Tag Archives: Object Lessons

Boomerang photos

I grew up with few pictures from my mother’s side of the family. Her parents, Emory Morse and Lois Rhodes, had been near-neighbors as children in Wareham, Massachusetts. They divorced when my mother was eight. Mother had no further contact with her father until she was 40.

After my mother’s college graduation, her mother and step-father, a teacher working for the U.S. State Department, announced they had accepted a three-year-assignment in Ethiopia. Mother declined the opportunity to go with them. Instead, she accepted her first job as a clinical instructor and moved into a small apartment. Her family home in Maywood, New Jersey, was rented, with all contents of the house placed in a storage warehouse. Three months later, the warehouse burned – a total loss. Continue reading Boomerang photos

‘Lovely lady’

Many posts ago, I bemoaned the fact that I had (and have) many photographs of unknown people, animals, and landscapes. I have always been lucky enough to have all these albums and bins, even if I can’t put names to faces, or labels to albums. I’ve learned a little about how to date clothing and surroundings, hairstyles and hats, and poses and props.

So it was with smug satisfaction and great glee years before reality set in that I retrieved a negative from its tightly curled state. Knowing who it was, I had it developed, and a safety negative prepared. Continue reading ‘Lovely lady’

ICYMI: Another day at the beach

[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 9 June 2016.]

I am fortunate in having photographs of many of my relatives, and more fortunate still in that I can identify so many of them. Often the work has been done for me, as to names; sometimes my work is cut out for me in terms of fitting them into the family tree. I have photos of all four of my grandparents as children, in the early years of the twentieth century, so I’m also lucky that my great-grandparents (or other relatives) took the trouble to take them to a professional photographer to be recorded.

My paternal grandfather, Gilbert Livingston Steward (1898–1991), was photographed by Scheur of New York – I think! It is one of the photos in my paternal grandmother’s album, and I like to think it was a present from my great-grandmother[1] at the time of my grandparents’ engagement in 1927. The photo shows GLS at about the time he went off to St. George’s School in Rhode Island. Continue reading ICYMI: Another day at the beach

‘A very isolated family’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
By the end of May 1865, Regina Shober Gray’s son Reginald had been staying with his aunts for six months; his visit was meant to help the Shober sisters as they mourned their brother John. Mrs. Gray[1] took her youngest son with her to collect Regie Gray and visit with her sisters:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tuesday, 30 May 1865: We came here on Saturday, Morris and I, and are going home next Sat.y. Taking Regie, who is wonderfully grown & improved for his six months’ stay here with the beloved Aunties. I have but once heard him scrape his throat – at home it was incessant – and will be I fear again in our harsher air. This is a real summer day – and I am glad I decided to come on now, instead of three weeks later, as the girls think the warm weather has already pulled Regie down somewhat. I find my sisters looking pretty well – but it is very sad for them in their home without John – they do not get used to the loss, and now that Aunt Regina is gone they feel very desolate. Continue reading ‘A very isolated family’

Monhegan puzzle pieces

After my photo album puzzle was solved within what seemed like minutes of being posted (thank you, everyone!), I did some quick research: Monhegan records around 1900 contained none of my husband’s family names. Seems likely his ancestor was just another visitor to the island – a tourist who was also a talented photographer, or who appreciated the skills of a photographer who, like many artists, was drawn to the beauty of Monhegan. Still, the images in the little album drew me in. I wanted to know more about this island situated twelve nautical miles off the coast of Boothbay, Maine. Continue reading Monhegan puzzle pieces

Artistic imposture

Belva Kibler and Dorothy Dow by Carl Van Vechten.

The recent acquisition of a 1947 photograph of the mezzo-soprano Dorothy Dow playing Susan B. Anthony[1] made me think about how historic figures have been represented on stage and in film – and, thus, in the still photographs that capture moments in these productions. In most cases, inevitably, the production choices reflect the date of the production as much as the purported date of the action. This example, by Carl Van Vechten, tells us as much about Van Vechten as it does Susan B. Anthony. While the setting is presumably the stage set for a scene in the opera, the lighting and even the backdrop belong in the photographer’s own studio. Continue reading Artistic imposture

‘May sunshine ever stream’

My great-aunt Anna. Click on the images to expand them.

Among the family photos, letters, and other memorabilia that my mother passed on to me are a group of Valentine’s Day cards sent to my great-aunt, Anna E. Johnson (1896–1990), who received them from her classmates at Hopewell School in Scott County, Iowa, in the early 1900s. When she sent them to my mother she said that she was sending these among others in her collection because “I thought these were the lacy ones.” Indeed, my mother and I found them so special that they remain family treasures today. Continue reading ‘May sunshine ever stream’

Royal cartes de visite: Part Four

[This series on royal cartes de visite began here.]

At left: The wedding of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark, 1863. Standing: The Crown Princess of Prussia, Prince Louis of Hesse, the bridegroom, and Princess Helena. Seated or kneeling: Princess Louise, the Queen, Princess Beatrice, the bride (holding a photo of the late Prince Consort), and Prince Arthur.[1]

The daughters-in-law of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort entered a household in mourning; what Princess Alexandra found in 1863 Grand Duchess Marie encountered in 1874, and as late as 1882 the young Duchess of Albany knew it, too, although time had somewhat muffled the early excesses of the Queen’s grief. Continue reading Royal cartes de visite: Part Four

Two Olives

Courtesy of Findagrave

One way genealogies can get items incorrect is when there are two individuals of roughly the same age with the same name and who have other identifying relatives with the same name as well. In this example, it gets further muddled as their respective fathers died in the same year.

The focus of this research was Rhobe (or Rhoby) Sheldon (1790–1865) of Cranston, Rhode Island, wife of William Lippitt (1786–1872). Rhoby and William married at Cranston on 1 January 1809. Their marriage, like most for this time period, does not list the parents of either, only that they were both residents of Cranston. Rhoby and William had twelve children, and Rhoby died at Cranston 3 January 1865. Her death record stated that she was born in Cranston and was the daughter of Stephen Sheldon. Maybe that’s where I should have left this; after all, her parents were not the focus of the genealogy… Continue reading Two Olives

A photographic puzzle

Our house has lots of dusty boxes that came from the houses of deceased family members. There’s the box of stuff from my father’s bachelor brother, William “Bud” Buzzell, who served on an LST during World War II and who sold me my first car for a dollar. There are several boxes from my mother’s mother, Thelma Jane MacLean, about whose Telluride parents I have written before.

Not to be outdone by my family’s packrat tendencies, we also have boxes from my husband Scott’s Inglis, Milne, Munroe, and MacCuish ancestors. The Inglis family hailed from Galashiels, south of Edinburgh; the Milnes were from Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. The Munroes left Scotland to settle in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. We believe the MacCuishes emigrated from the island of North Uist in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides to Newfoundland. Continue reading A photographic puzzle