Bicycles in the family

As I’m gearing up for my big Wadena, MN, family history trip next week, I’ll be scaling back on my blog posts. I won’t be writing posts of any substantial length until after I return home in a little over two weeks, but I’ll do what I can to post updates from the road.

Speaking of road, today’s post is a thematic one. As I’ve been scanning my family history photo collection, I’ve come across a number of photos of people with their bicycles. I’d like to share them with you. I’ll present them in chronological order, from oldest to most recent.
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Clyde Askew, teamster for the lumberjacks

Among the photos I got from my grandmother earlier this month were two images of Clyde Askew and his uncle Samuel Askew at work in the lumber industry. Both images were taken in the winter of 1921, and both images were taken in Cass Lake, Minnesota, a thriving logging town in northern central Minnesota. A century ago, logging in Minnesota—especially in the wintertime—was an undertaking that was strikingly different from logging in more temperate climes. Continue reading

Mystery photo #2: Boy and girl with doll (part 1)

Another as-yet-unidentified photo I got from my grandmother’s house while helping my family get her old home ready for sale. This one is of two children and a doll. I’m not good with estimating ages, but I’d guess that the boy is somewhere around 3–5 years old, and the girl is 8–12 years old.  Let’s see if we can figure out who they are. Continue reading

The last family portrait of Wilfred and Hattie Askew

Updated 2013-08-03: Details of Hattie’s death and burial have been revised. Incorrect details have been left in, but stricken out, and revisions are highlighted in blue.

I received this photo from my grandmother, Harriet (Askew) Prettyman a few years back and it’s one of my favorite family photos.

I love the way the edge of the painted backdrop can be clearly seen on the left side of the photo, and that the bottom of the backdrop sits rumpled on the floor, visible in the gap between a child’s arm and his torso. The backless, single-armed chair upon which the father sits contributes only briefly to the verisimilitude of the family sitting casually in their living room. The sad potted plants that appear to have surrendered all dignity complete the scene. All of this stands in stark contrast to the proud, grounded, and solidly built family that is the subject of the photo.

Compositional details aside, this photo is tragic in many ways. It documents a family together for perhaps the last time. It speaks to the effects that death can have on a family. It also serves as an example of how the decisions we make about where to live and where to work can have large and unintended consequences. Continue reading

Hit the road, Clyde

Among the handful of photos my grandmother Harriet Prettyman gave me in August 2012 were these two curious images.  When I asked her about them, she said her father, Clyde Lawson Askew, was a hardworking man who did many different kinds of jobs.  One of his jobs, she said, was that of road builder, and these were pictures of a project he had worked on.  In fact, she said, she had been told that he’s pictured in both photos, somewhere among the faces. Continue reading