THE Nazi Picture

Instead of going out Friday night (I’m told normal people my age do that a lot), I stayed home and went through some old pictures with my Dad. I literally have boxes and boxes of old pictures from his side of the family. Pretty much all of the are from the early 1900’s to the 1950’s. Pretty much all of the are just pictures of horses and cattle, but every once in a while I find some real gems. We found some gems on Friday.
As I was handing my Dad old pictures and having him tell me as much as he could about them, he noticed something that I never have.

Normal looking picture, right? Nice looking dude. Wait, what's that on the bottom of the frame?

Normal looking picture, right? Nice looking dude. Wait, what’s that on the bottom of the frame?

My Dad is a big WWII buff, he knows more than your normal cattle rancher about the topic. But he knew nothing about this picture, nothing. It is a form of torture for me, to not know stuff, I like to know stuff, especially about this family and these damn pictures (write on your pictures people! Generations of your descendants will thank you!). So I was forced to bring out the big guns, my friend Erin. Erin knows everything about history, I love e-mailing her because it is always a mini history lesson. I knew if anyone could help me, she could!
I sent Erin this picture hoping she would know SOMETHING!

I sent Erin this picture hoping she would know SOMETHING!

Sure enough, Erin knew stuff. First and foremost she calmed me down. My Dad didn’t seem to think the swastika was quite as interesting as I did, and that freaked me out a little. Erin explained that each generation has different view and reaction to that era, and there is a great deal of stigma attached to Germans of that time. She then went on the say it is easier for those of us farther removed from WWII to objectify the history. I agree.
Ok, now for the really interesting part. Erin said the swastika laying flat was used in the U.S. as a decorative symbol/good luck symbol on paper photo frames prior to WWII (more late 1800’s-early 1900’s). The Nazi swastika has a different orientation (turned to stand on one of its points).
Bad nazi swastika. See how it's oriented differently from the photo frame?

Bad nazi swastika. See how it’s oriented differently from the photo frame?

Erin told me to look through the rest of my old pictures and try and match his guy’s face with other pictures. I noticed that many of the formal Lucas pictures that do have writing on them mentioned Orient Street, which according to Erin, was where this photographer’s studio was at some point. This gave me hope that the man in the picture was a Lucas, which would make him a lot easier for me to identify. I looked back through the Lucas pictures and after searching through six shoes boxes of photos I found what could perhaps be an older picture of the same man. What do you think?
Look at the nose and add glasses.

Look at the nose and add glasses.

Add 20+ years  - it could be him? Maybe.

Add 20+ years – it could be him? Maybe. The hair is the same!

Well, Erin had much better luck finding out about the photographer than I did about the man in the picture. Turns out the photographer had a pretty interesting and relevant to Chico, life. Check out what Erin learned about him:
Charles Bruce Hemminger was born to a farming family in Pennsylvania on April 4, 1870. He grew up in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and married his wife, Laura Elwell, in approximately 1905 (exact date and location of marriage unknown at this time). Laura was born on April 2, 1872, in Iowa. Both the 1910 Federal Census and 1911 Chico City Directory show that the couple had settled in Chico, California, by 1910. Charles had established a photography studio in Chico, located at 320 Broadway Street, which he operated through about 1918.
This was his studio at 320 Broadway Street.

This was his studio at 320 Broadway Street.

Charles rented a home at 405 Orient Street from 1910 through 1913, then moved in about 1914 to 5 4th Street, where he remained through about 1918 (Chico City Directory listings). The Chico City Directory lists Charles and Laura as living on a rural route in 1920-1924, and the 1930 Federal Census lists them as owning a home and farm on Speedway Lane, where Charles is engaged in orchard work.
His rented home at 405 Orient Street.

His rented home at 405 Orient Street.

