I love antique photos. You can learn so much about how things have changed, and again how little has. We inherited 3 trunks of photos from the late 1800's to the 1940s and 50's. Most came from an enigmatic, extremely hard working but photo-loving woman named Lena, an ancestor of my husband, born in 1879. She had more contacts, more postcards (several hundreds) and more photos of herself taken than anyone who is not a well know celebrity. She seems to have collected antique photos from all around her. She unfortunately didn't identify many, only writing "Lena" on many given to her. I think she assumed she would remember, and of course after that it wouldn't matter!

We are still sorting through all the stuff trying to piece together Lena's fascinating and sometimes tragic life. Meanwhile, here are a variety of photos, including some of the highest (and lowest!) fashion.

I have also included the very old family photos I have from my mom's side of the family.

I hope you enjoy, and thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mustache Contest; and a most Elegant Lady

I thought I'd post two interesting photos I ran across in the scads of photos I'm going through.  The first is actually parents and sons, don't know who as there is not identifying information (it was in with Lena's photos).  But I'll swear it looks as everyone (except mom) was trying to outdo the other with their handlebar mustaches.

The other two are  Rose, a friend of Lena's (or a half sister, I'm not sure).

Monday, June 28, 2010

New Antique Family Photos

These photos are from my mom's side of the family. The first photo is my Great Great Grandma Wells. This was a postcard. The back of the card is included. I am told that she was a kind, gentle woman but she looks tough as nails in this photo.
 The next photo is my Grandpa and Grandma Daugherty on their wedding day; My grandma lived into her 90s, and worked until she was 89 as a tax accountant, then decided she had "other things she wanted to do!

I love her hairdo and dress. She looks so elegant.  My very best memories of growing up were staying with these grandparents in Salem, Oregon in the 1940's and '50's.
These were my grandparents with their family--he brought the two kids on the right into the marriage.  The girl with her arm around my grandma was my mom.

One more photo; my grandpa always wore these overalls. He must have just come home from his Post Office work (on his bicycle) and put the overalls on. He was the gentlest, kindest man I knew!   They grew their own veggies and fruits on their farm, the food they served was wonderful.
The third story of their home was a boarding house for college students. They were always cooking and baking.

One funny story, lots of people used the electric clothes ringers then, loading the clothes directly from the washer into the ringer from which it dropped into a bin. My grandma said a friend of hers was doing this naked, and her tit got caught in a wringer!  She didn't go into detail about what happened afterward,  but I can imagine it wasn't fun!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What kind of work did Lena do? Can you help?

After Charles died, Lena first worked at  The Geysers, a hotel-resort  in Sonoma County which advertised "the baths and mineral water water are a positive cure for stomach troubles and rheumatism.  And they had ELECTRICITY!  Here is a page from their booklet:

I believe Lena may have worked as a cook in The Geysers; at least when she left there in 1906 she applied as a cook for another place nearby and was told (via postcard from a friend) that the positing had already been taken.
So Lena took another job--I can't figure what it was. I am pretty sure it was at the Napa State Hospital for the Insane because many later postcard were addressed to her there, or referred to her work there.

Napa was known in the early 1900's for its winemaking industry, farming, the huge Napa State hospital, and brothels:"In the late 1800's and early 1900's Napa was known for having the largest red-light district for a California city of its size. In 1905, Napa had over twenty brothels[5 primarily concentrated on and around Clinton Street. "

Here is a picture of that HUGE old hospital from around that time, from a postcard.

So here are some photos of Lena at work, with her coworkers, many of whom became her friends for life. I think that some of the photos, none of which have dates, may be from the Geysers and some from Napa)

Another Baby Picture of Colon and Lena

I came across another baby picture; he looks to be about 9 months to a year. Lena looks elegant as usual. I think this must be in California, possibly on the homesteading property Charles bought.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Baby Colon

Colon (John Colon Smith) was born May, 1904, about 6 months before his father Charles died.  We have found no recognizable communications between Lena and Charles either before or after their marriage, and no photos of Charles with Lena and Colon. They were married in Missouri, but by the time of Colon was born I believe they were living in Middletown, California.  Charles had purchased the homesteading acres there in 1900, and it may be that he built a home there for Lena.

Colon was about about 6 months to 3 years old in these pictures, the latter of  which were taken in Napa, where Lena was working .  He was so cute! In the picture with the stick, Lena wrote her dad, his grandpa (whom he called papa), that that was his "horsie." Lena's parents came out to live in Middletown for awhile around this time, then returned to Missouri.

But this leads into one of the biggest mysteries about Lena: what she did in Napa. Lots of interesting photos of Lena as a beautiful, elegant widow, and  lots of her working--but at what. Maybe one of you can help me figure it  out.( The work dresses of her and her coworkers are wonderful!) Coming in the next blog!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lena as a young lady with hope; then as a widow

It looks like I've gone through most or all of the trunks and separated out pictures and letters to and about (and, rarely) from Lena. I do have to go back through the "unknown" photos, of which there are a jillion, and start to identify some.  Today when I was finishing up the last lot I found a couple of great photos of Lena.  I haven't found any more pictures that I think are from before she became a widow.  But here are a couple that I think must have been soon after.   In addition,  I  have included some of Lena's   diary entries from  1900. These were in one of those "liver tonic" booklets, which had plenty of blank lined pages to write in, and plenty more medical advice on why the liver tonic would cure all your ailments. Lena wrote (rather awful) romantic poetry (at least I think it's hers) and about some experiences which touched her heart .


