As the Northern Hemisphere explodes with green life, let’s take a look back at rebirth celebrations of yesteryear.
As the Northern Hemisphere explodes with green life, let’s take a look back at rebirth celebrations of yesteryear.
Last week, a storm brought 10 inches of snow to Western Maryland and turned my mind to snowmen of old.
In all probabilty, humans have sculpted snowmen for millenia. In 2007, Bob Eckstein, the author of The History of the Snowman: From the Ice Age to the Flea Market, told NPR that in writing his book, “I wanted to make it clear that snowman-making actually was a form of folk art. Man was making folk art like this for ages, and…maybe it’s one of man’s oldest forms of art…. [T]he further back you go, you find that people were really fascinated with snowmen.”
Eckstein says that building snowmen was “a very popular activity in the Middle Ages…after a snow came down and dumped all these free-art supplies in front of everyone’s house.” The earliest known representation of a snowman dates to that era, drawn in a 1380 A.D. Book of Hours. A century later, in 1494, Michelangelo was commissioned by Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Gran Maestro of Florence, to practice his art with snow. According to art historian Giorgio Vasari, “de’ Medici had him make in his courtyard a statue of snow, which was very beautiful.” Sadly, no one drew it for posterity.
In 1510, a Florentine apothecary, Lucas Landucci confided in his diary that he had seen “a number of the most beautiful snow-lions, as well as many nude figures…made also by good masters.” Another notable snowmen outbreak occurred just a year later, when folk in Brussels built more than 100 of them “in a public art installation known as the Miracle of 1511,” notes Atlas Obscura. “Their snowmen embodied a dissatisfaction with the political climate, not to mention the six weeks of below-freezing weather. The Belgians rendered their anxieties into tangible, life-like models: a defecating demon, a humiliated king, and womenfolk getting buggered six ways to Sunday. Besides your typical sexually graphic and politically riled caricatures, the Belgian snowmen, Eckstein discovered, were often parodies of folklore figures, such as mermaids, unicorns, and village idiots.”
On a sunny day in the winter of 1853/1854, early female photographer Mary Dillman Welby, then aged 37 and sister of the better-known photographer John Llewelyn Dillwyn of Penlle’r-gaer, Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom, captured the collodion glass-plate image seen at the top of this page. Hidden away in the National Museum of Wales, it was rediscovered by an historian researching extreme weather images who recognized it for what it was—the first photographed Frostie. Ω
“Mothers, I believe, intoxicate us. We idolize them and take them for granted. We hate them and blame them and exalt them more thoroughly than anyone else in our lives. We sift through the evidence of their love, reassure ourselves of their affection and its biological genesis. We can steal and lie and leave and they will love us.”—Megan Mayhew Bergman
I wish all mothers a happy day of love and peace. For all you have done and will do, you are saluted.
“It was the purpose of the author to describe a number of novel and curious effects that can be obtained by the aid of the camera, together with some instructive and interesting photographic experiments.”—F. R. Fraprie, 1922
By Beverly Wilgus
In 1893, H. P. Ranger was granted Patent No. 505,127 for a “Mirror For Use In Photography.” This was a device comprised of two adjustable mirrors set at an angle. When a subject was placed in front of it, his or her image was reflected in each mirror and that reflection was again reflected, resulting in five or more figures—the number of figures determined by the angle of the mirrors.
The above schema is from an article published in Scientific American in the 1890s that was included in the 1896 book Photographic Amusements by Frank R. Fraprie and Walter E. Woodbury. My husband and I own a copy of the 1931 edition that still contains the original illustrations.
Also from the book is the illustration above: “Diagram Showing The Method Of Production Of Five Views of One Subject By Multiphotography.”
This drawing from Photographic Amusements shows a photographer’s gallery arranged for multiphotography.
This image from the book illustrates the multiphotographing of a full-length figure. In the 1970s, when we started to build our photographic collection, we found a number of photo-multigraph real photo postcards from the early 20th century, but we knew that the style dated from the late 19th Century, so set out to find earlier examples. Within the last year, we have obtained six cabinet-card photo-multigraphs and one tintype. We are now hunting for an example of a standing model, as is shown in the illustration above. We also hope to find an example where the subject is facing the camera rather than the mirrors.
We now own a photo-multigraph tintype that is especially interesting because it shows some the studio wherein the image was taken, including a raised platform and large mirrors that would certainly be capable of showing a standing subject. This gives us hope of finding a full-length photo-multigraph in the future.
The majority of photo-multigraphs we have collected or seen are real photo postcards dating from the first three decades of the 20th Century. Identified galleries were most often in Atlantic City and New York City, although there are other cities represented and a number of images with no gallery identified.