It appears Charles turned his career from photography to agriculture, voter registration records confirm this switch, but it is undetermined if Charles gave up photography completely during this time. A search at the County’s Recorder’s office may detail exactly where his orchard and property were located on Speedway Lane. In 1939 and 1940, Charles lists himself in the Chico City Directory again as a photographer with his studio listed at 218 West 3rd Street, but still residing at Speedway Lane. A listing in the Chico City Directory from 1937 lists Charles’ photography studio at 336 Broadway Street. The 1940 Federal Census confirms the duel livelihoods, photography and agriculture, with his wife Laura helping as an assistant in the photography studio. Between 1940 and 1944, Charles and Laura moved to Modesto, California, where Laura passed away on October 10, 1944. One of Charles’ brothers, Thomas Hemminger, had lived in Modesto and passed away in 1937. It appears two other brothers, William and John Hemminger, had also settled in Modesto by 1937. In 1948, Charles traveled back to Pennsylvania to visit his brother Dr. Robert Hemminger and other relatives living west of Harrisburg, whom he had not seen in over 40 years. The visit is mentioned in several articles in the Gettysburg Times in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Charles returned to Modesto and later passed away on October 3, 1959. He and his wife are both buried in Acacia Memorial Park in Modesto.

Even though I didn’t figure out who the man in the photo was, I still learned stuff. And I’m not giving up yet. Since the Lucas family is rather well documented I’m going to look through the Chico State Collection and see what I can find. And, who knows, maybe someone reading this blog will recognize him?! I’d like to thank my friend Erin for being so smart and always taking the time to answer my history related questions! Go follow her blog at


Filed under Ag, agriculture, family, Guest Post, History, photos, Ranch life, Uncategorized

21 Responses to THE Nazi Picture

  1. You may find it interesting to know that in India you regularly see the same symbol on truck bumpers, etc as it remains a symbol of good luck there. There is a bit more info on this website.

    Now you’ve made me want to write a post about why that symbol is seen so frequently in India too! I took LOTS of pictures of the stylized symbol before I was able to talk to a friend who could explain it to me.

  2. History has a way of repurposing things. For instance, the Cross which was a symbolic of a Roman Torture device is now used to display one’s faith in Christ because he died upon it. Imagine travelling back in time to Roman Times and showing them a cross! They would be terrified, it would be a threat to them that you intend to punish, torture or kill them.

    The inverted cross was repurposed by Satanists under the misguided intent that it symbolized the Devil, or the anti-Christ. Actually the inverted cross is a symbol of St Peter. Peter asked to be crucified upside down, this was because he felt inferior to Christ and didn’t feel he even deserved to die in the same way. The inverted cross actually shows humility before Christ. So Satanists are not actually standing against god with that symbol, they are showing their humility towards Christ. Upside down Crucifiction’s were actually common in Roman times too, it was just an added form of torture.

    The Swastika was also repurposed by the Nazi’s. The symbol itself is over 5000 years old and was actually a symbol of peace and good fortune in many Eastern Asian Societies. It was featured in many of the Buddhist temples and still to this day, many Eastern Asian societies use it as a symbol of blessing. There are even shoe factories that stamp this into the inside sole of a the shoe to bring it’s wearer good luck (which did lead to a rather silly controversy in England).

    The name “Swastika” comes from Sanskrit. “Su” means “Good or well” and “asti” meaning “To be”. The “ka” was added just to be phonetically pleasing and maybe as part of the repurposing.

    Who knows what the future holds in repurposing? Maybe in 200 years from now, Apple production in the Foxconn Factory will be seen as a horrific crime against human rights, and their Apple Logo will forever symbolize workers rights or horrific punishment.

    Maybe people will see the Irish flag as representing “Drunken people who sing and have fun non stop” (because that’s not what it means now……… ahem…).

    Either way, it’s good to know your history and to try and always delve deeper, to find out the origin’s of things. Without the ability to do that, people would only believe that the Swastika represents Evil Nazi’s without ever knowing the true good intent behind the symbol.

    • Thanks for sharing Ian! This is so neat! I didn’t know about the cross!

    • Philip Finn

      “Maybe in 200 years from now, Apple production in the Foxconn Factory will be seen as a horrific crime against human rights, and their Apple Logo will forever symbolize workers rights or horrific punishment.”

