Karl Ek At A Century Of Progress


I love his terribly serious expression and crooked tie.


This is a special item in my photobooth photo collection. It is always great to get a pic with an ornamental frame, even better if the frame is dated, as is this one. Making this photo even more special to me, is that it is accompanied by a detailed card that identifies the sitter, the event and the sitter’s status at the event.

On top of all that, I found inside the holder for the card, a fragment of newspaper (below) that tells us that chair-pushers had to pay for their own uniforms and that they were paid $0.30 per hour, being an average of $10 per week. Even in 1933 I would imagine that was not great pay. Given that Karl kept that bit of news, one could conclude that he was employed as a chair-pusher at the event.

The Century of Progress Exposition ran in Chicago for two seasons from 27 May, 1933 to 12 November, 1933 and from 26 May, 1934 to 31 October, 1934. Originally intended to showcase Chicago’s past, the exposition came to symbolize hope for Chicago’s and America’s future in the midst of the Great Depression. I imagine the job opportunities for young people this event offered, might have been one of the few prospects they had of getting employment during this difficult time.

Using my less than proficient search skills, I managed to find a US census record for 1940 that names a Chicago resident, Karl Ek, who was born in 1914. It could be the same Karl, as from the image he appears to be in his late teens or early 20s, fitting in well with the date of the photo. Interestingly the Karl named in the census had a sister named Winifred who was also born in 1914, making it possible that this Karl was a twin. The actual birth dates including the day and month were not listed in the report I found. If not a twin, one could imagine that he had a very fertile mother and an overly eager father. Or a very fertile father and an overly eager mother.


The card in its folder. It is embossed on the front with the title of the event. Unfortunately it wouldn’t scan well.


  1. Reminds me of a guy I went to college with. I just sent him this link to see if it is him (just a much later version. 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

      • Definitely not the actual man – we were in college in the mid/late 80s. BUT he does currently live in Chicago. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • I am struggling with working out exactly what he was employed to do. I think he may have been someone who pushed a wheeled-chair which would have carried one or two passengers. I am thinking they may have been similar to the type of chair that are used on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. That is my theory.

      I have one vintage real photo postcard of two tourists sitting in that type of chair. I haven’t blogged it yet, but you can see some images in the link below.



  2. Nice post, Katherine… that is a great find, complete with clipping. I’ll bet it was exciting to find him in the census. Your description of his parents is hilarious.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ted. I think you are the only one who noticed what I said about his parents! xx


  3. A very interesting find. Hope this job opportunity helped him and his family.


Please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: