Aug 18, 2013

A Nurse Named Joe

We uncovered this photograph the other day, buried in a pile of other all-but forgotten images from the past. Her gaze grabbed us and wouldn't let go. The photo conveys such a soft, dreamy, romantic feel. Isn't she beautiful? 

The photograph isn't identified, so we don't know too much about her. But the photo does give us a few clues. Her signature at the bottom of the photograph tells us that her nickname was "Joe". She signed it "with love," perhaps sending the image to her sweetheart, or maybe to a family member. Note that she uses the letter "c" with a line over it -- commonly-used medical shorthand for the word "with" -- which makes perfect sense, given that she is wearing a white nurse's uniform.

We don't know where she sent the photo, but the recipient appears to have put the photograph in a frame -- if you look closely, you can see fading around the edges where a frame would have been.

Joe's hair looks like it is cut short in a bob. It is styled in lovely finger waves that cling close to her head, framing her face. This fashion was quite common in the 1920s and 1930s, and the photo probably dates to that era.

Apr 4, 2013

An Old Car

Today's vintage photo features a family proudly seated in their shiny (new?) car with the top down. The car is shown from the side, and we can see the entire vehicle from front to back. Dad sits at the wheel next to a toddler in the passenger seat. Mom is in the back seat, next to a little girl wearing a tall, white bonnet.

 Now, we aren't car experts by any stretch of the imagination. But a little detective work suggests to us that the photo probably dates to the 1910s, and that the car is probably a Ford Model T touring car.

We started by trying to date the photo. The people seated in the car look like they are wearing outfits typical of the 1910s. Take the woman seated in the back, for example. She is wearing  a white blouse, buttoned high to her neck, and a dark-colored, undecorated hat with a flat crown and flat brim. This style of blouse and hat were common attire for women during the Edwardian era of the early 1900s. Although Edwardian hats commonly were decorated with flowers, feathers, and other fancy accessories, the simple hat worn here would have been perfect for a dusty outing in the family convertible.

If the woman were to step out of the car, we would probably see her blouse tucked tightly into a long, dark skirt with a cinched waist, along with black tights or socks, and black shoes or boots - like the women seen in these photos:

via Isimaya
via Sitting Pretty
Going back to the car photo ... the father sits proudly in the driver's seat, one hand on the wheel, and the other arm slung up over the back of the seat. He wears typical working man's attire, including a light-colored shirt, overalls, and a soft, felt hat similar to a fedora. Note the similar attire worn by the working men in these photos:

Negative - Copy
Steam Traction Engine & Work team, Victoria, c. 1910. via Museum Victoria

A farmer with his team of oxen, c. 1910. via Rib Lake Historical Society.

All in all, based on the family's attire, we can be fairly certain that the photograph dates to the 1910s, or possibly the very, very early 1920s.

Which brings us to the car. When I first saw the photo, I immediately thought of Ford Model Ts. Not because I know anything about Model Ts, but because the Model T is such a well-known cultural icon.

A little research confirmed that the Model T was, indeed, a good possibility. Ford introduced the Model T in 1908. It cost $850, which was much less than other cars available at the time. After Ford introduced the assembly line in its factories in 1913, Ford was able to drop the price of the Model T significantly, making it much more affordable for the average American family. It wasn't long before they were selling like proverbial hotcakes. Between 1913 and 1927, Ford produced more than 15 million Model Ts.

We did some digging for images of Model Ts, and ran across these examples of Model T touring cars. They look pretty darned similar to the car in our photograph:

The 1918 Model T four-door touring car purportedly used in Laurel & Hardy films, to be auctioned on Saturday.
1918 Model T four-door touring car purportedly used in Laurel & Hardy films, and auctioned in 2011. via New York Times. 
1920 Ford Model T 3-Door Touring Car. via Collector Car Price Tracker.

Et voila. It looks like we have a Ford Model T three- or four-door touring car, probably dating to the late 1910s. Detective work completed, mission accomplished. 

If you're a car expert, and think I've come to an incorrect conclusion (or if you agree with my conclusion), please let me know!

Mar 28, 2013

1940s Gingham & Dots

In pursuing my vintage photograph obsession, I run across basic studio portraits all the time, ranging in date from the 1800s through the 1970s. Some might think that seeing simple portraits of intentionally-posed individuals over and over again would get boring, but I find quite the opposite. These portraits offer a consistent window into times past -- into changing clothing and hairstyles, jewelry and other fashion trends, as well as improvements and changes in photography itself.

