The Short Bartender

I recently updated the blog header with a picture taken at a bar in Hopkins, MN.  In the photo my grandfather, Frantisek Seraphim Kaspar (called Frank) stands back a bit behind the bar, glass in hand, with a look of  wariness and concern aimed at the photographer.

We believe this picture was taken at what was called the “908 Bar” sometime before Prohibition.  And it’s one of the few photos I have of my grandfather Frank.


It’s photos like these that tell a story.  I know at one point my grandfather owned a bar with another man who was related to my family through marriage.  But he also worked at other bars as a bartender both before and after his years as an owner.  I’m unsure at this point which of the two situations is pictured here, is he the owner or a bartender?  We believe the man standing to the right in the photo was either my grandfather’s business partner or a fellow employee.  The three men who are most likely customers at the bar are unknown to us.  Also to the left of my grandfather you can see the face of another bar patron reflected in the mirror behind the bar.

The first clue as to a date for this photo includes the date on the State Bank calendar just above my grandfather’s head.  It’s very difficult to blow up the digital photo, the dates become pixellated and I can’t make them out.  But using a magnifying glass on the original it looks as if the calendar has FRI on the top above the date, and SEP on the bottom.  Googling dates on which Friday, September 18th occurred after 1910 when my grandfather arrived in Hopkins, I get the years 1913, 1919, 1924, 1930, and 1936.  We can eliminate 1924 and 1930 as Prohibition was from January 1920 until December 1933.  My grandfather died in 1939 at the age of 54.  He looks a lot younger than 50 in this photo (as compared to another photo we have of him sometime in the 30s where he was quite grey-haired), so I am left with the dates of 1913 and 1919.

Another clue in this photo is the banner hanging above the men that says “Smoke Martellus Cigar”.  I tried Googling Martellus to see when the company or brand was in operation, but other than a few cigar boxes offered on eBay, so far I haven’t had much luck finding out anything.  If Martellus was only in production for a short period, or perhaps went out of business before 1919 we could settle on a 1913 date for this photo.  But this clue will have to hang tantalizingly until I can do more “on the ground” research, perhaps at the local historical society.

Personally, I’m leaning towards the 1913 date for this photo.  My grandfather was an immigrant from Drahobudice, Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic.  He was born in 1885 and came to America around 1904.  We think we found him in Cleveland, Ohio for the 1910 census.  He came to Hopkins soon after this, so 1913 wouldn’t be unreasonable for a date for this photo.  He does look quite young and he would have been about 28.  He was also, as you can see, short.  According to his naturalization papers, he was only 5’4″ (which means he and I would have been the same height!).   Frank went on to marry a young woman named Mary Holy, the daughter of the boarding house owners where he was living.

Frank and Mary had 9 children between 1918 and 1937, all of which I knew as the most wonderful aunties and uncles!  Unfortunately, as I said before, Frank passed away in 1939 so I never had the opportunity to meet him.  Listening to the accounts of his children though, he was a most generous and loving father, often bringing back candy for the younger children, and taking the older ones to the local ice cream shop  during the Prohibition years for a root beer.

By using the clues found in this photo, I hope someday to know exactly when it was taken, who the men in the photo were, and ultimately learn more about my grandfather in the process.  He stands there as if challenging me to find out more, and I accept the challenge!


3 thoughts on “The Short Bartender

  1. Love your blog– found you through your comment on another’s blog post! Glad I followed up. I am also into genealogy, and I love thr way you tell your family stories! I just heard today, that the former owners of are starting a site called “you who”– where you can post pics for ID. Don’t know if it’s up and running yet. Think I might add ” family history” to my tags, “genealogy” is already there, we who write in this field, need to be able to find each other! Glad to have found yours. Helen

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