Many of my posts deal with lives cut short or other tragic circumstances so I’d like to begin by saying that these two young women lived long full lives. Louise “Lou” Harris lived to be 91 and Mildred “Millie” Rahm made it to 92 years old!
I picked up these images in an auction lot. I was unable to view the individual tintypes so it was quite a gamble, but one that really paid off. Not only were there so many lovely and unique poses but there were names and locations on a few of them which aided me in identifying Lou and Millie, the stars of the show!
These friends were about one year apart in age, Lou being the eldest, born in 1866. Millie was an only child and in a way so was Lou, who although she had two older-half siblings was her mother’s only child.
These girls loved getting together and hamming it up for the camera and it seems they spent a lot of their time doing just that. I’m not sure if my eye is trained to focus on Millie because she’s the first of the girls that I researched or if she truly is an attention magnet, even when there are others in the frame striking a more outlandish pose.
This carte de visite (cdv) was taken in Millie’s hometown of Towanda, Pennsylvania and it’s definitely one of my favorites because of the writing on the reverse; The day after the Top in Towanda Feb. 22. “84. M.R. – “The forlorn damsel” B.C. “Defiance” L.H. “Johnnie” K.S. Tired to death”. These Victorian teenagers had such a flair for the dramatic. I wish I knew what the term Johnnie meant in 1884. Of course, M.R. stands for Millie Rahm and L.H. is Lou Harris but who are the others?
The photos hold no further clues as to the identity of B.C., pictured on the far left in the above cdv, but I would hazard a guess that she was Belle Calkins who lived in nearby Troy. Belle and Millie studied music under the tutelage of Mrs. Peet. In 1881 the two performed a piano duet of Retour De Printemps (Return of Spring), a polka by Moelling.
Miss K.S. appears in many of the photos and the one above labeled her by her first name of Kate. This tintype was the “pot of gold” in the lot as it provided me with Millie’s full name. Without it these sitters’ identities would have been lost to time.
There were many young women in the Bradford County, Pennsylvania area with the name Kate S., which made identifying our Kate impossible. The four probable matches are: Kate Squires of Herrick, Kate Saxton and Kate Shedden of Granville, and Kate Schrader of Franklin. Kate Shelton of Windham was ruled out because she died in 1883.
I think our Kate looks like she might have been little older than Millie and Lou. If I’m right this doesn’t narrow the field much as Miss Saxton and Miss Shedden were born in 1863, and Miss Squires in 1864. If you think Kate looks the same age as the other girls then the Misses Schrader would be your best best, as she was born in 1867.
Did I mention the girls’ flair for the dramatic? Why yes, I did. With the quote “He cometh not she said” I suspect this image was memorializing the absence of a beau.
Although they say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” I’m happy to report that in addition to these little photographic slices of time I also have some newspaper articles that provide a glimpse into Millie and Lou’s escapades. My favorite, of course, is the catsup incident.
Interesting side note: The Booth of “Booth and Barrett” who Lou saw perform in Julius Caeser in 1889 was none other than Edwin Booth, brother of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Edwin continued acting until 1891 when he starred as Hamlet in a farewell stage performance at the Academy of Music in Brooklyn.
But, back to the photos! So many great ones that I found it hard not to share them all. And look, it seems that a gentleman beau eventually made an appearance.
Lou married a lawyer, Mr. John Miner, and the couple spent their twenties living in Minneapolis, Minnesota before settling in Jackson, Michigan and adopting two daughters, Kathleen and Frances. Lou died in 1957 and is buried in the Woodland Cemetery.
At the age of nineteen, Millie wed Edward Smith, a merchant who later worked in real estate and as a manager of an electric company. The pair stayed in Millie’s hometown of Towanda and had three children; David, Eleanor, and Elizabeth. Sadly, their youngest child died at just nine days old. Edward passed in 1933, but Millie was clearly still very young at heart. Six years later, at the age of 72, she married a second time to John Morrison and the couple made their home in Miami, Florida which is where Millie passed in 1959.
I believe Millie and Lou would be thrilled to know that their photos are no longer languishing in a storage box, but have been given new life and are being enjoyed once more.
Find a Grave
Edwin Booth – American Actor