Back in the day, when I was several years younger, my weekends were book-ended by sports and church. In between these equally sacred southern traditions, I gathered with youth group buddies, in living rooms and back porches. We called ourselves the Sonrise Singers, and our tireless devotion to guitar strings and vocal harmonies led us into nursing homes and church sanctuaries where we shared our zany sense of the spiritual. We were one in the spirit.
My camera is three and a half pounds of image-capturing magic. Mary Jane Minor’s mouth would round in wonder at its 1295 frames. My great-great-grandma and I are alike in this regard–we collect faces, without identifying the occasion or relation or special qualities that make those eyes so admired, so treasured. Nonetheless, the portraits, now and then, are at an edge, where private lives meet public spaces, revealing a good bit about who we are, what technologies shape our present, what kinds of people add value to our days.
I can confidently put names to only a few faces. So what? This Victorian album is evidence of the sweeping movements of people and machines that transformed my ancestors’ communities in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. More than faces, these portraits are portals to history.
The Minor Family Album closes out with portraits of nine children, all taken between 1887-1894. I can identify, with confidence, only one face.
Framed by short bangs and soft, baby curls, the chubby toddler’s brown eyes flatly state that she will hold this position but a moment longer. This is Flossie, christened Florence McClure in 1889 by her parents, Owen and Sarah Minor McClure.
The puffed sleeve of the eighteen nineties makes an appearance in even this little one’s dress. Her bodice is embellished by a large lacy collar, and ribbon and bows adorn the bodice, sleeves, cuffs, and floor-length skirt. What a fabulous portrait!