Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Sunday: 23 July 2006

A Decidedly Odd Family  -  @ 15:04:30
Properly, this should go on tomorrow's agenda, but I just can't wait to post it. So there.

This weekend was spent partying with my parents, who are always full of new information and mischief. So you'll forgive me, I hope, if I've been remiss in answering the last couple of posts - I'll be back on it soonest.

My parents have been far more successful than I knew in obtaining amazing photos and information about our family, of which this is just one of four branches. I could post a lot of photos that Dad has acquired and scanned, but just to refute the reputation of old family photos being of grim, soulless people, I'd like to present these of the Hughes family in the last century or two. The photos were originally acquired by my father's invaluable cousin, Eddie Openshaw (and therefore my first cousin, once removed, right?). I feel certain it's ok if I post them. If I have the identifications wrong, I'm sure Dad will correct me.

I should probably note that none of these photos are point and shoot, nor snapshots; photographs were very hard to capture then. And therefore they don't capture people's candid (or synthetic) feelings of the split second. They were strictly for documentation and hence, the grim looks of folks who had to sit still for a long time while the exposure was being made.

These photographs have managed to capture, I think, much more of the reality of the subjects, their peculiarities, and their interests. What fascinates me is that here the subjects rejected mere portraits and documentation in favor of a real expression that they had to work very hard to achieve. They were telling us something, and working hard to do it.

Well, except maybe for this one, although it's fascinating.

Here's where it all began, in England, probably around the turn of the 19th century before my great grandfather William Edwin Hughes came to the US. These could be first cousins three or four times removed. They could be 2nd great grandaunts. (Actually, one could be male. Is that possible?) One could be a 2nd great grandmother. We don't know, I don't think. Are they serious? Are they joking? They seem quite smug. Maybe someone else knows the story of hats like these at around the 1800s in England. All I know is that I want one like that and I want it right now. And I want to know how they keep them on their heads.

UPDATE: Here's where it did not all begin. The time is more like 1910. As Annie from Austin suggested in comments, it is Wales. One of the women is Alice Emma Hughes (Knecttle), my great grandaunt. The other is apparently Rose Openshaw.

I'm guessing this is my stern great grandfather, William Edwin Hughes, posing with his sly wife Mary Fletcher Patrick, sometime in the very late 1800s. He was born in London; she was born in Wesson, Mississippi. My father confirmed that he was very grim, the exception to this post. I believe his wife was up to something. No, that is not an enormous cigar she's holding. The parrot is crucial here; whoever it is, she always kept a parrot. You know, the two-year-old that you'll have for the rest of your life.

My father talked a lot about his Aunt Ethel - my grandaunt, whom I never met so far as I know. (Someone sewed me baby clothes, Mother told me. It might have been her.) I believe this to be a frolic in the corn with Grandaunt Ethel and her two-years-younger sister, Mary Alice (Mamie). They seem to be in their twenties; this must be around 1920 or so. Again, Nice Hats.

UPDATE: I've put a larger blowup here. I think they must be returning from getting the mail, since the woman on our left seems to be reading it and carrying several other letters.

GLENN'S INPUT: Might be a painted backdrop shot. WAYNE: don't think so, but who knows? They chose it, instead of a grim oval portrait. Might note that at least one other here could be such a backdrop shot, but I really don't think so.

An absolutely delightful image, to my mind. Probably the same two women, drunk on watermelon and whatever's in those little bottles, and in the middle of Prohibition, too. Tsk.

UPDATE: I've put a larger blowup here.

And finally, what strikes me as an exquisite and beautiful photograph. Again, my guess is that this is Ethel and Mamie. The fishing boy could be Ralph, the brother who drowned in the Mississippi near New Orleans in 1931 at the age of 31. But I think it's their little brother Lawrence Edwin, my father's father and my grandfather. I've previously mentioned my grandfather, who died in 1944, 11 years before I was born, in conjunction with his kids, my father and his siter my Aunt Nita, and our common passion for snakes, native plants and botanical taxonomy.

UPDATE: I've put a larger blowup here.
Now that I look at it, the woman on the left may be my great grandmother Mary Fletcher Patrick of the Parrots, listening to one of her daughters (Grandaunt Mamie?) who appears to be reading something to her.

Many thanks to Mother and Dad for a wonderful weekend.
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bev - email - url
Some of those photos are a hoot! Hmm..those hats look like "tower hats" to me -- perhaps they put them on while contemplating tower designs (?).
The photo in the corn and the one by the railway tracks look as though they must have been shot the same day. So, is that corn liquor in the bottles? Taken together, the pair of photos almost suggest a narrative of some sort.
Love the last photo of fishing in the stream. Looks rather idyllic.
Interesting group of photos.
We usually think of the subjects of older photos as being serious. However, I used to collect old postcards - the kind that were made from photos of ordinary people who dressed up in exotic clothing, or who posed while sitting on a paper moon -- that sort of thing. My guess is that photography was a great form of entertainment in the early 20th C. (I'm thinking of some of the artists who used to dress up with friends and pose for amusing photos).
A few years ago, my mother-in-law got out a photo album of her family (one I'd never seen before). Most of the shots were probably shot between 1900 and 1930. There were some hilarious shots of young women posing like Isadora Duncan while standing up on some rocks on the hillside near their home. What was particularly surprising to me was that this family lived in quite an isolated area, so I'm almost at a loss to explain how they could have been inspired to dress and act as they did.
Sunday: 23 July 2006 @ 18:15:35


