A Library Mystery & The 7th Grade

Every Thursday, I meet with half of the seventh grade as part of the rotation of teachers under “Life Skills.” During my first session with seventh grade, we took on several collective inquiry activities to see what we were curious about. The group was split between “China” and “Spanish.” Given their interest in the world and world languages, I presented them with a mystery for our second session.


In the basement of the Sutton Room, we hold many library archives. Duplicates of old yearbooks, bound volumes of Time and Life magazines. Sets of old National Geographics. And, the books you see above. Inside, you’ll find newspaper clippings, postcards, letters, hotel brochures, and photographs from a world tour.

Whoever assembled these, I believe, traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia on several different occasions.

So, in my quest to get our seventh graders experience with primary documents and engaged in developing good questions about them, I set them on the task to carefully look through these collections for clues.

Seventh graders searching through primary documents from our archives.

Seventh graders searching through primary documents from our archives.

Here’s what we discovered:

*The dates of the albums seem to range from 1926 to 1938. In one of the albums, there is specific reference to a trip that occurred in the summer of 1930.

*Two women named Laura and Beth traveled together for part of the trip, as there is a photograph of Beth taken by Laura placed in one of the albums.

*At some point, we think Laura departed from Beth, as there are some postcards addressed to Elizabeth Laughton in Paris. We assume this is the same Beth that Laura traveled with.

*Some postcards were sent from someone named Millicient Pull.

*We know the pictures were developed by a man in Los Angeles named F.J. Cosner.

*Many postcards were sent to San Francisco.

*There is reference to the Cahall family.

We left the session with several notecards full of clues and questions regarding the journey (and why these documents might be in our library archives).

In my next (and final) session with this half of seventh grade, we’ll think of ways we might discover more information surrounding the names and places mentioned in these documents, and we’ll start to pursue some concrete answers, as well.

If you have any leads on how we might solve this mystery, do let us know!

One thought on “A Library Mystery & The 7th Grade

  1. David Hanson says:

    Hi, F.J. Cosner was a photographer from Los Angeles,California. His studio in the 1940’s was located at 3298 Descanso Drive. Phone: Morningside 13533. He was an official photographer at Harness/Pacer Horse Races at Ponoma race track among others?

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