This post continues part 1, in which I investigated a photo I found in early August. I hadn’t originally intended this post to be a two-parter, but then I found a matching photo on my last trip down to my grandmother’s house in late August. This latest photo was clearly taken on the same day in the same studio, and this one has a date on the back.
This was the original photo I wrote about:
And here’s the new photo:
Anything look familiar? Same four women in the same outfits and hats, with the same accessories, jewelry, and hairstyles. Even the backdrop is the same. Besides the dimensions and the materials, there is one significant difference—the name of the photographer debossed into the backing card. In the first image, the name of the studio was given: “Smith & Wilkins, Park Rapids, Minn.” In the second image, the name of the photographer was given: “L. D. Smith, Park Rapids, Minn.”
According to the Minnesota Historical Society’s Directory of Minnesota Photographers, the Smith and Wilkins photo studio in Park Rapids, Minnesota, was in business only from 1904 to 1906. According to the same source, L. D. Smith was active in 1902 and from 1910 to 1914. If these dates are correct, then the photo was originally taken in either 1902 or 1904–1906, and then an additional print was made and mounted in 1904–1906 or 1910–1914. If the latter reprint dates are correct, then the second print might have been printed after (and perhaps occasioned by) the death of Hattie Eddy Askew in 1908–1910.
Like many of the photos I got from my grandmother, this one had been glued into place in a photo collage 30–40 years ago. The glue had become so brittle that it broken away from the backing on its own at some point in the past, leaving some areas of the backing card with surface damage.
On the back of the backing card was an inscription made with a ballpoint pen in a modern hand: “1898, HARRIET ASKEW, 2ND FROM L….” My initial guess was that it was written by Gordy Askew (my half great granduncle back in Wadena, MN), a long-time family historian who frequently sent my grandmother family photos. In a comparison of handwriting samples, however, I realized this was written in a very different hand. The hand is fairly modern, but it underlies and therefore predates the glue that had been applied to the backing card to adhere the card to the backing of the collage. I’m not a graphologist or a forensic handwriting analyst, but to me the writing seems to be that of an adult male, probably no earlier than the 1950s. As a result, I’d provisionally date the inscription to the 1950s through the 1980s. Please let me know if you recognize the handwriting! Otherwise, the identity of the inscriber will hopefully become clearer over time.
As to the content of the inscription, my first thought was that this was a best guess by someone in the last 30–60 years. On the other hand, 1898 is a rather specific date for an estimate. But if the photo truly were from 1898, Hattie would have been 23 years old, Mary would have been 22 years old, and the youngest of the women, Vennie Young Bradt (in the black dress), would have been only 13 years old. If she’s a 13 year old in these photos, she’s an extraordinarily mature 13 year old. I don’t feel I can rule out that possibility. What do you think—could Vennie be 13 in this photo?
To be continued…