Linda - email - url
Enjoyed your post. I love to peek inside family history--great photos, thanks for sharing.
Sunday: 23 July 2006 @ 21:09:49


Rurality - email - url
Oh man! Your old family photos are SO much more interesting than mine!
Sunday: 23 July 2006 @ 21:15:08


robin andrea - email - url
Great family album, Wayne. The photo in the corn is really quite beautiful, and the shot with the watermelon and the raised bottles says so much about happiness, even if it's posed. I really like their attitude. I wish these photos came with sound. I'd love to hear what they were saying. I'm so glad your weekend went well with your parents. I hope you took photos!
Sunday: 23 July 2006 @ 22:07:14


Ayse - email - url
The hats: held on with chin straps (visible on the right) and hat pins (not visible but I'm guessing at least two). Wearing a big hat is a real art.

Lovely photos: so much nicer than the grim staring-into-the-camera portraits of my own family from that period.
Monday: 24 July 2006 @ 04:47:04


Wayne - email - url
Bev - I think you're right about the Fun with Photography. My grandfather, who would have been late teens, had a strong interest in photography and might have taken most of those photos. As for the "tower hats", yes! It was such a good suggestion that my immediate impulse was to google it.

I did find several pages that discussed "The elite still wore hats (sometimes atop the bonnet) with tall crowns adorned with wide silk ribbon bows.", for example, here, late 1700s.
Monday: 24 July 2006 @ 04:57:47


Wayne - email - url
Linda and Karen - when I saw those photos on my father's laptop I knew I had to post some of them!
Monday: 24 July 2006 @ 04:58:27


Wayne - email - url
Robin - and what kind of dresses were those watermelon women wearing? They look like burlap sacks! Yes, they certainly appeared to be having fun, as Bev pointed out.
Monday: 24 July 2006 @ 04:59:36


Wayne - email - url
Ayse - I finally noticed the chinstraps too! Hadn't though of the hatpins, but of course they were probably used too. Glad you enjoyed it. Life in Southern Alabama must have been fun in the early 1900s.
Monday: 24 July 2006 @ 05:01:25


Ontario Wanderer - email - url
Great photos! Are you a member of the Flickr group by any chance? Posting them there would spread the joy even further! Photography has always had a few creative people behind the cameras as well as in front.
Monday: 24 July 2006 @ 06:15:59


bev - email - url
Wayne - that's a very interesting website about women's hats. I never would have guessed that there were so many styles over the past couple of centuries. The tall hats do look quite similar. Re: the dresses on the young women - they look like the kind of smocks that women used to wear when gardening, traveling in a car, etc.. I think they were worn over top of good dresses.
Monday: 24 July 2006 @ 07:48:33


FloridaCracker - email - url
These are great! Thanks for sharing!
Monday: 24 July 2006 @ 10:40:01


roger - email - url
grand photos. the two women are fascinating.
Monday: 24 July 2006 @ 11:27:24


Wayne - email - url
Bev - I think you're right. Looking a little more closely it does appear it's a pullover smock, hiding the clothing underneat. If this was the 1920's it would have been superhot when the corn is high, but they seem perfectly comfortable, don't they?

Roger - aren't they? They made me feel wonderful.

FC - there are people like you on who made me feel comfortable doing so. Glad you enjoyed them.
Monday: 24 July 2006 @ 14:27:39


Annie in Austin - email - url
The photos are fascinating! We have a staged group photo made at the beginning of prohibition with everyone pretending to weep while tipping out the last drops in the bottles.

Those hats in the first photos are Welsh - that much I can tell you... they're like the one Mother Goose is seen wearing in old nursery rhyme illustrations. Hughes is a Welsh name, I think. Why your great-great-grandaunts were wearing the hats might be fun to find out .

I wonder if the corn photos had anything to do with the Wizard of Oz scarecrow? That was popular long before the movie. Or were there Corn Festivals and Watermelon Festivals with a set-up for souvenir photos? What fun they are having!
Tuesday: 25 July 2006 @ 22:14:56


Wayne - email - url
Annie - I really enjoyed making this post. Yes, we were somewhat aware that the Hugheses probably came from Wales, but your confirmation of that is good to hear. I hadn't even thought of the Mother Goose hats, but that's exactly right! And what a great thought about L. Frank Baum and his Wizard of Oz series - strikes me as a possibility with such obviously fun-loving people.
Wednesday: 26 July 2006 @ 05:50:55


Wayne - email - url
OW - sorry for the belated reply - I've been considering that. Also the pbase site that Bev uses. It's a good idea, and I'll look into it more.
Wednesday: 26 July 2006 @ 06:19:28


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