      I won’t be around, but those of you now 30 and under will live to see this. The whole process takes about two generation. 200 years from now, there will be plenty other outrages to right, and this will be a mere footnote in the textbooks.

  3. Steve Schoonover

    My grandpa had a huge Navaho rug, maybe 20 feet square, that he got for a song back in the ’30s because it was had swastikas all around the edges. The Navaho swastica opens the other way from the nazi version — arms pointing left rather than right — but the difference was a little too subtle for most potential customers.

  4. Anjanette

    I really find all your posts rather interesting, but this one will always stand out!! Thanks to you and all your engaged followers for their follow-ups above!!!

  5. Pingback: Sincerely Yours, Herman H. Harvey Battery D.18th Field Artillery | The Beef Jar

  6. The man in the picture looks like what I picture Almanzo Wilder looking like.

  7. That is most certainly a pre WWII photograph, probably closer to 1910’s given the patina and cutout style. If it has a clear, cracked coating on the image itself, that’s actually egg whites! It’s the first one I’ve seen with a swastika on it, but given how popular of an symbol it was I’m not surprised at all. Try looking for it in architecture from around that time, it’s everywhere!

  8. Ron Wrinkle

    Yes the symbol is Indian for long life and peace. Sadly the Nazis used it. It is all over India.

    • Philip Finn

      Yeah, they co-opted it as an Aryan symbol because the amateur anthropology of the day had the human race rising from the “Indo-Europeans” (based solely upon a few common language roots) which they interpreted as meaning the sub-continental Asians. They even ended up in Tibet looking for the “original” humans.
      Genetic science – which convicts without appeal – has since proven an African genesis for every human being who ever lived.

  9. Dan

    Yesterday I found a picture of my great grandmother from this same studio. The same blind embossing of the swastika and Hemminger signature. Although the signature on my great grandmother’s photo is much much lighter to the point I really couldn’t make out the name. Initially my reaction was, “Was great grandma a nazi?!” I’m so glad your blog came up in my search. Thanks so much for posting this story. Mystery solved.

  10. Heidi

    Phew! Finding your blog really put me at ease! About a month ago I found a box of my great-Aunt’s photos sitting in my Mom’s garage. She was born in the 1890’s in Iowa. In the box I found a nice photo of a smiling young boy – perhaps 6 or 7 . However, the paper frame has a swastika symbol on it. It was very discomfiting to say the least! I’m happy knowing that it has no Nazi connotations. I was very confused as to why a photo of a Swedish boy in Iowa would have a frame like that!

  11. Susie Dusek

    Thank you so much for the info. We just found a picture with the same symbol in my mother in law’s things. We have no idea who the photographer was or even who is in the picture.
    But the symbol had us wondering since my husband’s great great grandfather was born in Germany. Thanks again.

  12. Melinda

    You helped me out. My husband had some pictures from his mother when she died. One had that symbol embossed on it just like yours. The family is from Santa Clara, Chico, and Oroville. So I think it is the same thing as your picture. My husband’s elders are all gone now and so is my husband. So I did not know where to go for answers. Thanks again for the information.

  13. Brandon

    I was recently at a thrift store and was looking at a box full of old photos and ended up purchasing a few. They’re so neat to look at even though I have no connection to the people, it’s just a cool thing to see how photography was back then. So tonight, I tried to do research on a specific one. It is of a very young man maybe 18-23 years old, possibly younger he has no facial hair whatsoever and is wearing a suit and tie like some sort of high school senior picture. His photo is cut out in a oval shape though with a detailed boarder on the paper its on and underneath is the same symbol. There is no pencil writing on it but it does have something to the right of the symbol embossed in the paper I can’t make out the first part but the rest says “(first name can’t make out?) N. Davis” and underneath that says “Chico”. I did a basic Google search of the info I could read and added vintage photo with nazi symbol and your blog was one of the first results. I wasn’t searching for specific history, but this was a interesting start. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.