All images from the Jack and Beverly Wilgus Collection.
“Because I feel that in the heavens above
The angels, whispering one to another,
Can find among their burning tears of love,
None so devotional as that of ‘Mother,’
Therefore, by that dear name I have long called you,
You who are more than mother unto me.” — Edgar Allan Poe
A quick note: I will be having surgery on Tuesday, 4 April, and will be taking at least a four- or five-day hiatus to recover. I will return as soon as possible. Promise.
Although there had been settlers in the area since the 1830s, the Lillibridges were part of an immense rush of newcomers to the Iowa territory during the 1850s.
Today, the prairies of Iowa are all but gone—their restoration the scheme of environmentalists and concerned volunteers. But when these great grass seas last existed, it was the grandparents of the baby above, Clair Miles Lillibridge, who arrived to radically reshape them.
Clair’s father Leverett Lillibridge, born 25 June, 1851, was the son of John Lillibridge (b. 1816) and Mary Rexford (b. 1815), who married in Lebanon, Madison County, New York, 25 May, 1836, and had seven children, of which Leverett was the fourth. The family went west to what became the town of Manchester, Delaware County, Iowa, almost a decade before Leverett’s birth in 1851. The namesake of John and Mary’s son was his maternal grandfather, early settler Leverett Rexford, who in 1841, according to The History of Delware County, Iowa and Its People, “built a log cabin near the Bailey home, which was later inhabited by John Lillibridge.”
Although there had been settlers in the area since the 1830s, the Lillibridges were part of an immense rush of newcomers to the territory during the 1850s. “Families camped at the Mississippi, waiting their turn for ferryboats to the other side. In only a few years these settlers would turn the forests and prairies into plowed fields,” notes Iowa Public Television. “Farmers arriving from the many different regions of the United States brought their special agriculture with them. Those from New England and New York carried the seeds for plum, apple and pear trees. Kentuckians brought their knowledge of improved seed and livestock breeding. From Pennsylvania and Ohio fine flocks of sheep came to graze in the dry pastures of southern Iowa.”
One harrowing story of the early years of Manchester took place when Leverett Lillibridge was two. “Jane and Eliza Scott, whose home was near Delhi…in the spring of 1853, attempted to ford Spring Branch, a mile above Bailey’s, but the water was so high that their horse and wagon were swept [away] and the horse was drowned. The current carried one of the girls safely to shore, but the other was drawn into the eddy but was finally rescued by her sister, who succeeded in reaching her with a pole and drawing her to shore. One of the girls reached Bailey’s cabin, but was so exhausted she could not for some time explain the situation. As soon as she made herself understood, Mrs. Bailey left her and hastened to the locality where the other girl was expected to be found. On her way she met John Lillibridge and they together carried the insensible girl from where they found her to Mr. Lillibridge’s horse and placing the limp body on the animal’s back, she was conveyed to the Bailey home, where both the unfortunate girls were given every attention.”
Leverett married Adeline Arnelia Young on 23 May, 1869, in Manchester. Adeline was born 11 March, 1853, in Youngstown, Trumbull County, Ohio, to Frederick Young and Harriet Pretzman. The young couple lived with Leverett’s parents at the time of the 1870 census, with Adeline heavily pregnant. Their daughter, Ollie, arrived 3 June, but perished 13 August and was buried on Sands Farm, in what is now known as the Lillibridge Cemetery. Little Ollie’s maternal grandfather, Frederick Young, would join him there 17 March, 1885; his paternal grandfather, the intrepid John, on 1 November, 1892; and his paternal grandmother Mary on 18 February, 1893. After Ollie’s loss, four surviving children followed: Jay L., born in July 1871; May F., born in March 1873; Clair (also frequently spelled Clare), born 5 September, 1875; and finally Charles Bradley born in October 1881.
The 1880 census pinpointed the family farming in Milo, about 185 miles southwest of Manchester in Warren County. We don’t know whether this small railroad-nurtured town was the scene of a little, much, or most of Clair’s childhood and adolescence because the 1890 U.S. census was destroyed by fire, leaving his life a blank slate from the age of four until early 1900, when he was approaching 25 and already a husband and father. We can describe Clair’s adult appearance generally, thanks to his later World War I registration card: He was of medium build and height, with blue eyes and dark hair.
