Monday, January 3, 2011

D.B. McKay and the mystery photographs

Portrait of D.B. McKay. | Click on photographs to enlarge them.

A couple of articles in the St Petersburg Times the other day about minor mysteries surrounding some Bay area personalities brought to mind a collection at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.

10 children on a buggy.
Jeff Klinkenberg was looking for the story behind the legend of a seven-foot man who used to fish off the St. Petersburg Pier for years. John Barry was getting the lowdown on a box of papers from Cuba about Vicente Martinez-Ybor, the founder of Ybor City. Both were dealing with different parts of the colorful tapestry that is Tampa Bay's history.

D.B. McKay was no less a personality was in the region's past. He served two terms as mayor, was owner and publisher of The Tampa Times, a bank director, a founder of the University of Tampa, and argueably one of the area's most influential people.

Longtime history buffs delighted in his Pioneer Florida page in the Sunday Tampa Tribune, a feature he began in 1949 when he was appointed historian for Hillsborough County. The stories from the newspaper feature eventually were collected and published as a three-volume set called Pioneer Florida. There is a Pioneer Florida set at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.

Nine men in suits.
But it is a collection of ephemera and photographs relating to McKay that has us intrigued. For one thing, there is the photograph – a portrait of the venerable gentleman puffing a cigar and reading a newspaper, presumably The Tampa Times. Inscribed in the lower right corner is the legend "Gerald B. Smith, Tampa. 34." It is unclear whether that is a reference to 1934. If so, McKay would have been about 66. His second term as mayor would have been over. He would have been serving as publisher of The Tampa Times.

Two other photographs in the collection beg explanation as well. One shows 10 children on a one-horse carriage in front of a house, perhaps sometime after the turn of the century. McKay and his wife, Aurora, had 10 children, according to a typewritten sheet in the collection. Perhaps this is a photograph of the McKay children.

Birthday cake for D.B. McKay's 90th.
The other picture shows nine men dressed in suits standing in front of cabbage palms. Eight of the men sport handlebar moustaches. The clean-shaven man holds a cigar. This photograph appears to be a copy of a dilapidated original. Neither photo has identification of the people shown.

Other ephemera in the collection includes a handwritten poem about a fruit stealing blue jay, an anecdote about a fruit canning project gone awry and a typewritten article entitled "Thank You, Friends," apparently written after the publication of the Pioneer Florida volumes. And there are other assorted items.

One photo, though, offers no mystery at all. The legend on the back proclaims that it is D.B. McKay's 90th birthday, and pictured with him are seven children, apparently his grandchildren. The children are identified with family names Ott, Burnette, Manry and Guyton.

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