My grandfather, Vineyard Haven plumber Stan Lair (1902–87), collected a lot of images. He had a copy stand set up in his bedroom command center in my childhood home, where he would rephotograph prints from borrowed family albums and dusty shoeboxes, and he would borrow glass negatives and print them in our basement darkroom. I have one of his albums, marked “West Tisbury/North Tisbury/Lambert’s Cove,” in front of me as I write this.
Our neighbor for many years was telephone lineman Basil Welch, who would come over after work to smoke his pipe, crack jokes, and make prints. Basil had a deep interest in Island history (with special interests like Vineyard outhouses), and he eventually built an impressive collection of his own, anchored heavily upon the prodigious work of North Tisbury photographer Ed Lee Luce (1879-1950), which he found at the dump. Welch and Lair shared, analyzed, and gossiped over thousands of images; their collections overlap widely. Basil donated his collection to the Martha’s Vineyard Museum shortly before his death; most of it can be found today digitized beautifully on digitalcommonwealth.org.
Since 2014, I’ve written about hundreds of my grandfather’s photos in this column, but for every photo I can write about, there are a dozen others I can’t. My grandfather scribbled notes on the back of some of them, but there are thousands of unidentified shots. Shortly before his death in 1987, he bought a personal computer to catalog his collection, but ultimately he found DOS commands too daunting for an 84-year-old with an 11th grade education. The collection remains mostly uncataloged and unidentified.
Here are eight intriguing but unidentified photos from Stan Lair’s “West Tisbury/North Tisbury/Lambert’s Cove” album. All are likely from the early 20th century; many are also in the Basil Welch collection, and some undoubtedly were shot by Ed Lee Luce.
Do you recognize a face, a house, or a landscape? Can you find a clue? Who are these people? Where were these places? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your tips and hunches!