In 1900, Clair’s parents were enumerated in the town of Delaware, Delaware County, while Clair was domiciled about 35 miles away, in Adams Township, working as a grocer, having taken the decision not adopt agriculture as a career. Two years earlier, Clair married Bertha F. Theel, born in 1876 in Berlin, Germany. Bertha arrived in the United States in 1882 after sailing with her mother and siblings from Hamburg on the ship Bohemia, arriving in New York 11 September, 1882.
Clair and Bertha had a son, Leverett J., born in September 1899. Percy R. followed in 1901, then a daughter, Axie Lorraine, in 1905, and a son, Harry Bradley, in 1908. Whilst his family expanded in Iowa, his parents and two of his brothers succumbed to wanderlust and migrated to the tiny enclave of Columbia, South Dakota. Leverett died there in late 1913—his body returned to Clair in Manchester for burial.
The town paper, the Democrat-Radio, opened a few little spy holes on the Lillibridges’ lives: On 18 February, 1914, the Charity Circle met at the Lillibridge house with Bertha as hostess; 10 March, 1915, Clair “went to Mason City Tuesday afternoon to attend the convention of creamery men”—Clair worked for Bourne & Farrand, a New York-based egg, milk, and cheese wholesaler; 28 November, 1917, Clair and Bertha and the children were the guests of their cousin Mrs. C. M. Grommon.
Clair and Bertha’s eldest, Leverett, served in the U.S. Navy during World War I. According to the 15 January, 1919, Democrat-Radio, “Leverett Lillibridge, who enlisted in the Navy last summer, has been spending a few days with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Clair Lillibridge. The young sailor enlisted…for a term of four years and likes the life of a seaman very much.” His military records show he entered service 10 January, 1918, and was released 3 September, 1920.
In early October 1919, Clair and his surviving siblings traveled to Columbia, South Dakota, to attend his brother Jay’s funeral after he passed away at home on 29 September. “Mr. Lillibridge had not been in the best of health for some time, but his condition was not considered serious until about two weeks before his death, when complications developed that took his strength,” the 8 October Democrat-Radio noted. “Mr. Lillibridge’s death brings a particular sadness to the family. He was an industrious man in the best of years, and had only a short time ago completed a fine country home his farm of 440 acres. He was a kind and devoted husband [to wife Cora Given whom he married in 1898] and father and in his passing his family suffers and irreparable loss.”
As enumerated in the 1920 Census, the family lived at 445 South Brewer Street, which still exists today—small house in a large yard on a quiet, open road. Clair worked as solicitor for a produce company. Leverett was safely home from the sea and the war, but without employ; Percy had a position as a bank bookkeeper. The next year, in March 1921, Clair ran without opposition for Manchester councilman-at-large. This was the high-water mark of his life.
Between the censuses, son Leverett married Rose Mary Seigel (1897–1983) on 5 May, 1924. The 1930 Census placed them in Clarion, Iowa, he was a manager for a produce firm. At that date the couple had three daughters: Marjory Ann (1925-2000); June Rose (b. 1929), and Doris Mae (b. 1930). A son, William Leverett (1936-2001), arrived before the next census, which placed the family in New Hampton, Iowa. Leverett died 4 November, 1980, and is buried in New Hampton’s Calvary Cemetery. His wife Rose joined him in 1983.
On 4 October, 1930, Percy married Elsie Bertha Minnie Wendt who had been born in nearby Dehli Township, in 1910. She was the daughter of Frederick Karl Wendt, Jr. (1885-1965), and Ida Bertha Wilhimene Stock (1883-1930). Elsie had a younger sister, Mildred Emma Marie Wendt (1913–1989), who wed Percy’s brother Bradley.
Bradley was an intelligent man. He’d been noted in October 1921 as a freshman with grades all above the 90th percentile at Manchester High School (as had his sister, Axie, then a junior). He had risen to the post of deputy treasurer, Delaware County, in 1940. When the second World War, he served in the U.S. Army from July 1943 to September 1945. For most of that he was stationed outside of the United States, working for the Army Finance Distribution Service.
The Carrol Daily Times Harold of 20 April, 1949, reported that an Earlville, Iowa, implement store had been destroyed by fire the previous day, causing $50,000 in damages. “The store, operated by Maynard Wendt and H. Bradley Lillibridge was housed in a two-story frame building. The cause of the fire was blamed on a welder’s spark.” Amongst the losses were “new refrigerators, deep freeze units and farm machinery.”
Bradley and his wife had no children and lived in Manchester all their lives. Harry died 16 January, 1986; Mildred 16 April, 1989. The are buried in Oakland Cemetery, Manchester.
