One hundred and twenty-four years ago Oliver E. Aultman welcomed a well dressed woman and her family to his newly opened third floor gallery in the West Building, the “finest (photography studio) of its size west of Chicago” according to the local papers. Trinidad, Colorado was a booming town in 1890, supporting the surrounding mining communities and business ventures. This family arrived in their finest clothes, the father and eldest son dressed in matching plaid three-piece suits, their patterned silk ties neatly knotted at their throats. The younger boy, not old enough for his own suit, wore his best pleated wool coat, with a complimentary bow tie. The two girls wore matching dresses, with ruffled shoulders and loose fitting bodices. The mother wore a dark dress, with a pleated bodice and ruffled shoulders, decorated with elaborate applique and a small locket. Her hair was swept back in a low bun, with short bangs and a bit of curl.
Oliver Aultman composed several shots of the family; the adults were placed in separate poses empty of props or backdrops, and the children were grouped on some bales of hay, casually placed in front of a subtle bamboo-patterned panel. After the shoot, the young photographer and the parents discussed the viewing of proofs; the glass negatives were placed in envelopes and labeled S.A. Stephens in pencil. Sometime later the final portraits were selected, copies made and distributed to friends and family, including the family of Francis Marion and Mary Jane Gwynn Minor, of Garards Fort, Pennsylvania. Who was S. A. Stephens? Is that the name of the father? Of the mother, the well dressed woman? Or is it the name of the person who contracted for the sitting? And how is S. A. Stephens and the well dressed family related to the Minors of Ceylon Lane, Garards Fort, Pennsylvania??
Accepting all hints and recommendations for further investigation!! Stay tuned…
Click on the images below to view these photographs more closely.