The Indelible Effect of a Vintage Imprint

The Minor Family Album closes with nine children’s portraits, all of them, but one, local Green County kids photographed by Carmichaels (Pennsylvania) portrait expert, Thomas W. Rogers.

The exception is found in page twenty-three’s head shot of a young girl, taken by Iowan Silas T. Wiggins of Cedar Rapids, in the early eighteen nineties.

To distinguish his work from the other photographers of Linn County, Mr. Wiggins used ivory colored cardstock with rounded corners and gold beveled edges.  A thin brown line borders all four sides, just a hair away from the cabinet card edge, framing both the portrait and Silas Wiggins’ imprint.  That much embellishment was used by many photographers in the years between 1889-1894, however.

What sets this card apart is the imprint’s logo which, together with the text, describes Silas T. Wiggins in quite some detail.

Cabinet Card Imprint, Silas T. Wiggins, photographer, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1889-1994, Unidentified Girl, Minor Family Album, p. 23. Author's Collection

Cabinet Card Imprint, Silas T. Wiggins, photographer, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1889-1994, Unidentified Girl, Minor Family Album, p. 23. Author’s Collection.

Upon first examination, this artifact appeared to be a typical Victorian business card incorporated into a commissioned product;  S. T. Wiggins was the creator of the cabinet portrait, and could be found in a studio near the post office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  There is something about the coat of arms and the scrolled design that makes me pronounce this information with a flourish, a reaction that I have not had to any other cabinet card imprint. Questions bubbled up in quick succession…what are those groups of letters? that crown thingie? What is the meaning of the circle? What is inside the square?

page 23 blog center imprint

HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE

This Anglo-Norman phrase–Evil unto him who thinks evil of it–is the motto of the British chivalric Order of the Garter.  At some time in the past few hundred years, this order became associated with Freemasonry.  The words are printed on a garter, which encircles a shield on which are displayed a lion and a harp.  Atop this emblem sits a crown.  The medallion in the Wiggins’ imprint is filled with the symbolism of Freemasonry.  A biography of Silas Wiggins in the History of Linn County, Iowa* confirmed that the photographer had been a Mason, and served as Sir Knight Templar and in the Apollo Commandery.

Freemason membership was important to Silas Wiggins, and from a cursory look at the rest of the Brewer book it would appear that freemasonry was important to much of Linn County’s leadership.  Is it possible that Silas Wiggins included the masonic symbols in his professional imprint to advertise specifically to fellow freemasons?  Did that membership drive business into his studio? I suggest the answer is yes.  At least on one occasion.

The women with a masonic affiliation could join the Order of the Eastern Star, whose emblem was a richly decorated five pointed star.  Each point held a symbol representative of a Biblical queen and a virtue for which she was known.  For example, a scepter and crown represented Esther and the virtue of loyalty. A scepter and crown, like the one seen in this young girl’s necklace.  

I would speculate that this child is a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, and that her parents decided to have a fellow mason capture her image in his Cedar Rapids studio, near the post office, sometime between 1890 and 1892.  Just who she is and how she is related to Mary Jane Gwynne Minor is a story for another day…

Unidentified girl, Silas T. Wiggins, photographer, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1890-1892; Minor Family Album, p. 23: Author's Collection.

Unidentified girl, Silas T. Wiggins, photographer, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1890-1892; Minor Family Album, p. 23: Author’s Collection.

*Brewer, Luther A.  and Barthinius Wick. The History of Linn County, Iowa, Volume 2, p. 233. The Pioneer Publishing Company: Chicago. 1910.

On Court Avenue

The cabinet card is not quite as sturdy as one would expect from an established photographer like Benjamin E. Goldsberry, and his studio logo was stamped in haste across the bottom, leaving the green-inked words crookedly confirming the man’s location–Court Avenue in Bedford, the county seat of Taylor County, Iowa. Ben Goldsberry operated cameras like an artist and had a strong reputation in the region, training other aspiring photographers like Matthew G. Maxwell.

page 13 blogThe young couple wear clothes that are simple and traditional, probably made of worsted wool.  The woman’s bodice is plain with no inlays, embroidery or ruffles, and the buttons appear to be made of bone.  She dresses the outfit up with a starched undercollar and a beautiful oval broach at the throat.  Her hair is divided in three pieces; the bottom strands are pulled to the back and twisted into a bun, which is then wound with the two upper pieces for an 1880s finishing touch.  The man wears a jacket and vest made of matching plaid fabric, and a long flowing beard with trimmed sideburns and mustache–a style considered old-fashioned back east.  Mr. Goldsberry operated his Bedford studio from 1880-1890, and these internal clues suggest that the couple posed on Court Avenue between 1884-1889.

I have uncovered six Minor family members living in Iowa’s southcentral counties during the latter decades of the 19th century so far, and only one would fit the description above.

