Saturday, April 16, 2011

Photograph After a Family Argument?

Do you readers enjoy your own old family photographs as much as I enjoy mine even when they're not great photographs? This very poor image came to me as an 8-by-10 black and white photocopy. Who knows how large the original photograph was, perhaps 2 x 3 or maybe 4 x 5 inches. What you see is a scan of the photocopy.

Despite the lack of clarity in the image I think it has some redeeming qualities. Foremost for me is the expressions on the faces of some of the people in the photo.

Would you say there's been a little argument in the family? The man with the moustache is my great-grandfather, Henry Meinzen. His expression seems tolerant but not at peace. The woman behind and slightly to the left of him is my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen. With her hair pulled tightly back from her face she would probably look severe even with a smile, but there's no smile and her expression is positively sour. The younger man on the left in the front also seems to have a sour expression. And now look at the pouty face of the young woman on the back row, left.

What happened just before this photo was taken? There's not a person alive now who remembers that day, and as far as I know, no memory was recorded on paper to tell the story. But I suspect there was some kind of argument between the pouty-faced young woman, the man in front of her, and Gramma Elizabeth.

I've been puzzling over the identities of the people in this photo for several years now. By looking at some other old family photographs I was finally able to determine that the man on the left is Henry and Elizabeth's oldest son, Henry, born in 1870. I can only guess at the rest.... Perhaps the young woman behind him is his wife. I suspect that the others are Henry's and Elizabeth's younger children. They had 15, born between 1870 and 1899.

I discovered the photograph to the left in my grandmother's album. My aunt identified the women, from left to right (by faces), as Edna Hendricks Pugh; Naomi Meinzen Rhome; Lula Meinzen Sticker; Emma Bickerstaff Meinzen; Beatrice or Mildred Meinzen (daughter of the younger Henry Meinzen); Mina Meinzen Harris; and (probably) Nellie Hashman. Naomi, Lula, and Mina are Henry & Elizabeth's daughters; Emma is a daughter-in-law; and the others are granddaughters.

Looking at this photo, I was struck by the similarity of Beatrice/Mildred to the pouty-faced young woman in the first photo. Are they the same person or mother and daughter?

It's possible (but probably not likely) that a descendant of Henry (the younger) will come forward and identify the woman with the pout. I can only hope.... Maybe I'll be able to determine more approximate dates of both photographs based on the clothing, which may help me guess the individuals in the first photo. Until I can do that, I'll just enjoy what I know and imagine what I don't.

This is a Sepia Saturday post. If you enjoy looking at and reading about old photographs, go visit.


  1. Oh wow. That first photo is fantastic. I love when you can see real expressions, not posed studio ones.

    I definitely agree that the pouty-faced girl and Beatrice/Mildred are either the same person or mother/daughter. The resemblance is very strong.

  2. I'd say that the first photograph was taken around or shortly after the turn of the century, say c.1900-1905, and the second photo probably in the 1920s. As a result, I think it's very unlikely those two are the same person, do you?

  3. I totally agree with you. It is not the quality of the photographs which grabs hold of you, it is knowing that they are photographs of human beings at a point of time, and that allows the mind to wander all over the place. A gym for the emotions. Wonderful.

  4. I love old photographs. I especially enjoy looking at the clothing. I love the dresses in the photo of the ladies.

  5. I think they are the same person.

    And that top one is a truly wonderful example of a candid shot.

  6. These are great. We have a few of those Olin Mills photos like that at our house, where everybody doesn't look to thrilled.

    I sure did enjoy the dresses in the second one, and the arm drapped over a shoulder in such a casual manner.

    Thanks so much, I enjoyed your post.

    Kathy M.

  7. Well that 100% gathering of the Sour pusses made me smile. I don't think I've seen another photo where everyone looks so put upon. It's common to see straight faces, they took that look to a new level. Great post

  8. Actually, the young lady in the middle and the little girl in the lower right corner are grinning - seeing them amidst all the "frowners" makes me feel as though we are sharing a joke with them!

  9. maybe there had been some bad news, like, i don't know, a death, a broken engagement, something....

    who knows?!?


  10. Those expressions dominate the photo.

  11. YOu're lucky to be able to find out who so many of them were! :) I love all their clothes...

  12. I don't think "Smile for the camera" was an understood phrase in earlier times. I see more suspicion in the sour expressions. Perhaps a memory of the very old cameras which required a long exposure caused the serious faces. And then some people just never smile!

  13. I think maybe the people in the first photo are irritated with the photographer and with having to sit still and have their picture taken.

  14. Your first photo is one of the more interesting ones I've ever seen! Loved it.

  15. I too love the photo that shows how real life is. Though in my family photos they seems to always have sad or sour expressions in those days. If wasn't easy in parts of the country. It was hard to be happy for some. Great photo.

  16. Thank you all for your comments.

    I agree with Brett that the first photo was probably taken in the early 1900s. I think I could date it more exactly with some research such as I did in the post about Emma (

    I also agree with several of you commenters that the young lady in the upper left is probably not the same woman as in the lower photo considering that there are probably 25 years difference in the dates of the photos. I'll have to see if somewhere someone has a photograph of Henry the younger's wife so I can compare it with both photos. But certainly there is some resemblance.

    Yes, Greta, that little girl on the right certainly seems tickled about something. I can't help but wonder what. The young woman in the middle wears a semi-smile. I long for the story about this photo!

    Thank you all for visiting and commenting.

  17. I might *totally* be projecting here but I wonder if some of the children in that first photo may have been part of the whole uproar. The three of them at the left look distinctly gloomy to me.

    But this may just be because their expressions are almost an exact copy of a photo of myself and my brothers and sisters on a really, REALLY bad day. I'd post it, but they'd never speak to me again.

    And yes, the little girl at the right has a cat-that-ate-the-cream expression!


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