Monday, February 3, 2014

52 Ancestors: #5 ~ The F. E. Webster Dental and Photo Boats

Among the many photos that my maternal grandfather, Debs Warren Webster, owned was this fascinating picture of the F. E. Webster Dental and Photo Boats.

Webster Dental & Photo Boats 1896-1902 at Lake Charles, Louisiana

This photo is on some kind of thick cardboard paper. As you can see, someone wrote on it. The writing on the top is in Portuguese. According to my mom, who speaks Portuguese, the basic translation is as follows –
"A  French family built this. With imitation steam, but a horse makes the wheel in the back move in order to navigate the boat."
Well, that's interesting! It sounds like the third boat in this photo, the larger one on the far left with people standing on the top deck, is an imitation steam paddlewheel boat that was actually drawn by a horse on the shore. Although, I can't imagine that only one horse would have pulled this boat.

I'm glad whoever wrote on this photo decided to include the location and dates. It looks like these boats were docked at Lake Charles, Louisiana. And it's dated 1896 – 1902.

F. E. Webster was my maternal great-grandfather, Frederick Emory Webster, also known as "The Traveling Dentist" here on my blog. My regular readers have likely heard of him before. He was born on 14 February 1864 in Coolville, Athens, Ohio. He was the third of six children born to Ebenezer Perry Carlisle Webster and Cynthia Maria Waterman. If you read last week's 52 Ancestors post, you may remember Ebenezer Perry Carlisle Webster's photo album that I shared here on my blog.

Frederick was actually named Watson Emory Webster at birth, but later changed his name to Frederick Emory Webster. I've written a post theorizing about why he changed his name. You can read about that HERE.

Watson (Frederick) Emory Webster

Frederick graduated from the Western Dental College on April 2, 1896. Frederick's Doctor of Dental Surgery Diploma was found inside a metal tube tucked inside one of my grandfather Debs Webster's suitcases. I shared this exciting find on my blog. If you'd like to take a look at this amazing document, click HERE.

Frederick was also an inventor! Yep! That's right! He received a patent and everything. He made improvements to a dental handpiece. I shared a copy of his patent here on my blog too. If you'd like to see it, click HERE.

Frederick was an interesting person. He certainly traveled quite a bit during his life. That's why I refer to him as "The Traveling Dentist" here on my blog. He married my great-grandmother, Esther Matus Villatoro, in Mexico.  This is a picture of Frederick and Esther with their two oldest children, Carlota and Edna.

Fred and Esther Webster with Carlota and Edna Webster

Sometime after the birth of their first child, Carlota, who was born in 1910, Frederick and Esther and their daughter moved to Brazil. Frederick and Esther continued to travel after moving to Brazil, including trips to the United States and Mexico.

I've been able to trace many of Frederick and Esther's travels through documents and photos.

I'm grateful that the photo of Frederick's dental and photo boats included information about where and when they were docked.

I thought it would be interesting to crop and enlarge Frederick's dental and photo boats so we could get a closer view of them.

In this close-up of the F. E. Webster Dental Boat, I think I found Frederick. See those three men standing there under the dental boat sign? I think Frederick is the one on the far left. I don't know who all of the women and children are in this photo.

Webster Dental & Photo Boats 1896-1902 at Lake Charles, Louisiana

And here we have the F. E. Webster Photo Boat. I think it's awesome that Frederick was also a photographer.

Webster Dental & Photo Boats 1896-1902 at Lake Charles, Louisiana

Of course I have some questions.

  • How long did Frederick have his dental and photo boats?
  • How did he acquire them?
  • Where did he travel in these boats?
  • Did he have a large clientele for his dental practice and photography studio?
  • Did he advertise his floating dental practice and photo studio?
  • Did the dental boat rock at all while dental work was being done? (Scary thought, right?) 
  • Who took the photo of these dental and photo boats?

I'm very grateful to my grandfather, Debs Webster, for keeping this photo, as well as all of the other family photos he kept for his descendants to enjoy.

Thanks for stopping by!


© 2014 Copyright by Jana Last, All Rights Reserved


  1. Jana, don't you love modern technology that lets us scan then enlarge photos so we can see so many details. Without having scanned the photo you probably wouldn't have been able to tell that the man on the left was your Debs! I continue to be amazed at all the photos and papers you have for your family. It's wonderful.

    1. Hi Nancy,

      Oh yes! I do love that I can scan and enlarge these precious photos! If I wasn't able to do so, I'd probably be straining at the photo with a magnifying glass. And it is very cool to be able to pick out my great-grandfather, Frederick, in the photo. Of course, I don't have proof that it's him, but it does seem like that gentleman in the photo is Frederick.

      And I really am so grateful to my grandfather Debs for keeping all of these wonderful photos for our family to enjoy. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I agree. The man on the left must be Frederick, judging by that smooth head.

    When you think about it, a floating dental practice made a lot of sense. People didn't have regular 6-months checkups. People depended on rivers. Frederick could just float his business up and down, pulling teeth wherever he went.

    1. Good point about Frederick's floating dental practice Wendy! I was looking at some additional pictures of his dental boat that we have here and it looks like he was in several different locations in Louisiana. One was on the Mississippi River at Natchez and Vidalia, Louisiana.

      And yes, Frederick's bald head, or "smooth head" as you kindly put it is helpful in picking him out among those three gentleman on that boat. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. What wonderful photos to have, Jana! Not only do they show a piece of your family history, they portray a slice of American history, with amazing detail. And to think of Frederick going from Coolville to dental college to Louisiana to Brazil and beyond... he must have been a fascinating person to know!

    1. Hi Shelley,

      You are so right! These photos do give us a glimpse into American history as well. It's fascinating to think about the what life was like back then. Isn't history so cool?

      Frederick traveled so much that he wasn't easily traced in census records. In fact, the last census record that I know he appears in is the 1880 census. So, I'm very grateful for these photos and the documents relating to his travels that give me a clue to just where he was during his life. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. These photos are some great treasures for you and your family!

    Do you think that the blue mark just about the man you have identified as Frederick is actually a sort of caret to indicate that man is the F.E. Webster the mark roughly encompasses in the sign above him?? It seems to be something more than just a random smudge.

    1. Hmm. An interesting theory. Of course, I have no way to know for sure. I really wish I had asked my grandfather Debs (Frederick's son) about all of these photos when he was alive. But then, I never knew anything about these photos until after my grandfather passed away. What a shame! There are so many questions I wish I could ask now. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. That's a fantastic photo! I'd heard of photo cars on railroads, but never a photo boat - and certainly never a dental boat. It seems like you could write a book about your Traveling Dentist. Apparently he was a man of varied interests! :)

    1. Hi,

      Thank you! Yes, Great-Grandpa Frederick certainly was an interesting man. Thank you for your comments! =)

  6. Your photos are great! And I love the thought of a dental boat - the ultimate house call!

    1. Hi Debi,

      Thank you! I'm so grateful to my Grandpa Debs for saving these amazing photos! They really are family history treasures! Thanks for stopping by!




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...