140627-164834John Pierson and Minnie B. Norton Keenan

John P. Keenan was born on a farm near Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, son of Hugh and Isabella Minor Keenan. An adventurous person, John left Greene County in 1875, and as an eighteen year old made his way to Taylor County, Iowa, where he herded other people’s cattle for a living.  He was an enterprising man known as a progressive farmer.  By 1881 John was acting as the legal agent for his Uncle Marion Minor, collecting “judgements” from other Greene County residents who had borrowed money to establish their Iowa roots.  During this same time period, John had made enough money to purchase his own farm in the neighboring Ringgold County. There he met, courted and married Minnie Norton in 1884.

By 1887 John and Minnie had the opportunity to purchase 300 acres of fine farming land south of Mormontown (Blockton), Jefferson Township, Taylor County.  Their lives were turned topsy-turvy when son Hugh was born the summer of 1887.  Unfortunately the following year was filled with grief, as they lost first Minnie’s father, Martin, and then their little boy.

Perhaps later that fall the young farmers headed to town, purchasing winter supplies, tying up financial matters, posting letters before the winter storms set in,  and stopping by Court Avenue to document their resilience for posterity.

page 13 blog

 

 

Taylor Is The New Greene

Plat Book Jesse MinorIn the mid to late 1800s entire branches of original Greene County, Pennsylvania families headed west.  Some may have stopped in Ohio or Missouri before finally heading west again–to the fertile lands of Iowa. Stephensons, Minors, Hartleys, and Keenans swept into the plains of Taylor County, along the south-central border with Missouri.  And many of these western pioneers were related to my great-great-grandfolk, Marion and Mary Jane Minor. The Minor Family Album, then, is more than a photograph storage container; it is the recording of our country’s western migration, and its impact on this extended family.

Page eleven, for instance, tells the story of Jesse Minor (1853-1926) and his wife, Olive Independence Sims (1860-1909).  Jesse grew up next door to Marion and Mary Jane, the son of Marion’s brother, Samuel.  The young farmer left the Minor-studded hills of Ceylon Road when he was just twenty-three, found a wife in Missouri, and settled on land just south of Mormontown (Blockton), Taylor County, Iowa. At the time of this portrait, Jesse and Olive were tightly integrated into the agrarian communities by faith, farming, and family.  Cousin John P. Keenan farmed acres just north of Jesse, and brother John P. Minor lived just to the south.  To the east, just over the Ringgold County line, lived Keenan’s sister, Hannah Hartley, and Minor cousin, John and Mary Stephenson.

Jesse is shown in this photo sitting in the only chair, a Victorian reference to his status as head of household, and his son, Joseph Carl “Jed”, is balanced on his dad’s crossed legs.  Olive sits primly to Jesse’s side, her hands folded in her lap.  Their tween daughter, Della May, stands beside her mother, her hand draped on her father’s chair. The group is well dressed, facing the camera with confident, happy eyes. Fourteen years after leaving southwestern Pennsylvania, little Jesse Minor has firmly established himself as a successful farmer, stock buyer, husband, father, and community member.   This image captured his contentment and pride more completely than any letter’s words, and was saved, ever a reminder that family ties endure, even if Taylor is the new Greene.

page 11 blog

 

 

UPDATED Strangers Cross My Path Again: The Minor Family Album

I am becoming a bit wary of this great-great-grandmother of mine, Mary Jane Minor. She does not appear to have had much of a design plan for this photograph album, for turning to pages six and seven, I am greeted by strangers once again.  Strangers from Iowa.

The man sports a full beard and moustache, and wears his plaid coat unbuttoned to show off the matching vest and watch chain.  He appears to be in his mid-late forties. The woman looks to be about ten years his junior and wears her hair parted in the middle with no bangs and severely swept back to the nape of her neck.  Her dress is made of a dark cloth, the tightly fitted bodice decorated with ornate embroidery trim on either side of the column of buttons and a bit of lace peeking out at the throat.  The puffed shoulders of her slim sleeves are my best hint that this photograph was taken sometime between 1888 and 1893, when women’s fashion dictated ever fuller leg of mutton sleeves.  Before 1888, the sleeve would have been sewn flat at the shoulder.

The photographer was Matthew G. Maxwell who first learned his trade while working for Mr. Goldsberry of Bedford,Taylor  County, Iowa. By the time of these portraits, Mr. Maxwell had an established studio in Mt. Ayr, in the neighboring county of Ringgold.

POSSIBILITIES ARE LIMITED

Neither of these two folks are Mary Jane’s children, all of whom can be accounted for back east. John P Minor (Jr.) was married with a child, and living right down the road from Mary Jane and Marion.  Sarah Minor Herrington was a widow, with a child, and living nearby.  Olfred had died in 1886, and his widow and children were being cared for locally by Mary Jane and Marion.  And Robert, my grandfather, was still living at the home farm on Ceylon Road with his parents.