Axie Lillibridge graduated from Manchester High school, where she played on the basketball team, then attended Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls. In 1930, Axie was enumerated as public school teacher in Madison, Iowa, where she rented a room at 106 Pine Street. By 1934, Axie had gone west, establishing herself in San Pedro as a bookkeeper. Our last census glimpse in 1940 was in Los Angeles at 352 West Tenth Street. She never married and died in that city 14 April, 1988.
Clair lived to age 93, dying in Manchester in February 1968. Bertha had passed away ten years earlier, in 1958. A short obituary for Clair appeared in the Waterloo Daily Currier on 12 February: “Clair M. Lillibridge died early Sunday Morning at a Manchester nursing home because of complications due to age.” He was buried beside his wife in Oakland Cemetery in the green turf that has long replaced the grassland. Ω
“Thank you dear for the nice letter you sent us and all the kisses. Hope you are a good boy. Did you throw Herbert out of bed Sunday morning?”
Today’s postcards convey “Wish you were here!” almost exclusively, but in the first decades of the 20th Century this method regularly moved information to friends and family who resided even just a few miles away. The short messages often read much like modern email, and when in combination with the photos on the front, can seem like old-school versions of modern Facebook posts.
On 4 March, 1914, this cheerful, beautifully colored postcard of Hagerstown, Maryland’s Broadway (above) was sent to Mrs. C. L. Pennison, Newton, Massachusetts, care of Peckitts on Sugar Hill. The message reads, “Dear Catherine, I was pleased to get your card on Monday while at home. But surprised to hear you are in the White Mountains. I hope you will soon recover your health up there. We were in the midst of a blizzard Monday but are enjoying pleasant weather now. I am well and enjoy my work. Yours, B.”
This postcard of the Washington Street Bridge, Monticello, Indiana, was addressed to Miss Ruthie Brown of Modesto, Illinois, and mailed 4 July, 1913. The reverse reads, “Dear Ruth: This is where I am spending the day. This morning our car struck a buggy just as we were going up the hill beyond this bridge. I hope you are having a lovely vacation. Would like to hear from you very much. Grace Mc. 1 Danville, Ind.”
Beverly Wilgus, the owner of this example, writes, “This postcard was mailed by a grandfather to his granddaughter in November, 1912. The caption ‘Tommy’s first and Turkey’s last picture” [has an] unpleasant edge. The image is embossed and gives the figures a slight 3D effect. It was sent to Dorothy Flower in North Uxbridge, Massachusetts, by Grandpa Midley.”
The message reads, “Dear Dorothy: How would you like to have your picture taken this way? I suppose you would rather have some of the turkey to eat. Hope you will have some for your Thanksgiving dinner. Am going to try to get to No. Uxbridge to see you soon.”
Margaret Ripley was a nurse in France during World War I. The above is one of a series of postcards she sent to her sister back in Surrey, England. “Had 2 nice days here unfortunately Louvre & all museums shut but seen as much as possible. Off to Dunkirk tomorrow to typhoid hospital—so glad to feel we may at last get real work in connection with war. Have enjoyed our week’s holiday very much & were hoping to stay on here a few more days. Love to E & children. Hope they are well again. Mar.”
Although the photographic image is from a decade previous, this postcard’s stamp was cancelled 24 December, 1922. Addressed to Mr. S. Schmall, 4549 Calumet St., Chicago, Illinois, the delightful message reads: “Thank you dear for the nice letter you sent us and all the kisses. Hope you are a good boy. Did you throw Herbert out of bed Sunday morning? Love to you & all. Aunt Alice.”
Postmarked 30 October, 1917, this postcard was sent by the United Brethren Sunday School of Myersville, Maryland, to Helen Keller and family. “U B ready for the U.B. Rally. We need you on Rally Day. Remember the date: Nov. 11th. Do not disappoint us. Help us make this our best Rally Day.” (If there was a smiling emoticon after “Do not disappoint us,” I would feel less creeped out.)
According to Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, “In liturgical Protestant churches, Rally Day marks the beginning of the church calendar year. It typically occurs at the end of September or the beginning of October. Although not all Protestant churches observe this day, the customs associated with it include giving Bibles to children, promoting children from one Sunday school grade to the next, welcoming new members into the church, and making a formal presentation of church goals for the coming year.”
Beverly Wilgus writes, “This multiple-print, real photo postcard shows two soldiers in a studio prop biplane flying over a real San Antonio streetscape. A banner reading ‘San Antonio 1911’ flies from the wing. Even though the plane is obviously phony, the two airmen appear to be real pilots since the message on the back reads, ‘Our first lesson what do you think of it? Geo.’”
I’m thinking Photoshop, version 1.911. Ω