Friday, October 22, 2010

Three Sisters

These girls are my mother, Audrey Meinzen, and her sisters.

My mother, Audrey, was born in June, 1915.
Her sister, Geraldine, was born in November, 1918.
The blonde sister was born in July, 1921.

There are 3 1/2 years between Audrey and Geraldine and 6 years between Audrey and her blonde sister.

Somehow, as I look at these sisters, the ages don't fit the sizes. How old were they in this photo? Either my mom was mature for her age or her sisters were young for their ages. If the blonde sister was 6 then my mother was 12. Don't you think she looks older than 12? And don't you think the blonde sister looks younger than 6? Do you have a guess at their ages or the year this might have been taken?

My mom's mother, Emma Bickerstaff Meinzen, grew up in a family where studio portraits were taken on a regular basis, perhaps once every year or two. I think she carried on the tradition as much as she was able with her own children. One of the early photographs of my mother, taken when she was about 6 months old, is framed in a large oval, perhaps 16" x 24". I occasionally wonder how my grandmother managed to afford what seems to me such an extravagance. And I wonder where she hung it and how long it was there.

I try to imagine my grandmother as a young mother, getting 3 girls ready to have their portraits taken. Their shoes are mirror-shiney and their dresses are ironed and creaseless. It must have been a big event to go be photographed. They probably travelled by car from Mineral Ridge to the studio of "Alfonsi, Photographist" in Niles, Ohio. My grandfather would have driven because my grandmother never had a driver's license. Were the girls excited and giggly in the back seat or quiet and pensive? Did their mother caution them to be very, very careful to keep their dresses smooth and unwrinkled?

When the above portrait was taken the girls also sat for individual photographs. When developed they measured a long and thin 3 7/8" x 9 5/8". I had a copy of my mother's but only recently learned that all the girls were photographed separately. My cousin loaned me some family photos and I found one of her mother, Geraldine, in the same size as the one of my mother. I suspect that the blonde sister or her family still has her photograph. At right are the two portraits, cropped because the lower third of the photographs were faded out by the photographer. I almost like them better than the group photo.

Confession time: The top photograph and the one of my mother are digital photographs of color photocopies. Years ago my mother loaned me the top photograph and the individual one of her. She wanted them back and I didn't have access to a scanner (if they were even common then) so I made color photocopies. They didn't scan very well so I decided to make digital photographs. They're not great but they're not too bad. The image of Geraldine was scanned from the original photograph.

If you'd like to look at other old photographs and read about them, I invite you to go to Sepia Saturday.


  1. By just looking at the photo, and before I read the entire article, I would of guessed the girls to be 6, 9, 12 or 5, 8, 11. The older one loos mature but it's obvious by her upper body development she's not much older than 12-13 or so.

  2. They are lovely photos, such good looking girls, but I am afraid I can't really help you with their ages. Girls at 12 can be tall and look quite grown up and she is sitting on a high chair or stool so that makes her look taller. The little one could be 6 but as I said, I really can't help you sorry.

  3. Loved those bobbed hairdos. My mother had the same.

  4. Wonderful photographs! Your description paints a clear picture. I can see the girls in the back of the car chatting away. Lovely post.

  5. They are all three so cute! Obviously you don't know the name of the blonde girl. I'm wondering if there's an interesting story there?

  6. PS..I live in Ohio! Just an hour southwest of Columbus! :)

  7. Betsy, the little blonde girl is my aunt and I know her but because she is still living I've decided not to use her name or other more specific identifiers. Truly, she's made lots of the information on my blog interesting because she shares some of her memories with me. Thanks for visiting.

  8. Hello Nancy, Even though you scanned these photos of your mother and her sisters, they are still wonderful and full of detail. How precious!! I love looking back on the past, not to stay there but to see how far we have come.

  9. those are great photos considering what you had to do to get them in this format. i love their haircuts!

  10. Hi Nancy, I like everything about the girls in the photos. I think it is wonderful that your grandparents took the time and spend the money to have their girls photographed. It was fine to have photos in elaborate frames displayed on walls. I think the age of the girls fits also. The glasses are IN again.

  11. Real lovely photos from the 20's. Love the clothes and bobs. Strange how fashion is. There was a time when we would have laughed at the they look great.

  12. I think the attire and the hair-styles have a good deal to do with the way they appear. I do feel your mother looks older than 12, but the dress and the close-cropped hair lend to that effect.

    Still, it's great to have the pictures, no matter how old they actually were.


  13. I think your mother looks about 14 in the first photo and the blonde sister looks about 5. Great that you have copies of these photos!

    The round glasses sort of remind me of ones my sister wore when she was younger!

  14. I am really impressed with the pose of the three sisters. It is a classic setting for a painting pose. I at first thought it was a painting. I like the glasses.

  15. i say 14!!! with a sudden burst of hormones...


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