Martha “Mattie” Kennedy (nee Luney) Holmes was born in Ireland in 1874 and came with her family to the United States as a young girl. In 1894, she married Dr. William Wesley Holmes, who was 30 years her senior. After William’s death in 1913, Mattie worked as a traveling and home nurse.
I’m not sure when Mattie died. She was living with her sister, Edith Cole, in Yonkers, New York in 1930. The last trace I found of her was in 1936 when she was still in Yonkers, but living on her own at 472 Hawthorne.
The Denison Review, Denison, Iowa, February 12, 1913, – William Holmes’ obituary
Yonkers, New York City Directory 1931 and 1936
Most of the time, when someone is selling or sharing photos of an antique photo brooch, it’s described as mourning jewelry. This find is proof that not all of these pieces were mourning objects. The sitter for the photograph encased in this Victorian pin was Lora (nee Peirce) Cooper. Writing on the inside of the box dates the photo to 1875, when Lora was 26 years old. 1875 is also the year she was married to Morris Cooper.
The good news is that Lora was alive and well long after this photo was taken and after this beautiful piece of jewelry was created. She died, aged 77, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where she lived her entire life.
A couple interesting family tidbits: Her parents were Quakers, also known as The Religious Society of Friends. Lora’s maternal grandfather, Asa Walton, also a Quaker, was a founding member of the Clarkson Anti-Slavery Society, and he, along with his wife, Mary Taylor, were conductors of the Underground Railroad. In 1838, the couple aided runaway slave, James Williams, who fled from Maryland. According to a family member on ancestry who had contact with the current owner of the Walton farm, a small hidden room behind a wall in the barn was discovered during remodeling. The room was well disguised and only accessible via a small trap door.
Find A Grave History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and the Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania, by R.C. Smedley, 1883 The Underground Railroad: An Encyclopedia of People, Places, and Operations, by Mary Ellen Snodgrass Life and Adventures of James Williams, a Fugitive Slave, 1873
This cabinet card was found in the Pickers Paradise antique mall in Niles, Michigan. Not only was the sitter identified as Mrs. Tillie Gregory, but the date of May 31, 1895 was also noted.
Mathilda, “Tillie”, spent her childhood years in Canada with her German born parents, Charles and Sophia (nee Shatz) Weishan. In 1884, just 15 years old, she married Charles B. Gregory in Ogemaw County, Michigan and had a son, Walter, the following year. It’s unknown how long Charles stuck around, but in 1898 Tillie filed for divorce on the grounds of desertion. At the time, she was working as a domestic to support herself and and her son. Soon after the divorce was granted, she married Alfonso Clark, a mechanic and shoe maker, who was 27 years older than her. However, that union did not last and she married Henry C. Thielecke Jr. in 1906.
Tillie died, aged 45 years, of pernicious anemia, a disease in which the body lacks sufficient vitamin B12 and cannot make healthy red blood cells. It causes fatique, muscle weakness and stomach upset, among other ailments. Some suspect that Jane Austen and Mary Todd Lincoln suffered from pernicious anemia.
Not every photo find yields a fascinating, or even a slightly interesting, story. This isn’t to say that the sitters led uneventful lives. It just means that I’ve not had the pleasure of discovering their full history. This is the first in my Snap Shot series, which will showcase those photos from my collection.
Look at the table detail in this carte de visite. The sitter is Mary Sophia (nee Germann) Schmid. The photographer was J.F. Rank & Co. in Van Wert, Ohio. Sophia was born in 1855 and shares my birth date of March 5.
These were some of the first old photos I picked up when I began collecting. The green and dark brown cabinet card mounts are especially attractive and I love how crisp and richly saturated the images have remained after more than 130 years.
All the photos were taken at the same studio, Mast, in Marshall, Michigan, but only the photo of the couple has writing on the reverse. The youngest girl is wearing what appears to be the same, or a very similar, necklace as the woman. While I typically do not buy photos without some attribution, the previous observations, as well as the fact that the girls look to be either sisters or the same person, led me to purchase all of them, as I wanted to keep the photos together.
The notations on the back of the couple’s card have something that I’ve come to relish in a find…a date. I quickly realized that photos with dates, even if they have no name, are a wonderful thing to have in a collection, as you can put the sitters’ fashions, hairstyles, and accessories with that moment in time. There are many wonderful guides that provide tips for dating photos in this manner, and I often refer to my 19th Century Card Photos Kwik Guide by Gary W. Clark when looking for clues, but, having actual examples in my own collection is priceless to me.
I picked up this carte de visite, also known as a cdv, at the Markle Antique Mall in Markle, Indiana. The words John Beck & wife were penned above the sitters’ heads. Based on the wife’s fashion and hairstyle, I loosely date the cdv to the 1870s.
John Beck had two wives…no, not at the same time. But, two wives meant that I needed to gather as many pieces of the puzzle as possible in order to know which of John’s wives sat for this photograph.
I picked up this cabinet card from The Wurdeman Studio. If you enjoy beautiful antique photographs and other bits and bobbles, you can check them out on Instagram or visit their Etsy shop. Be sure to read the how and why of the shop. Here’s a little teaser… “It all started in Mrs. Wurdeman’s Store when I was five.”
Emma Sager’s life was just getting started when it ended in 1894; at age twenty-five she died of consumption.
Tuberculosis, also known throughout history as consumption, scrofula, TB, and the white plaque, was highly contagious and killed many, being especially dangerous to those living in large cities and those who lived in poverty. (I realize that not everyone is interested in reading about disease, but if you would like to learn more about the history of tuberculosis, you will find a link in the sources at the end of this post.)
I also came across the newspaper article on the right, published in 1894, that may be of interest to some.
Emma and her eight siblings grew up on a farm in Gentry county, Missouri with her father, Edward, who immigrated to the US from Germany when he was a young boy, and her mother, Susanna (nee Gearheart). When she was twenty, Emma’s mother died and I imagine much of the responsibilities for the household chores, as well as the care of the younger siblings, may have fallen upon Emma and her older sister, Mary, who was also single. However, four years later, in August of 1892, Emma was one of the teachers in attendance at the teacher’s institute in Stanberry, Missouri. If her obituary is correct, this is about the time she fell ill. Whenever someone dies young, I ponder about their life and Emma is no different: Did she finish school? Fall in love? What hopes and dreams were extinguished too soon?