Time to shake the family branches!

A few candidates fall out during the search for middle aged relatives living in or near Mt. Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa in the late 1880s.

  •  John Minor Stephenson was Mary Jane’s nephew, as his mother, Hannah,  was Marion Minor’s sister.  John had moved to a farm near the village of Maloy in Ringgold County with his wife, Mary Dulaney, in 1867.  In 1888, John would have been 54 and Mary would have been 44.  If Iowa fashion lagged trends, and the photographs were actually taken in the early 1890s, then John would have been in his late fifties and Mary in her late forties.
  • John P. Keenan was another nephew, son of Isabelle Minor Keenan.  John went to Taylor County, Iowa in the 1870s, and for several years herded cattle before purchasing land of his own in neighboring Ringgold County.  He married Minnie and eventually went back to Taylor County farming land close to the town of Blockton.  In the late 1880s John P. would have been in his early thirties, and his wife Minnie in her early twenties.
  • John Keenan’s sister was also in Taylor County, Iowa.  Hannah and her husband, John Milton Hartley relocated from Greene County, Pennsylvania to Iowa in 1874. The two raised their family on a Taylor County farm before starting a business in the town of Maloy, Ringgold County, Iowa. In 1888, Hannah would have been 35 years old and husband John would have been 48.
  • Two other Greene County boys had settled in Taylor County, Iowa by the late 1880s, Jesse and John P. Minor, sons of Marion’s brother–and next door neighbor–Samuel.  They and their wives held contiguous farms just south of the town of Blockton.  Jesse would have been in his late thirties and Olive in her late twenties.  John P. and Mary Ellen would have been in their late twenties.

Map. Taylor and Ringgold Counties, Iowa. Keenan, Minor, Stephenson

 

Let’s suppose at the time of the portrait session, the residences of all these Minor kids were within traveling distance of Matthew G. Maxwell’s studio in Mt. Ayr.  Jesse and John P. Minor were too young to be the gentleman shown.  Furthermore, I have comparison portraits of these guys which confirm that Mr. Page Seven is not a picture of them!

John Stevenson would have been much older than the man in this photograph.

John and Minnie Keenan would have been much younger than the two pictured here.

AT THIS TIME THEN 

The most likely identity of this couple–with what I know now–is Hannah Keenen Hartley and her husband John Milton.

I will have to keep an open mind as I continue this puzzle, matching up letters and documents with what clues I have in photographs.  But for the moment…I think have added one more stranger to my family tree.

Well, THAT sense of satisfaction was short-lived!!!

I followed up my blog post yesterday with another google search for the Hartleys, to expand my sense of their space, their era, their dreams.  And found this page on the Ringgold, Iowa GenWeb site:

 http://iagenweb.org/ringgold/history/maloy/hist_maloyCent_HartleyFam.html

Minor Relatives. Photo. 1890. Hartley, Hannah Keenan and John Milton

Dare to compare. Hannah Hartley appears to have a bigger frame and a broader nose than my Victorian lady.  And John Milton Hartley appears to be bald, whereas my dude is thinning at the temple.  I must return these faces to the stranger pile, to be hung on my family tree at some future date.

I’m a Big Brother! : Ivan Vannoy circa 1911

Image

 

Dear Cousin Donald,  You ought to come and see our little baby.  He is just fine.  we have not named him yet. Mabey (sic) you can send him a name.  How is "Great-Grandpa?  We are all fine.  Papa brought ma football from Chicago.  I wish I had a nice yard like you have to play in.  It has just poured down all day so Janet and I have been in the house all day, and it is raining hard this evening. When are you all coming to see us?  Mama said Helo (sic) to your Mama and wants to know how your papa is.  Lovingly your cousin.  Ivan Vannoy

Dear Cousin Donald, You ought to come and see our little baby. He is just fine. we have not named him yet. Mabey (sic) you can send him a name. How is “Great-Grandpa? We are all fine. Papa brought me football from Chicago. I wish I had a nice yard like you have to play in. It has just poured down all day so Janet and I have been in the house all day, and it is raining hard this evening. When are you all coming to see us? Mama said Helo (sic) to your Mama and wants to know how your papa is. Lovingly your cousin. Ivan Vannoy

In 1911, Donald Minor’s cousin, Bedie Harrington Vannoy, had her third child out in Iowa.  The little boy was eventually named Paul, and returned with siblings Ivan and Janet to visit their grandmother, Sarah Minor Harrington McClure, and their great-grandpa, Francis Marion Minor, with whom Donald lived while his father convalesced from migraines in health resorts like the Markleton Sanitorium.

The Tama, Iowa photographer, C. W. Wright, printed the photograph of this six-year-old on postcard stock, and the note accompanied other mail delivered to Ceylon Lane, Garard’s Fort, Pennsylvania.

*Photograph restored using PicMonkey: http://www.picmonkey.com/