Local History and Genealogy

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A Character from 1940s Kalamazoo

Unlike many of our unidentified photos, this amazing image came with just about everything short of a name. The man in the photo has a weathered face full of character, and at first glance it looks like he should be out in the old west. A closer look reveals that he is holding a puppy. The information on the back of the photo identifies him as a former schoolteacher and a “hermit [who] lived on KL Ave.” The photographer, Chester B. Robinson, apparently captured the image around 1942. Can you give this man a name?

Help us! Our local history photograph collection is a wonderful resource, but unfortunately not every photo comes to us with full details of the place, people, or date associated with it. For that reason, we are enlisting your help. Watch our local history blog posts in the coming weeks for photographs that we could use a little assistance with. We’ll tell you what we know and you can respond if you have any ideas. But even if you don’t, be sure to take a minute to enjoy some of our interesting old photos. 

View all photos in this “unidentified” series.  



Unidentified man 
Beth T


And the answer is…James H. McLaughlin Sr. Many thanks to William VanMaaren for providing this information! As a child, Mr. VanMaaren was a neighbor of James McLaughlin and delivered milk to him every day. Our information was largely correct – according to an article that appeared in the Kalamazoo Gazette when he died in 1950, McLaughlin had been a teacher and lived in a “one-room shanty.” He was also considered a politician, served as school inspector in Oshtemo and Texas townships, was a member of the county board of school examiners and was repeatedly a candidate for state representative and county commissioner of schools. As to the puppy in the photo, we may even have an answer for that. Mr. VanMaaren remembered that McLaughlin had a dog named Bruno that he was quite attached to. Judging from the date of the photo and the time period that Mr. VanMaaren was acquainted with McLaughlin, Bruno could definitely be the dog in the photo.
Excellent - mystery solved. Very cool!