17 thoughts on “W.A. Richardson’s Dairy Wagon, circa 1891

  1. in 1896, there is no w.a. richardson in the dairy or creamery business. only w.a. is a clerk at wj hawes, boarding at 15 e. 6th N.

  2. Were these people posing like this every day to receive their milk delivery?

    “Stay there Grandma, the milk will be here soon….”

  3. I love that little guy standing in front of the fence! And his hat and the woman’s hat are quite distinctive, is that the style of the times or maybe some special sect or group or something?

  4. Maybe the photo is correctly dated 1891. Checking the 1891 Polk’s city directory, I find a William A. Richardson described as follows: “proprietor East Portland Dairy [located] southeast of SP Co. Car Shops, residence same.” This text followed by note “see p. 36,” whereon is displayed a large illustrated ad for Richardson’s dairy business with instructions to leave milk orders at 253 First St. He says he delivered milk throughout the city. Sounds like his dairy and home were somewhere in today’s SE Portland or Milwaukie area; maybe someone else can find the location there of the Southern Pacific rail yard and car barns ca. 1891. I would bet the photo of home and family shown in the photo are Richardson’s.

  5. That is an odd, almost eerie posing of the people, the way they are scattered around in couples and singles. Are they arranged by occupation? By rank? By their place in the family? Did they hate each other? It doesn’t look like they just happened to be standing there when the picture was taken.

  6. iirc, sp had shops where the railyard is by steel bridge, as well as the brooklyn shop. ‘leave orders at 253 first’ would indicate he was nearby, and somewhere in the rose quarter area. lots of dairy farms east along the gulch even into the 30s.

    however, 1st could just be a central office, and he was out in brooklyn/milwaukee.

    in any case, he closes by 1896, apparently; i’d actually say that’s a good indicator he is up along sullivan’s gulch – perhaps he sold the farm to developers.

  7. Spreading out the various family members (and their animals) in the yard (and on the porch, and in the windows, and on the roof) was a common practice for pictures like this at the time. There is a similar picture of the William Barlow House in Canby where William Barlow is holding the reins of what appears to be the family’s domesticated deer – front and center – while 12 different women sit or stand around the yard, along with two kids and a dog.


  8. 1896 directory notes SP – shop E 21st cor center av. so he was in brooklyn, somewhere near kenilworth park / reed college.

  9. One picture. A hundred questions. We see here a scene from which we can conclude one solitary fact. To wit; W.A. Richardson had a dairy wagon and team. Period. Every thing else is conjecture.
    Question where is Mr Richardson, the dairyman. Is it he on the wagon. Unlikely because operating a dairy in 1891 if the date on the photo is correct, is a very labor and time intensive business. Probably a employee teamster is at the reins.
    Question. Why is the photo being exposed. Publicity, A aid to advertising home delivery. A record of a home owners prosperity.
    Question. Where. We see a well fenced property with a garden and a large two story house on a hill above a street or drive we know not which or where.
    Question. Who are the people in the photo. Starting with the gentleman on the wagon we see what. A extended family unit. A family and servants. In 1891 even families of fairly modest prosperity employed household help maybe even a live in family of servants and their children. A usual household of the period included several generations, adults,married and/or single, and elder parents as well as children. The older gentleman holding the scythe for no apparent reason is very symbolic with the lady behind him shaded by the parasol. The well turned out fellow at the gate is of some importance here too. But what of the urchin in front of the wagon.
    Question. What is the purpose of that tall pole in the background. No clue.
    All in all this is a most wonderful posting. Every possible answer to any question raises more questions.
    Kudos to anyone who provides any fact to this real mystery photo.

  10. Hmmm. Appears to be hold the reins of the horse. Is that perhaps the jacket of the photographer hanging on the fence? The wagon is spiffy new and the brace of matched team even have clean hooves. Good publicity photo. Perhaps the family of the dairyman?

  11. @k Good point. Hmm optical illusion. On further examination I referred to the gentleman holding the reins of the horse in the yard. I plead weak eyes and advanced age.

  12. rod:

    Since photography was still an uncommon event in that era it’s possible that one of the men in the picture is the owner of the dairy. Some business owners put their likeness in their advertising, even today, but it may not be a promotional image since printing photos wasn’t easy and printing line drawings was easier. Most of the advertisements I’ve seen from that time have a drawing in them.

  13. The house looks quite similar to the Carman house in Lake Oswego:

    The architecture isn’t terribly distinctive, though, so I imagine there were a lot of houses in that era that looked similar.

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