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Another Era

While looking for something else, I dragged out an old photo album that my Mom gave to me. She actually gave one to my brother, as well, and she went to the trouble to take a lot of the *really old* family photos and get some of them color-photocopied on photo-paper for us, so that we would have them. This reminded me that I'd really like to make another copy of my favorite of those old photos, so that I could put it in a frame and put it up somewhere in my house. So I scanned it in at a high resolution, and that made me realize that I could share it with you.

So here are my maternal great-grandparents, Thomas McKeefery and Frances Dugan, in 1883, "at the beach":

(I think you can click on it for a larger version.) What I love about this picture, aside from its age, is the casualness of the setting and the poses and the clothing. Yeah, it's against a fakey painted backdrop rather than on the real beach. But I actually love that a lot too, because it makes me think about them saying on purpose that they want to go to some photo studio for a pic of the two of them in their bathing costumes. I love the way the top of his outfit matches her stripey stockings, which are AWESOME. And I love how I can look at them and see the familial resemblences -- my mother looks a little bit like her, and my mother's brother Leonard looked a little like him.

Plus, I just love having this beach-oriented photo of them, because he is the one who built the little shore-house (a shack, really) that my mother is living in today, down on Long Beach Island, back in 1911 when there were hardly any buildings on the island at all, but he worked for the railroad in Philadelphia, and the railroad had just laid track down to LBI and wanted to encourage people to go there for their vacations, so they sold land really cheap to their employees and helped them build.

They look like real people who had fun sometimes, and I love that.



( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 17th, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC)
That's really very cool. You're fortunate to have that and the history behind it. Make sure you write it down somewhere!

Having the painted backdrop is great. Often, they would have these actually available at a beach. It prevented blurry movements that would be in a real background.

I cannot even imagine having to wear that outfit in the water :-)
Oct. 18th, 2006 02:43 pm (UTC)
I can kind of imagine it. I think part of the key was that women at the time probably weren't doing a lot of very energetic swimming in the water anyway, or going very deep. More like paddling/wading and stuff.

I think you're right about the painted backdrop. I can certainly believe that this was taken when they were actually down at the shore. I have pictures of their daughter, my grandmother, actually *on* the beach with my grandfather and their siblings and friends -- but of course, that's a good 40 years later, probably. (She was a very late baby.)

My Mom actually did a fairly good job of documenting all of the oldest photos. I think she might have done it when one of her mother's siblings was still alive (because my grandmother died in '77, and I don't know if Mom had started documenting that early). Almost all of the really old photos have who's who carefully written on the back (sometimes, on the *front* :P ), and in the front of the album Mom put a typewritten page detailing all of the names and marriage dates and births and deaths and all. (So I know that Thomas's father was the one who emigrated from Ireland in 1866, for example; although we don't seem to have similar information for Frances's parents.)

I've always found family history really fascinating. Apparently so did my Mom, thank goodness. :) (We have some pics from Dad's side of the family, but far fewer that go back that far.)
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 18th, 2006 02:43 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it. :)
Oct. 17th, 2006 07:45 pm (UTC)
That is amazingly cool. I can't go any further back than my father on one side, and my maternal grandparents on the other. I only have pictures of them (my grandpa's parents) and a family story which may well be just folklore.

I kind of envy people who can actually trace their family back a fair old way. That's fab.
Oct. 18th, 2006 02:47 pm (UTC)
I've always found it really fascinating; apparently my Mom did too, because she saved a *lot* of those old family photos, and was pretty careful about trying to document them too.

Mom's second husband, Fred, was a semi-professional geneaologist in his retirement. And I have a cousin on my father's mother's side who did a geneaology of her branch of the family and actually took it back a really long way, which I found just fascinating to stare at. I love looking at the names and dates and thinking about how they're all real people with real stories, and wondering what those stories were. If I wasn't lazier, I'd probably try to do more with it myself. ;-)
Oct. 17th, 2006 08:08 pm (UTC)
My parents have a great picture like that of my great-grandparents, my grandmother, and her older brother, from probably around 1916 or so. They're clearly out to a picnic, in a park, there's a baby carriage (so maybe there was a third sibling around?) Great-grandparents are all stoic and unsmiling, looking at the camera. Gramma is about two or three, and is also looking at the camera, but she's wailing, obviously distressed. Next to her is her brother, slightly older, all "what? What did I do? I'm completely innocent and in no way just smacked my sister over the head with a stick (or whatever)."

I love it, because, yeah, it's so slice-of-life, despite the old clothes and so on. Lo, even when my grandmother was a baby, brothers picked on their little sisters.
Oct. 18th, 2006 02:53 pm (UTC)
:) Yeah, totally. I have some great pics like that of my Mom when she was very, very little. But also some other great photos of these two -- after they started having kids. Of which they had many, of course, being Irish-Catholics. There's this great studio one when they only had like 2 or 3 kids, in which they had Thomas's father (who was the immigrant from Ireland, in 1866), who's looking particularly old and decrepit and "...What? Where am I?", while Thomas, who's wearing this straw boater hat perched waaaay back on his head, has this kind of deer-in-the-headlights look himself. It's great.

I think that's what fascinates me about some of these so much. There's the old clothes and all (oh man, the thing my grandmother wore on her head for her wedding... I'm going to have to post that at some point, because, my god...), but in a surprising number of them, they *aren't* quite just all stoical unsmiling. They aren't always grinning like fiends or anything (except that my grandmother actually does that in a suprising number of pics; I get this feeling she was a very giggly young woman), but they don't look like they're facing a firing squad, either. They just look... normal, with this hint around the edges that they were actually relaxed and happy. Which is not what I've come to expect from really really old pictures.
Oct. 17th, 2006 08:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing that - it was neat to read!
Oct. 18th, 2006 02:47 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it. :)
Oct. 17th, 2006 10:30 pm (UTC)
fabulous wonderful photo. i love how our ancestors speak to us through the years in photos. makes me think that if i had access to a tardis i'd go back and take a lot of photos...although there's something about the black and white older photos that sing of those eras in a different way. kind of like stereoscope cards?

{{{hugs just because}}}

Oct. 18th, 2006 02:56 pm (UTC)
Yeah, you're right. I think part of it is psychological. Kind of like the old joke about how the past was sepia-toned, you know? Like our minds need that to believe that what we're looking at is truly old, rather than... a recreation, or something.

I also just like it for the wear that you can see on it, for the fact that even the physical photo isn't pristine.

Oct. 18th, 2006 08:34 pm (UTC)
yes, and the even farther past has certain colors associated with it too? sanstone, various shades of browns and greens?

and i quite agree about how our minds can trick us if things look too shiny and new.

:::big smoochy hugs right back at you:::
Oct. 18th, 2006 01:17 am (UTC)
I might actually swim if our costumes looked more like this and less like scanty underwear for teenage models.

My favorite pic like this has my great-grandfather (county superintendent of schools) with my four-year-old granddad, who is picking his nose!
Oct. 18th, 2006 02:58 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I know what you mean. I'm not sure about the skirts or the stockings, but I wouldn't mind it if bathing suits today involved long knickers like that.

Actually, I've been semi-consciously striving towards that for years now -- searching for the perfect pair of long board-shorts to wear for swimming, with a tankini top or even a rash-guard type of thing.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )