The Mystery of James Purdy, Gertrude Abercrombie, and unidentified man, circa 1945

wo black and white photos in silver frames side by side. In the left photo, two men side by side with a woman in front of them. The photograph only shows their heads/busts. The man on the left (unidentified) has his arms wrapped around the woman (Gertrude Abercrombie) and James Purdy, wearing a brimmed hat, stands beside him in the back. In the right photo, the same three people are side by side, all looking in different directions.
James Purdy, Gertrude Abercrombie, and unidentified man, circa 1945. Gertrude Abercrombie papers.

The Mystery:

Where: unknown

When: circa 1945

Who: Gertrude Abercrombie (woman), unidentified man (man with brimmed hat), and James Purdy (man with feathered cap)

What: Photos were taken from a photobooth, they have a Photomatic trademark on verso

Help us solve the mystery: Who is the unidentified man in both photos?

About the People Present:

Gertrude Abercrombie (1909-1977) was a Surrealist painter who lived and worked in Chicago. She was a prominent member of Chicago's Hyde Park arts community. She was called the "queen of bohemian artists," and was also particularly involved with the Chicago jazz scene, with jazz music influencing much of her creative work.

James Otis Purdy (1914-2009) was an American writer, poet, novelist, and playwright.  He moved to Chicago in 1935 to attend the University of Chicago and became close friends with Gertrude Abercrombie. She and her underground salon inspired many of his works.

How to Get In Touch:

If you have leads, clues, or ideas of who the unknown individuals may be , email us at Your email should include:

  1. Your first and last name
  2. Your organization, if applicable
  3. Your preferred mode of contact, should we need to reach you (e.g. email address or phone number)
  4. The photo name (for which you are identifying the unknown individual)
  5. The name of the individual you believe is the unidentifiable figure in the photo or any information you may have that could help us identify the individual
  6. Your level of certainty in the information you provided

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