Re-Viewing the Past: Wordless Wednesday

Stuck between some sheet music bearing my grandfather’s signature was a photograph.  A faded copy of a copy, it depicted a mid-19th century cane-carrying gentleman astride a large dapple gray horse.  Establishing provenance of the photograph is almost impossible, but the copy appears to have been among Donald Minor’s possessions, which were then stored by my mother, Marilyn Minor Strickland, and inherited by me.

When first discovered, I posited that this commanding figure was a Minor.(read my first post here)

Found among the sheet music of Donald Minor, this photograph bears no identification, of the rider or the photographer.  From the Marilyn Minor Strickland Collection, 2014.

Found among the sheet music of Donald Minor, this photograph bears no identification, of the rider or the photographer. From the Marilyn Minor Strickland Collection, 2014.

Since that summer day, I have been in communication with two Minor cousins, and was lucky enough to score a new photograph.  This time provenance is known. The original photograph of John Pearson (Pierson) Minor was taken by J. P. Shafer of Morgantown, West Virginia,  held by his son, Samuel, in Greene County, Pennsylvania, and then passed down through that family to my cousin, Ron.

Tin Type of John Pearson Minor, J. P. Shafer of Morgantown, West Virginia, photographer.

John Pearson Minor, J. P. Shafer of Morgantown, West Virginia, photographer; from the Ronald Minor Collection, 2014. 

The figure on the horse bears a striking resemblance to the man calmly sitting for his portrait.  My investigation into my mystery horseman will require additional knowledge of period clothing and hairstyles.  I also think the cane may hold a clue about his identity.  But I am stepping lightly toward identifying the rider as one John P. Minor, circa 1860.

Meet You Under The Tent

CHAUTAUQUA TENT WILL RISE TODAY

Performer with Red Path Chautauqua, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 1929

During the early decades of the twentieth century, the arrival of the big brown tent was the highlight of a town’s summer.  Under the canvas roof, large crowds would gather for a week’s worth of entertainment and education.  The Redpath Circuit Chautauqua was part vaudeville show, part educational lecture series, and at its height in the 1920s the performers and lecturers appeared in over 10,000 communities in 45 states.  Crowds, far from the cultural benefits of metropolitan areas, were thus able to hear Broadway hits, watch classic plays, and learn about the social and political ideas of the day.  For many Americans the Circuit Chautauqua was an important factor in molding the very character of the nation.

CHAUTAUQUA TO HAVE JUNIOR TOWN

Junior Town, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 1929, supervised by Kerma P. Bradford

Junior Town, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 1929, supervised by Kerma P. Bradford

The chautauqua wasn’t only for adults.  Thousands of children had their cultural horizons expanded through programming just for them, and for hundreds of young women, the job of supervising the children’s programs offered an opportunity to work and travel. One such lucky lady was my grandmother, Kerma Pauline Bradford.  In the summers of 1928 and 1929, Kerma left her hometown, Coshocton, Ohio, to set up Junior Town in a circuit that included Canton and Masillon, Ohio, and Greene County, Pennsylvania. In each community, Kerma met with the youngsters, ticket holders all, at nine o’clock the first day of chautauqua.

Kerma Bradford, Junior Town supervisor, with Bill Slater, superintendent of Red Path Chautauqua, 1929

Kerma Bradford, Junior Town supervisor, with Bill Slater, superintendent of Red Path Chautauqua, 1929

From among the assembled kids, ten boys and girls were elected to the Junior Town Council, which was then charged with assisting Miss Bradford.  Every day the Junior Chautauqua would meet from nine until noon, to play games, listen to stories, take hikes, and, most importantly, prepare the week’s project–a minstrel show or pageant–which was performed during the last day, for the entire chautauqua. 

In 1929, Kerma Bradford traveled to Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, where she reported to the Big Brown Tent each morning from her room in the Wisecarver House.  Beyond her duties to Junior Town, Kerma had time for friendships, and time for romance. When the Junior Town supervisor returned to Coshocton that fall, she had many stories to recall to her kindergarten students, including the memory of a certain young man, future husband, Donald Minor.

Photographs from the Marilyn Minor Collection, archived with the author.

For more interesting chautauqua tidbits:

The Evening Repository (Canton), “Woman Directs Chatauqua Event,” August 12, 1928. http://www.genealogybank.com (accessed January 12, 2014).

The Evening Repository (Canton), “Chautauqua To Have Junior Town,” July 31, 1928.  http://www.genealogybank.com (accessed January 12, 2014).

Canning Charlotte, The Most American Thing in America: Circuit Chautauqua as Performance.  University of Iowa Press: Iowa City. 2005.

The Redpath Chautauqua Collection, University of Iowa digital collection: http://www.sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/traveling-culture/inventory/msc150.html.

Aunt Alice’s Festive Table

The year was 1934, and though a great depression set boundaries on aspirations and dreams, folks still found occasion to bring out the good dishes and light the candelabras.

Marilyn pauses Aunt Alice Stansbury was celebrating, as was her niece, Katie Bradford.  Little Marilyn was coming! The toddler, Katie’s only grandchild, arrived midday at Alice’s home in Coshocton, Ohio.  After the long car ride from Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, the adults lingered in the back yard, soaking up the spring sun.  Marilyn busied herself in the grass, sharing her pickings with her Grammy Bradford, Grandmother Minor, Aunt Alice, and Coshocton friend, Earnest Bachert.  Young Uncle Carlos Bradford hung back, laughing at the scene.

Eventually, the party moved indoors, where Aunt Alice could keep tabs on the simmering pots and roasting meats.  Donald and Kerma Bradford Minor coaxed their little botanist to wash up, preparing to take her place as honored guest at Aunt Alice’s festive table.

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Story by Story

“Do you have any photographs of you, as a kid?”

“Oh, you’d be surprised by what I have,” said my mother.

Indeed.

I inherited fourteen assorted boxes and two trunks of photographs, documents, and special items at my mother’s death.  As I unpacked each one, layer by layer, and recorded its contents, I was swept by regrets and wistful desires.  So many stories, seen too late! Why didn’t she share her doll cradle?  Or show me her baby books?  What tales did she learn on her Aunt Anna’s lap?

I have finally completed this preliminary inventory, and have begun brainstorming a list of archival supplies that I will need to conserve this collection.  And I have shed the regrets for stories lost.  I have enough ingenuity and curiosity to play family detective, as well as, family curator.

First up, the cradle.  Wait and see what I do with that eight inch wicker cradle, Mother.  Its story will be discovered, bit by bit.  The Minor family history will get told, story by story. Image

Mystery on a Horse

Image

Mystery on a Horse

Dapple Gray with Unknown Rider
This photograph was found between pieces of sheet music, collected by my grandfather, Donald C. Minor, in the first half of the 20th century. It appears to be a poor copy of either a Carte De Visite or an early Cabinet card. The hat, sideburns and shirt will likely provide clues for dating. At this point, however, I am only able to surmise that this portrait is of a Minor, proudly showing off a favorite horse.