I was 6 or 7 when I first saw this photograph of my father, Lee Doyle. I didn't know anything about double exposures or playing with negatives. I also didn't know anything about my father's childhood.
I exclaimed, "But Dad's not a twin!"
Someone older than me said, "Yes, he is."
"No, he's not," I said. "If he's a twin how come I've never met his twin?"
"Just because you haven't met his twin doesn't mean he doesn't have one."
My dad, or possibly my mother, chimed in at that point and said that yes, indeed, Dad was a twin, but his twin was a sister and she had died when she was only a few days old.
My father's grandmother, Elvira (Bartley) Gerner, had twins, Alonzo and Alfonzo Gerner. They were born in July, 1874. They are identical and family members who knew them say it was impossible to tell them apart in photographs. Alfonzo and his brothers were the focus of a recent post. Alfonzo was 20 or 30 years older in that post than in this photograph.
I know it's common for mothers to dress twins in identical outfits. I think in the photo of these twins, they are dressed alike, but also dresssed like all the other sons in the family. I doubt Elvira concerned herself about making sure their clothes were the same especially considering that she had 14 other children to clothe. In this photograph I think they look similar but not identical -- except for the pose.
Elvira had twins, Alonzo and Alfonzo.
Elvira's daughter, Beulah, had twins, Lee and Leila.
And Lee's daughter, my sister, had twins. Of all of the twins on that side of the family, only one set is identical.
My sister was double-barreled when it came to having twins: there are twins on my mother's side, too. Mom's grandfather, Edward Jesse Bickerstaff, was a twin. He and his sister, Alice, were born in April, 1871. Alice died less than a month later.
These days both twins generally survive, but a hundred or more years ago it was more common that one would survive but not both. In the case of Alonzo and Alfonzo, it's amazing that both survived infancy, childhood, and lived to adulthood.
Do you have twins in your living family or among your ancestors?
About the photo of my father: How do you suppose it was made? Do you think it is a double exposure? How could he have positioned himself so perfectly?
You can find links to more old photos and thoughts about them at Sepia Saturday.