Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Poking Around In History Again

Sometimes the most interesting part of an old photograph is what's written on the back. This one, for example is a "carte de visite," a photograph of a young woman circa American Civil War, I would guess, by the style of her clothes. It was made by the "G. W. Minnis Photographic Gallery, 9th and Main Street, Richmond, Virginia.

I found it at the big monthly flea market at the Metrolina Fair Grounds in Charlotte a number of years ago. I'm not going to show you the actual photograph because of what is written on the back in a spidery feminine hand:

"This is an indifferent picture but I send it as it is the best I have. Don't show it to strangers."

I don't know why she didn't want people to see it. She's no great beauty to be sure, and she could use a good shampooing -- but she wouldn't, as we say here in the South "draw warts on a washtub." Of course, being my inquisitive self, I do wonder about it, and I wonder who she sent the photograph to -- a beau? a brother? a sister? a friend? Who kept it safe all this time?

This next one you will probably be able to read yourself without a transcription, but I'll tell you what it says anyway:

"Grounds for divorse (sic). If you look closely you can see them hugging each other."

Well, no, you can't. I thought at first that whoever had written this was just kidding around -- because if they weren't, I fear they had a pathologically suspicious nature.

I'm not going to show you this photograph, either, because the people in it might be recognized. I'm going to tell you about it instead.

The picture is of a man and woman, neither of whom is particularly attractive. He looks older-- I would say late 40s, early 50s. They are standing in a yard in front of a bush. Both of them are looking directly into the camera. He has on a suit with pinstriped trousers and a dark jacket -- it reminds me of the Monopoly board game for some reason. She has on a suit, too. The skirt is narrow and falls well below the knee -- which makes me think circa 1930s -- and it looks like it might be tweed. She is smiling; he just looks...I was going to say "pleased," but that's too strong a word. "Pleasant" is a better word. He looks pleasant -- like someone who would be easy to get along with. And, yes, they are arm-in-arm. But hugging? No. His hand is resting just above her elbow and not on her torso at all where the touch would be much more intimate. And he's not squeezing her. She's just standing there. I can't see where her hand is, but I don't think it's up to any mischief. If anything, these two people look father-daughter or niece-uncle.

The bigger question for me is who wrote on the back of the picture, her husband? his wife?

And boy, do I wonder what happened next...

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