by Marie Bowen
Editor’s Note: In the NCHS collection, photograph 1998.29.2 is one of our more popular. Three smiling men, holding bunches of grapes, and standing before an automobile circa the 1920s. The photo is captioned only “Dad Milde – left” and “Carl Milde, farm worker” but is part of a set of four photos that mention the name “Milde.” Researcher Marie Bowen has explored the man in this iconic photo.
Carl was born in Germany, March 22, 1876 (unsourced date), to Gottfried Milde and Elizabeth Woriskie. (His birth name may have been ‘Karltin Melda,’ but that could be a census enumeration error.) The family emigrated to the United States ca 1886 and settled in South Dakota, where Carl married Christine Neumiller ca 1900. They had four children, one of whom, Edward, later lived in Napa, as did Carl. While living in South Dakota, Carl worked both as mason and janitor.
After Carl and Christine divorced (ca 1921), he came west. He is found in Napa’s 1925 city directory, where he was an ‘agricultural worker,’ employed at Napa Fruit Company. He was still in Napa in 1930, perhaps unemployed, sharing his home at 2130 Seminary Street with son Edward and Edward’s wife, Mabel. Mabel’s name appears on the reverse of several of the NCHS ‘Milde’ photos. It seems logical she would refer to her father-in-law as ‘Dad Milde,’ and as no Carl Milde Jr. is found in either of these generations, I believe ‘Dad’ refers to Carl.
Carl moved on to San Francisco ca 1934, where he was a kitchen worker. Between 1936 and 1939, he was a laborer in several Bay Area locations. He died January 3, 1940, in San Francisco, and was buried in Lot 104, Tulocay Cemetery (see Findagrave Memorial 138666561).
I was not able to identify Judith James of Redlands, whose name appears on the reverse of two of the photos, although she may be the current Redlands realtor of that name. On one of the photos, she is Judith James Milde, so perhaps she was related to the Milde family by marriage at one point. She was not the wife of either of Carl’s sons.
Napa Fruit Company was incorporated in 1893 by Ralph M. Butler. A Napa Register article of May 28, 1893, described it as ‘the corporation of fruit men that own the drying establishment on Vallejo Street.’ In September 1925, one of the years Carl was employed at NFC, the corporation’s exhibit at the California State Fair won six blue ribbons for its dried fruits display (Imperial and French prunes and dried plums, peaches, Royal apricots, and pear)s. The best ‘dried fruit exhibit,’ comprising the countywide exhibit, won the sweepstakes silver cup, as it had in 1924. (Napa Register, September 18, 1925).
In 1927, NFC erected ‘a new Chapman dehydrator,’ promising to make the organization the ‘largest and best equipped dried fruit plant in Northern California.’ 75 employees were kept busy drying and processing pears and prunes, both from Napa and Vacaville, to be shipped under the brand name Clover Blossom. (Napa Register, August 23, 1927).
Carl Milde may have worked at NFC after 1925, but I found no record of that.