The goal is to establish the date of this photographObverse (Image of a woman riding a horse sidesaddle) - lots of context here, but the goal is the date. The reverse of the photograph Reverse bears an address: "194 Riverside Drive, NY 25")

Preliminary Research

We1 have done reverse image search on google and we own a very large library of similar images that we've already searched.

The address is this building. The address is an apartment building, so property records are going to be difficult to research, and relatively lower in reliability. (If it were a privately owned dwelling we could consult property records; apartment buildings are not required to keep records, the records tend to involve less details and are less likely to be available to the public.) At @DCook's suggestion we reviewed the 1940 census for that address; there was only one person living in the building whose name began with a P (or a J) Unfortunately 1940 appears to be the last census available.

The woman is in costume and the costume is reminiscent of the 1920's, but the tack indicates that image cannot be prior to 1947. The strap hanging off the back side of the saddle should be attached to a balance girth; the fact that it isn't indicates that the tack (and the image) is post-war. (Trust her on this, she is an expert).

We're going to use the leyshon.pdf resources to analyze the print technology next. (Second hat tip to @DCook)

Preliminary research out of the way, on to the original question.

Does the "25" provide a clue to the date of the photograph?

  • Was there a time when a 2 digit abbreviation of postal codes was common? Based on some excellent contributions from @michaelHardy backed by Wikipedia two digit postal codes date from approximately 1943.
  • @TomAu points out that NYC was large enough that postal zones did not fit neatly into the zip code; is there any way that this fact could help to identify the date?
    • When did the implementation of five digit zip codes in NYC become common? According to Wikipedia they were mandatory in 1967, but were they common in NYC before that? (that would represent the upper bound to the date)

Several people have pointed out that zip codes started in 1963, but relied on postal zones that were common prior to that. At some point there was a push for five digit zip codes. Just as an example, if we could establish that the push for five digit zip codes started in 1963 and was finished by 1970, then the photograph is probably prior to 1970.

If on the other hand, NYC postal zones were always 3 digits, then we have a curious anomaly that may help us to further date the photograph.

Obviously the image was not shot at the address.

I will award a bounty if anyone were able to identify Professor Praner (?) is.

1 My professional historian girlfriend and I. She is an internationally known and respected expert on both sidesaddle and on the type of images we're discussing - her expertise on these images is based in part on her personal catalog of several thousand images. She teaches both sidesaddle and the history of sidesaddle. She has been invited to present at multiple venues on the topic and her most recent paper on the subject has been accepted for the Costume Society of America.

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    ZIP code 10025 is roughly the area south of Columbia University down to 92nd Street, west of Central Park, if that helps: unitedstateszipcodes.org/10025 Aug 6, 2017 at 16:41
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    This is not only true for New York, but for other large cities. Google, for example, "phila 43, pa" and you'll find plenty of examples of old documents listing addresses in the part of Philadelphia that is currently the zip code 19143. (Other numbers work too; I just happened to pick 43 because I used to live there and had some idea of the boundaries of the zip code.). Most of them date from the 1940s to 1960s. Aug 6, 2017 at 18:31
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    Why didn't you ask a new question instead of breaking all the current answers?
    – isanae
    Aug 7, 2017 at 2:26
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    I'll take a guess as the "Professor Prawer" (not Praner) part. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala was an award-winning novelist who worked as a screenwriter for the Merchant Ivory film production company in the UK from about 1963. The photo could be from a M.I. film. She married Cyrus S. H. Jhabvala who was head of the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi (the "professor"?) She became a naturalized US citizen in 1986 (and presumably had lived in the US before that date). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth_Prawer_Jhabvala. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchant_Ivory_Productions.
    – alephzero
    Aug 7, 2017 at 11:16
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    Not that this is probably too helpful, but I received a letter from someone who lived near there. He was pretty wealthy, an engineer with one valuable patent at least. So at least at one time, probably a very fancy building.EDIT: now that they have figured out -- amazingly! -- who the addressee was, the weird thing for me is that the guy I think lived near him (Eduard Lasker, chess master and author and German emigre) probably knew this guy. I know this doesn't blow anyone else away but I am sort amazed at this connection.)
    – Jeff
    Aug 8, 2017 at 5:20

3 Answers 3


ZIP codes were introduced in 1963, and ZIP is an acronym for "Zone Improvement Plan." ZIP codes were to be an improvement on "postal zones". Thus before ZIP codes existed one would write:

John Xmith
3001 Zarthan Avenue
Minneapolis 16, Minnesota

The number 16 was the zone number; this address was in postal zone 16 within the city of Minneapolis. This number followed the name of the city and preceded the name of the state, and was not used in small towns having only one post office.

