Spring Street revisited


Photograph by Munsey Studios, winter 1900

Here’s another detail from the photo I wrote about yesterday. These people are on the sidewalk just to the left of the fellow sitting in the wagon.

Here’s a closer look at the people on the sidewalk. It’s easy to make out the man’s watch chain. The young boy seems to have something pinned to his shirt and the woman appears to be looking directly at the photographer.


What caught my eye were the signs, "Furnished Rooms," "Cut-Rate Cigar" and my favorite: "Platform Psychic, Independent [Illegible] and Trumpet Medium." I’m going to have to research trumpet mediums and see what they were. Hm. A Times editorial from April 18, 1902, refers to an "independent typewriter and trumpet medium." I wonder if it’s something like "independent writer." The Times editorial writers don’t seem to think much of the paranormal.


About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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4 Responses to Spring Street revisited

  1. Carol Gwenn says:

    I think that a “trumpet medium” refers to the practice of what today would be referred to as “channeling” messages from the other side by means of trumpets & tambourines “floating” above the participants in a seance,
    a fraud perpetrated with varying degrees of sophistication by all those mystics & spiritualists.
    An “independent typewriter” would be known today as a secretarial service.
    Not trying to be a know-it-all, but I do a LOT of reading & research.
    Your blog is one of the high points of my morning – can’t wait to see what’s old that’s new again!


  2. jaded says:

    it looks to me like the illegible word is “voices”–Independent Voices, which I guess to mean spirit voices coming in separate from the medium’s. Also, I think a trumpet medium refers to an actual trumpet, perhaps used literally as an instrument of communication. Isn’t there a floating trumpet around the psychic in the glass ball in the Haunted House at Disneyland (sorry, Disneyland is the extent of my medium experiences)?


  3. Arye Michael BenderA says:

    At the end of the Gilded Age, Spiritualism was all the rage.
    Mediums used an assortment of props and tricks, including floating trumpets, in their once popular trade.
    Harry Houdini crusaded to expose these fakes when his friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was continually hoodwinked. Houdini, who knew all the gaffs, couldn’t understand why the creator of Sherlock Holmes abandoned Holmsian logic for such hokum.
    The friendship between the cocky, little vaudevillian and the knighted author was amazing in itself.
    Definitely fodder for a great screenplay.


  4. Todd Mecklem says:

    I enhanced the image and came up with “Voices” as the mystery word as well, and found the following quote from the book The Story of Psychic Science by Hereward Carrington, published 1930:
    “…the so-called “independent voices” often heard at trumpet séances[…]”
    Source of quote:


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