Vintage photographs lead to vintage family. Folks that shared an historical context and proximity, whose connections of love and sorrow shaped decisions that are even now rippling through my time.
I love looking at these eyes, windows to my past, staring back into my present.
Thomas W Rogers of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania took this portrait of my great-grandfather’s birth family in the mid-1870s, when Robert Minor was about six years old. The faces of his parents bear distinctive features, which I make use of as I sleuth through other photographs.
Like now, when we turn to pages eight and nine of the Minor Family Album.
The photographs are mounted on heavy cardstock, with a metallic coating–silver or gold–on the beveled, scalloped edges, a product commonly used from 1880-the early 1890s. The two appear to be in their early sixties, suggesting a portrait sitting after 1888. The puffy fullness at the shoulder of Mary Jane’s dress narrows the timeframe to between 1889-1892.
I imagine Mary Jane and Marion starting their day with the usual farm chores, milking cows, gathering egges, lighting the stove and fixing breakfast. Instructions would be given to Robert and the farmhands for the rest of the day’s chores, before the couple changed into their best clothes. A horse was hitched up to the buggy and they drove out onto the “red dog” surface, heading up the hill of Ceylon Road, past the homes of siblings and children, nieces and nephews, on their seven mile trip to Carmichaels.
What was the occasion for the photographs? A sixtieth birthday acknowledged? Their fortieth wedding anniversary celebrated?
Whatever prompted the impulse, I am grateful that the studio appointment was kept, and that I have these eyes gazing from my past.