Saturday, June 7, 2014

Elvira and Her Sisters - Sepia Saturday

Even though it's not perfect there are several reasons I love this photograph of my great-grandmother, Elvira (Bartley) Gerner, the lady on the right.

I love seeing Elvira and her sisters  standing in front of the porch of the home where they grew up, the home of their father, Dixon Bartley, and that it was still standing and in good repair decades later.  In the top photo you can see the balusters on the upper porch and the brackets on the lower porch just as they were in the 1909 photograph at right.  The awning and little railing on the side porch are still there though the decorative touches seem to have been removed.

I love the dresses Elvira and Lavina are wearing.  They are classic shirt-waist dresses.  It's possible that the dresses were not at all comfortable to wear (though certainly more comfortable than the corsets of their youth!), but they remind me of the grandmother I grew up with who wore similar dresses 25 years later.  Those dresses speak to me of comfort and love  When I think about a person's clothing I sometimes imagine the things the person did while wearing it -- baking pies or paring potatoes, walking to the mail box, reading the newspaper.  I imagine catching a whiff of fragrance from the cologne she wore or the powder she dusted on her face and neck.  After someone wear's a dress or other piece of clothing for a while, it seems to me that it just becomes a part of that person:  holding the clothing is almost like being beside the person, sensing them near.

I love just having a photograph of Elvira with her sisters.  Arabella is on the left, Lavina in the center.  I believe this is the first photograph of Elvira that I ever saw.  I was surprised.  It was like the first time you finally meet someone you've heard about or read about but never seen.  I didn't have all that much information about her but I knew she was a strong, independent woman.  And here she was a small, elderly woman.  I don't have an exact date for this photo but it was probably taken in the late 1930s.  Elvira would have been 80 in 1934.  It was not long after this photograph that Elvira began the slow decline into senility.  She lived until 1943.

I'm linking this post to Sepia Saturday 231.  This week participants are sharing old photographs and new reflections.

--Nancy.

© 2014 Copyright by Nancy Messier

24 comments:

  1. Snapshots like these always reveal more about our ancestors' character than the formal studio photographs of earlier times. I counted 60 people or so in the second photo. That kind of crowd would have made for a pretty big picnic or Sunday dinner. Was it a special occasion?

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  2. I don't know the occasion for the second photograph. The activities look too casual for a formal affair like a wedding or funeral. It could have been a family reunion. Elvira was one of at least 9 children and she had 16 children herself, all youth by the time this photo was taken in 1909. I wish I had a clearer copy and details. When the original owner of the home and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary there were 250 in attendance! Maybe the whole family just went in for big parties, picnics, and celebrations.

    Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, Mike. I appreciate it.

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  3. The second photo really intrigued me and I wondered where it was so I went googling and found more of your posts about this family. It is such a clever photo - so well posed - imagine getting all those children into place and sitting still. My flight of fancy made me think the young chap on the left was getting ready to mow the grass for some croquet or bowls - guess they didn't play cricket in that part of the world!

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    1. The house in the second photo still stands on Bruin Road, Bruin, Pennsylvania. You probably already saw a post or two I wrote about finding it.

      I think the photo is amazing and it intrigues me, too. I still can't decide where the photographer was standing, exactly (on the ground, on a ladder?) and what kind of camera lens he was using. And yes, I agree, it would have been hard to get all those little children to sit still; maybe the adults to be still, too, with kitchen duty to be taken care of. I don't think it was a flight of fancy: I believe the youth on the left is standing with a lawnmower, which seems odd at such a time. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, Genepenn.

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  4. That's what you call a casually posed photograph and so much more interesting than if everyone had been lined up together in a bunch. And what a delightful old house. That's so nice that it's still standing.

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    1. It IS casually posed and, I agree, La Nightingail, way more interesting. Imagine trying to keep all those children in place and still in preparation for the photo and during the time it was being taken. I only wish I had a good copy of the original.

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  5. Two fascinating photographs that told such a story, and your love for Elvira shone through your writing. .

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  6. I know you've featured the photo of the house before, but I LOVE that photo. If that house had been my ancestor's home, I could imagine all sorts of wonderful memories being made there. It just looks like the kind of place you want to go back to. I agree with you about how people's clothes become them. We held onto my grandmother's Sunday coat and mink hat for quite awhile, probably because it felt like she was still with us.

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    1. I try not to over use photos, Wendy, but I thought it was fun to see the closeup and use the older photo as reference. I do still want to visit the house but I haven't yet contacted the owners. It's hard to believe it was about a year ago that I found it. My brother and his wife and I talked about visiting, then time went by. I really should contact the owner....

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  7. Excellent story about Elvira! What a fabulous group around such a lovely house, and the other photo of them standing there is very nice too.

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  8. I love the old photo with all the people.

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  9. What a great gathering in the second photo. Looks like someone yelled "now spread out".

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    1. Oh, true, I hadn't thought about that, but you're right, it does. I wonder which of the adults would have said it - or maybe it was the photographer. Thanks for visiting, luvlinens.

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  10. The house looks so full of people, of history, of memories. Two wonderful old photos.

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    1. It does, doesn't it? Thanks, Alan.

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  11. Elvira, Lavina, Arabella - all such fanciful names!
    I love the second shot of the house with everyone standing randomly about the yard!

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    1. Yes, the names are very uncommon to our modern ears. The second photo is my favorite, too.

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  12. That second photograph is fantastic! Whatever the occasion, it must have been a wonderful family gathering. You should show it to the current owners when you eventually get to organise a visit.

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    1. I thought that when I write to the house's current owners to see if we can arrange a visit and tour of the house that I should send it to them. It might help persuade them that I'm not a crazy person just wanting to see the inside of the house! I wish I had more details about the date and event of that second photo.

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  13. Two wonderful photos you’ve shared. I know exactly what you mean about the clothes conveying the warmth and chacter of the wearers. I remember my grandmother wearing a dress like that in the 1960s.

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    1. Thanks, Nell. When I think of it, it's amazing how long those shirt-waist dresses were popular -- several decades, at least.

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I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.