, which creates a bit of a problem. Which name is correct?

I found two Fred or Frederich Luebens in the 1880 Census, living in Hubbard, Dodge County, Wisconsin:
Fred Lueben, 44 (b.1836), Prussia and his son, Fred, age 11, born 1869 in Wisconsin.

I also found an Ernst Koch in the same census for Hubbard, age 29, son of  John and Maria Koch.

I thought I would check Ancestry to see if there were any uploaded pictures of people with either of these names, and surprisingly, I lucked out.  There were actually photos of both on Family Trees there.  I found pictures of the two Fred Luebens first, and felt that they were not a match to the fellow in the photo.  Then I found a Koch family portrait, and who do I see wearing exactly the same clothes, holding onto the same hat, in the very same studio?  Mr. Ernest Ludvig/Louis Koch!  (For Ancestry subscribers:  http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/7092393/person/-1023459439).  According to the obituary, which appeared in a German-language newspaper, Ernest Louis Koch was born in Alt Rudnitz, Brandenburg, Germany on the 29th July 1850.  He married Marg. (Maria) Henrietta Melchert in 1880.  Ernest died the 3rd of April, 1928 at the age of 77 years, 8 months and 4 days. The photo on the Ancestry tree is dated 1898, a little later than I would have guessed.

And, thus ends the search.  I am still curious about the composition of this picture and the empty chair.  Any thoughts?


  1. With the mystery-laden handling of the opener to your post, it made me wonder if someone were being creative with the empty chair, in signifying a memorial by the subject of the other person named here. But that would be too complicated!

    Glad you found the true identity. Perhaps the note on the front was just a reminder to Mr. Koch to give a copy of his likeness to Mr. Lueben.

  2. I found it to be such an odd composition, I naturally gravitated to concocting a theory on its significance. Was this a memorial to a recently departed spouse? A mother? But, of course, there's probably no significance. Just an overly-active imagination.

    I think Mr. Lueben was probably the recipient of the photo, too. Or the person who labelled the picture originally thought it was Lueben. I'm just happy someone happened to have photos from the same sitting. How lucky is that!?