In terms of general presentation, studio portraits have changed very little over the past 80 years or so. The person to be photographed is seated in front of a simple backdrop or wall. The portrait is taken in a consciously posed manner, either straight-on or at an angle, or sometimes in profile. Attention is paid to proper lighting, and the subjects typically take care with their appearance, wearing clean, pressed clothes, sporting carefully coiffed hair, and women wearing fresh make-up.

While full-length portraits were very common from the late 1800s through the 1930s or so, by the 1940s we start seeing many more "head-and-shoulder" style portraits. The shift to head-and-shoulder portraits does limit our ability to follow certain trends, such as shoe fashions and dress-lengths, but there is still plenty to examine, learn, and enjoy.

The inspiration for this post was a young woman named Henryetta. Here she is in 1941:

This portrait grabbed my attention because of her fabulous jacket -- and because her crooked-tooth smile, curly hairdo, and bright eyes made me smile, too!

Really, isn't her jacket wonderful? It is classic 1940s, with that wide, gingham collar and matching big, fabric-covered buttons and pocket. If you look closely at the neckline, a polka-dot blouse peeks out from underneath the checked jacket collar. She is wearing two large rings, one on the ring finger of each hand. It looks like she was posed with her hands fingers extended to intentionally show off the rings. Maybe the photographer just thought the rings added interest to the photograph. But I prefer to think that the rings were of some special significance to Henryetta -- maybe one is a class ring, and the other a family heirloom -- and so she wanted to make sure they played a prominent role in her portrait.

Mar 11, 2013

Found Ancestor: Mary Plavik of New York

Mary Pavlik, 1926

I always feel a twinge of wistfulness and nostalgia when looking at old photographs of people from times past. Most of the time, the vintage photographs that we seek out, collect, and sell lack any kind of identifying information. We are left to wonder who these people were, where they lived, what they were like, what joys and sorrows they lived through ... and why their images have been discarded, falling into the hands of strangers who know nothing of their history.

At Cassie's Tale, we do our best to rescue and bring life back to these unknown ancestors and their images, to find them good homes with people who will enjoy and appreciate them. And whenever we come across photographs that include identifying information, we do our best to find out more, and to present that knowledge in the hopes that someone might discover a lost ancestor, and make them found.

So far, we have not found a home for this woman from New York. Her photo, shown above, was taken in 1926 by the well-known portrait photography studio of Sol. Young in the Bronx, New York. Our research shows that her name was Mary Pavlik, and that she was born in 1885, making her 41 years old at the time the photo was taken. Census records show that she immigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia, and that in 1930 she was still living in the Bronx with her son, Paul G. Pavlik.

Her gray and silver hair is pulled loosely back, with some frizzy ends flying free. She wears a loose-fitting black blouse with pleats and a collarless scoop neck. A circle pin sits alongside her long, graduated bead necklace. She wears a pair of wonderful round glasses with celluloid covered rims - a style typical of the 1920s. There is a hint of a smile at the edges of her mouth. She has strong, arched eyebrows, and her eyes are bright and alert, albeit a little tired-looking. To me, this is an image of a strong, proud, and intelligent woman.

Does Mary belong to your family tree? If she does, please let us know - we love to hear "reunion" stories!

Feb 8, 2013


A tribute to sisters everywhere - then, and now.

Kid sisters with 1920's-era wavy bobs and drop-waist dresses. (via Cassie's Tale Vintage)
All-grown-up sisters, sitting on a hillside. Love that loose-fitting sweater with the flared cuffs and open neckline! Although this photo probably dates to the 1930s or 1940s, we think the sweater would look pretty vintage-hip on the streets of New York today. (via Cassie's Tale Vintage)

Another great example of sisters with matching short, wavy hairdos from the 1920s-30s era.  Note the white Peter Pan collar on the left, and the pretty lace collar on the right. These styles were not exclusive to the United States -- this photo was taken in Latvia in 1930. (via Cassie's Tale Vintage)

Sisters in matching black dresses with puffy sleeves, black boots, & matching hairdos with ringlets and straight bangs. East Corinth, Vermont, c. late 1800s. (via Delphiniums Blue)
Serious sisters with teeny waists (thanks to corsets),long black skirts, & tucked-in white blouses. This fashion was typical of the early Edwardian era, c. 1900s. (via Clancy's Classics)

The Stryker sisters in matching short-sleeved dresses with Peter Pan collars, 1953. (via Cassie's Tale Vintage)
Sisters goofing around in horn-rimmed glasses. Linda & Darlene Twarts, 1966. (via Snaposaurus2)

Matching summery outfits: a sundress for big sister, and a  sunsuit for little sister. (via Little Boats)
Ma Soeur - sister necklace, hand-stamped sterling silver disc with aqua blue chalcedony briolette. (via The Silver Wren)