When ZIP codes were introduced, in most cases the zone number became the last two digits of the ZIP code. Thus the address above became this:

John Xmith
3001 Zarthan Avenue
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55416

(If I'm not mistaken, in 1963, the Postmaster General was a member of the president's cabinet, heading the "Department of the Post Office". He was one of two cabinet members who headed the Department of Something but who were not called the Secretary of Something, but instead the Something(else) General. The other one still exists: the head of the Department of Justice is not called the Secretary of Justice, but the Attorney General.)


I remember those days myself, as a child, in the early 1960s, for Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, where I then lived. Long story short, people didn't "abbreviate" a five digit code to two digits. They expanded a two digit code to five. (It has since been expanded to nine.)

The (last) two digits first referred to the postal zone codes inside major cities.

Then they created the five digit code by adding three digits in front to provide more "granularity." Each digit subdivided a region into ten parts. For instance, the first digit subdivided the whole United States into ten parts, with an "0" in the first digit covering New England and New Jersey, while "9" refers to California and the west coast. The other eight digits divided the country into ten parts. New York state and Pennyslvania might be presented by a "1."

Each of these ten parts would then be subdivided into ten parts by the second digit. For instance, "10" in the first two digits might refer to Manhattan, while "11 in the first two digits referred to an "outer" boroughs such as Queens.

The third digit would subdivide the zones further, so "100" might refer to "downtown" Manhattan.

Finally, the last two digits referred to the existing postal zones in use within each city or suburban area. In most cases, the city and state , e.g. Minneapolis, MN would define the first three digits, and it was just a matter of finding the remaining two-digit zone within each city (or suburban or rural) area.

The "fly in the ointment" was that some cities, e.g. NYC, had more than one "third" digit, so the zones were not enough to be clearly identifiable in a situation where NYC could be represented by both "100" (e.g. Manhattan) and "101" (Brooklyn-Queens). So if you wrote "New York, New York 16, the letter could end up in either place (10016 or 10116). That's why, after a brief experiment with two digit zone numbers, people were taught to use the whole five digit zip code.

As another poster pointed out, the zip code started in 1963 when the five digit zip code replaced the two digit city zone. I still remember television commercials from the mid to late 1960s explaining the information presented above.

  • I was in suburban Pittsburgh at that time too. If NY had to switch from 2 digits to 3, then that would help to isolate the potential time period. Can you be more precise about that time boundary?
    – MCW
    Aug 6, 2017 at 20:54
  • @MarkC.Wallace: I didn't make myself clear.It wasn't a "time" thing, it was a space thing. That is, Pittsburgh was small enough so all the city zones had the first three digits, 152xy, but NYC was larger (in population), so you needed two or three three digit designations to cover Manhattan (100xy), Brooklyn-Queens (101xy), and (I believe) Bronx (102xy) in the same "city." Apparently Chicago had similar problems. Then the "rising" cities like LA and San Francisco. Which is why they switched to the five digit code. See also my expanded answer.
    – Tom Au
    Aug 6, 2017 at 21:12
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    The use of two-digit postal zone numbers began long before 1963; it was in 1963 that they were replaced by five-digit zip codes. Aug 7, 2017 at 0:22
  • @MichaelHardy: OK, fixed the last sentence. Thanks for your help.
    – Tom Au
    Aug 7, 2017 at 0:25
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    It would NOT be New York, New York, 16. It would be New York 16, New York. The postal zone number followed the name of the city and was followed by a comma and then the name of the state. And such zone numbers were not used in localities in which there was only one local post office. Aug 7, 2017 at 1:45

I think you are looking for Siegbert Salomon Prawer who was a professor.


His sister Ruth Prawer Jhabvala moved from India to Manhattan in 1975 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/culture-obituaries/film-obituaries/9970277/Ruth-Prawer-Jhabvala.html)

I hope it helps

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    An interesting hypothesis - Is there any evidence to support this hypothesis? His biography does not indicate that he ever lived in New York, or that he had any relation to the subject of the photograph.
    – MCW
    Aug 7, 2017 at 14:30
  • No proof but I was wondering if it had to do with Joshua Prower who was a noted Israeli Historian and had books published by New York publishers. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joshua_Prawer
    – DCook
    Aug 7, 2017 at 15:38
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    I was just going to post this, then noticed you beat me to it :). Siegbert Prawer was a visiting professor at City College, New York from 1956–1957. City College is about 2.5 miles from 194 Riverside Drive.
    – 1006a
    Aug 7, 2017 at 16:33
  • Remember that the photo does not need to have been taken in the same year as it was addressed/mailed. Someone (perhaps Ruth herself) could have been mailing an old photo of Ruth to her brother Siegbert. Also remember that some people love to use old camera equipment, and others like to make things look older than they really are.
    – JakeRobb
    Aug 7, 2017 at 19:38
  • I doubt that this is correct. This Professor clearly did not live in NY for an extended period time.
    – Strawberry
    Aug 8, 2017 at 8:47

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