( in this family it was rare to put any notations on photos--I guess everyone assumed whoever was looking at the photo would "just know!")

Coming next: pictures of baby Colon, only 6 months old when his daddy died.  Chris

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New Picture of Lena before her marriage.

Here is a new picture of Lena, as usual with no dates but it looks more like that than the picture I put in the first blog, which now I think must have been after Charles died.
And here again is a picture I put  in the earlier blog. Maybe it is knowing what was ahead for her but in these pictures Lena looks (to me) relatively happy and peaceful. 

TO COME:  next blog, I will post a little diary entry I found (of only a few, in one tiny book) which refers to a new romance, but not with Charles, before their marriage!  And what  came of that in the long run. Chris

Lena's Life: New Info on Charles;

Since I last posted I have gone through two of 3 trunks full of family stuff, including hundreds of postcards to Lena, old newspapers from the early 1900's, tons of old photos (heavens! there were a lot of photos of Lena!), greeting cards, visiting cards, etc.

In the midst of all this stuff I found, by sheer luck I might add,  a tiny clipping, above.  So we know that Charles, who married Lena in 1903, died in 1905 in California, after son Colon was born.  We haven't yet found how they met, since she lived in Missouri and he in California.  What happened between the time they got together for that picture in 1901 and their marriage in 1903? When did Lena get together with Charles in Middletown, California?  Was Charles sick when they married (he sure looks sick or something!  The biggest question is, why did we find no mention of Charles anywhere except this little newspaper clipping? Maybe we'll find some of these answers as I continue going through the trunks.


Monday, June 14, 2010

So here is the wedding picture for Lena and Charles, in 1903. They certainly do not look joyful, although photos took a long time then and people rarely kept smiling through the whole process.

   This is the last evidence we have that Charles existed. A baby, Colon, was born the next year but we don't have the date. Wait until you see his pictures as a baby!!

Lena: the mystery begins

We have a picture here of Lena and Charles Lee Smith, taken in 1901.  I supposed that this was a wedding picture; until I found  the wedding records and a picture of their wedding (coming next blog) for 1904.  So this may be an engagement picture; we have nothing more dated until the wedding picture 1904, And no other  identifiable pictures with him in them; and absolutely no records except the wedding record for her (1904) husband Charles L. Smith.  No birth or death records, if that is the correct name. No records of him, or reference to him we have found after the wedding . Not in the voluminous letters, post cards, etc we have of Lena. And, as you will see, the mystery deepens after the marriage in 1904.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lena had the unfortunate tendency to not label her photos except with the name "Lena". We inherited loads of photos  from her through her sister Leta, who was my husband's grandmother, but almost none have dates or list names if there are other people in the photos. As you follow along on this blog, you will note we are trying to figure out time frames, and match pictures to general periods of Lena's interesting life.  This is frequently difficult due to the lack of information.We also have a lot of letters and postcards (with some neat photos--you'll see!) to and from Lena but frequently the postmark isn't visible or the letter is without an envelope and is not dated. Oh well, if any of you reading this blog can offer a better interpretation or more information, it would be very welcome.

As far as I can tell, this picture is from before her marriage; she was married when she was 21 and usually wore black in pictures from then on until she was around her 40's. I realize that the picture from the previous post shows her in black, but to us she looks quite a bit younger in that photo.

We do know that Lena left home before she was married; her parents split up and her mother moved to California.  Lena went out to visit her mother before her marriage, but continued to live and work in Missouri. I don't know what type of work, but she and the other women wore white dresses, as you can see in the photos. At one point Lena was out sick and a coworker wrote that she was concerned that their wages would be cut.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Teenage Lena

We don't have a date for this photo, but Lena looks somewhere around 13 to 14. She still probably lived with her parents, Susan Perkins and John Ryder, who was a poor farmer. Susan must have had some money or was very anxious to help Lena get married, because these photos were expensive to have made, and Lena was already a snazzy dresser. She was first married 1900.

Another picture of the little Lena with her doll.

After looking closely, I think that which looks like a beard on the doll is the doll's long hair. Not sure, will have to get out the original photo.  Anyway, a cute photo!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Saga of Lena Begins

Lena Ryder was born in 1879 in Lebanon, Missouri.
By the time this picture was taken she must have been about 3 or 4 years old.  (This is corrected version of the original tintype we inherited.) While this is the first picture we are sure is of Lena, it is by far the last.  Once she discovered the limelight of photography, she never looked back. We have well over 150 photos of her from a child to her death much later in life.

It's hard to see details of the doll she is holding, but it is obviously her special friend, which must have gone everywhere with her.