Saturday, January 10, 2009

Found Behind The Freezer

When my husband's Grandmother Palmer died, her photographs and books were given to several members of the family. I was a rather new member of the family at that time and hadn't developed my interest in family history. I didn't receive the books or photographs.

The house where Grandma Palmer lived was rented and a succession of people moved in and out. When the old freezer on the porch finally died the family gathered a work party to remove it. The old freezer hadn't been moved since the day it had been installed many years before.

Wedged behind that freezer were two old velvet photo albums. My husband's uncle had looked through both albums and determined he didn't know any of the people in the portraits, so they went into a box in a closet. On one of our trips home to visit the family that uncle offered the photo albums to me. I gladly accepted.

The photographs are beautiful, but most are not identified. It looks as if one of the albums had originally identified the family members on the album pages rather than on the back of the photographs. Most of the photographs had been removed from the album, put back in the wrong slots, or given away. Matching the written names to the photographs is practically impossible.

But it is this album that contains the photograph that is the submission for Smile. I love this photograph. The only thing that could be better would be if they were wearing glasses.

Who Are You?
I Really Want To Know!

The hats are to die for. That isn't dots on the lovely ladies' faces. Those hats all have veils.

Symbolism is apparent in this photograph. Notice one of the women holds a photograph.

One of the women holds a letter she is reading while the women to her left reads over her shoulder and the woman to the right stares at the photograph.

The envelope lies on the floor.

Is the symbolism of this photograph that the three women have a connection to someone who is not pictured with them? Do they hold that persons' photograph as a reminder of them? Have they received a letter from that person and the photographer would like it to appear that they are so excited that they have dropped the envelope in their haste to read the letter? The letter, the photograph, and the parasols are probably not photographic props as is the background and chair. A semi-educated guess.

There is only one album page in this particular album that identifies three women by name. The album page reads; Elsie Wallace, Lula, & seated Bessie Sutter. It seems to fit the photograph we are looking at, but I can't be certain.

The photograph above is of Wallace Grayson Suter (the young photographer in my Maria Bash Spirit Photography Hoax article), Lulu Mae Suter, Elsie M. Suter and Bessie Florence Suter. Comparing this photograph to the three beautiful women above appears to show distinct similarities. Are they the same three women in both photographs? I can't be certain.

The photographs were taken by the same photographer in Neligh, Nebraska. More research will tell if the two photographs are of the same three women. I really want to know. And more than that, I want to know what my photograph signifies.


Three Unknown Women. Relf, Neligh, Neb. Card Mounted Photograph. Unknown year. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2008.

Four Suter Children. Relf, Neligh, Neb. Cabinet Card. Unknown year. Privately held by the Stephen Coulter, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] De Moines, Iowa. 2008.



Blogger Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

An interesting picture. Surprising that the pictures survived so well after being behind a freezer on a porch. I can only recall one picture that I had with a prop and that was a book. In both pictures two are dress very alike and one in white, I wonder why?

January 11, 2009 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger Nikki - Notes of Life said...

I love the elegant clothes our ancestors wore and this photo is a prime example!

January 11, 2009 at 8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If this scene were described in a penny novel, it might go something like this:

Elsie rushed into the drawing room, a letter clutched in her soft hand.
"Lulu, dear," she cried. "Call Bessie. A letter from Wallace's friend Edward has just arrived."
The young woman rushed into the room, her long skirts rustling with her haste.
"Oh Elsie, is he coming soon?" she asked.
The envelope fluttered to the carpet as Elsie carefully withdrew the paper. Edward's fine, firm handwriting drew bold lines across the page.
"Dearest Girl," Elsie read to her companions. "I am so very happy, I can hardly wait to tell you the news. . .

Lulu reached to a small table and picked up a card, "Here is his last photograph, Elsie. Isn't he as handsome as ever? Surely he misses you beyond compare."

"Yes," Bessie added. "Certainly the news is his new job."

"Oh, girls," Elsie urged. "Be patient. Yes," she added as she read on, "It looks as though he has been offered the position...but... oh"

Elsie sank suddenly into a nearby chair.

"What, what" both girls cried. "What could it be."

Lulu looked over Elsie's shoulder to read the letter, then to the older girl Bessie before returning her gaze to the missive.

Elsie's lips were pressed together in a firm line as she looked across the room. Lulu read,

"My dearest Elsie, I am sure that you will join me in happiness when I tell you that I am engaged to be married. What joy! I believe I told you about Mr. Harrison's daughter, a lovely young woman of 16. We first met when I came to San Francisco for the first interview with Mr. Harrison's firm. Now, I am to be both husband and heir to the business."

Lulu and Bessie looked at each other across the stricken Elsie's head, and then their gaze returned to the source of their fury.

[how does this work for symbolism?]

January 11, 2009 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


An all white dress was usually a graduation and sometimes a confirmation.

Behind the freezer must have been the perfect temperature to save the photos, but it destroyed the velvet albums.


January 11, 2009 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


If these are the women I think they are, the family was wealthy.

My husband says their father was a state senator and they were related to President Harrison.

More research!


January 11, 2009 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...



Had you been born during this era you could have made a fortune writing penny novels or had a brilliant career as a photographer (they required imagination).

Thanks, I loved this!


January 11, 2009 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Becky Wiseman said...

fM - great picture! I'm sure there is a story behind it, though the one that Denise came up with is great! Wonderful, wonderful.

January 11, 2009 at 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I've found interesting things behind the freezer, but nothing this good.

I loved Denise's story. When I first saw the photo (and you connected it to the other one), I thought perhaps they were receiving news he had died?


January 11, 2009 at 5:58 PM  
Blogger Family Curator said...

Glad you liked my scratchy script... but isn't it "odd" that my I wrote about "Mr. Harrison" BEFORE fM's comment about President Harrison?

January 12, 2009 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Spooky! Are you perhaps channeling now?


January 12, 2009 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger my Heritage Happens said...

Beautiful photo that lasted the ages and elements. Great story from Denise, but kinda eerie too! I love how you put this together fM!

January 15, 2009 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger my Heritage Happens said...

I love how you put this together fM! Great picture! It survived the elements and time! Donna's story was great, but kinda eerie too!

January 15, 2009 at 8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Denise Levenick's "interpretation" of the photo is *priceless.* I'd love to see a whole little book of vignettes like this, and I'd bet they would sell beyond genealogy's niche market. --ESM

January 24, 2009 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

These photos are truly magnificant. The women have to be of wealth to be dressed in such attire during this period. What a treasure.

March 4, 2009 at 10:27 AM  

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