Friday, October 26, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Women in Bonnets


Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.





This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt suggests several themes:  umbrellas, rain, wet streets, big clunky shoes, women wearing bonnets, even ugly women.  That poor ol’ gal looks like she might read someone’s fortune any minute. 

I have two old photos of a woman in a bonnet.  First up:


Ok, I’ll say it since you’re probably thinking it – yes, she’d qualify for the “ugly women” theme too.  And she might even be able to deliver one wicked fortune.

However, the truth is, I SUSPECT this might be my great-great grandmother Martha Ann Willson Davis.   What makes me think so?  In the photo album belonging to my great-grandmother Mary Frances Jollett Davis, there are only four portraits from Star Studio:  Mary Frances and Walter Davis, 

Mary Frances Jollett Davis about 1890
Walter Davis about 1890


















and “Ugly Woman” and “Burly Man.”  

Possibly Mitchell Davis
1820 - 1890
Possibly Martha Ann Willson
1832 - 1905





















In these photos, Walter and Mary Frances were young, so maybe they are wedding portraits.  Since the Jollett family seemed to like a different photographer, I am reasoning that maybe the Davis family ordered the portraits and that they preferred Star. 

There are no other photos that look like Ugly Woman and Burly Man, but certainly Mary Frances and Walter would have wanted at least ONE picture of Walter’s parents.  Right now, they’re the likely candidates for these unidentified portraits. 

The next photo of a woman in a bonnet is on heavy brown cardboard that has been cut to fit into SOMETHING, a frame maybe. 

305 Pennsylvania Avenue, Hampton, VA



On the back written in pencil is “This is Mrs. B. C. Coldorn 305 Penn. Ave, Hampton VA” with a circle around it. Below that is this address:  “122 East 42nd St, NY 17, NY.”  

I have looked for that name in FamilySearch as well as Ancestry and have come up with nothing that explains who Mrs. B. C. Coldorn was, who owned this picture, or how it came to be passed along through several generations to me.  

I even Googled “B. C. Coldorn” and got “Do you mean Cold Corn?”  

I just love Google – always trying to help me out.


I’ll need a special Magic Thinking Bonnet to figure out who these women were.


Grab an umbrella, a bonnet and your big clunky shoes and make your way over to Sepia Saturday to see what others have made of this week’s theme.


43 comments:

  1. Ah the passage of time. It look as if poor old Martha Ann lost her teeth which gave her that rather pursed, severe look. I too have a couple of photos of my great-grandmother, including one taken at the same age I am now. You could not even call her a 'handsome' woman, but she brought up ten children in hard times which may account for her lack of a smile! These are fascinating portraits nonetheless, and how wonderful that Mrs Coldorn is able to be memorialised by starring in a Sepia Saturday post!

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    1. Judging by the lack of hits on the name "Coldorn" on FamilySearch, Ancestry, even Google, this little blog may be Mrs. C's only claim to fame.

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  2. Google cracks me up!

    I hope you're able to solve the mystery.

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  3. You are so funny! I can't believe that you are calling your Grandma sort of ugly. I think what happened is that she has lost her teeth and was unable to afford wooden dentures. Or just didn't want them.

    With all of the details on the back of that last picture, I bet that somebody here on SS will help you figure out who she is.

    Another fun post, Ms. Wendy!

    Kathy M.

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    1. Yeah, I'm mean. I'm sure when she had teeth she probably was just adorable.

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  4. You've probably found this, but 122 East 42nd Street is the Chanin Building (built in 1929, across the street from Grand Central Station). See http://www.officesublets.com/blog/2012/04/chanins-eponymous-midtown-art-deco-office-building/. This is probably after your pictures were taken. You might ask the NY Historical Society for how to find what was there before the Chanin Building. http://www.nyhistory.org/.

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    1. Yes, I did GoogleMap that address and wondered if that was the address of the photographer. Good idea to check with the historical society.

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  5. I too think she was missing some teeth. You see that in a lot of pictures where the older people have their mouths shut and they look misshapen. I don't think they lost their teeth from eating cold corn either it was just from poor dental health.

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    1. I think she had no teeth. Her mouth looks exactly like the mouths of people I've met who had no teeth.

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  6. I almost did a very similar post because I have lots of old photos of really ugly women. Perhaps I'll get a chance to use them in the future.
    A very fun post.
    Nancy

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    1. Good, please do that. I don't want to be the lone mean-spirited blogger out there.

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  7. The "ugly woman" photo must have been taken before people started smiling in photos! The way the subjects in the Star photos are facing forward looks more like ID photos than portraits.

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    1. Hmm, interesting point. I don't know anything about ID photos, so I need to look into that.

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  8. I could not find my ugly bonnet woman but did not think of it either. I wonder with some similar ancestral poses I have if they had bad or no teeth or were just so confounded with photography which had to be unfamiliar to most of them, and that kept them from smiling.

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    1. I think "no teeth" for the first photo in question.

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  9. Too funny! The ugly woman theme. To identify her, you might try NYC Directories or Hampton, Virginia Directories. This post has everything - humor, a mystery and great sepia photographs.

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    1. Good idea. I looked in the various census records, but there are no Coldorns, period. I suppose someone could have spelled the name wrong but I don't know what it would be.

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  10. I hope my descendents never use my photo in an ugly photo theme, even if it fits!

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    1. HA - really! The only issue my descendants will have is which photo to use.

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  11. Wendy, when I read about your bonnets, I thought that must be fun and it turned out to be not only fun but also interesting. I think "ugly" is a bit harsh, I guess the photographer was not very friendly, perhaps it was not her day. I like the help of Google, comes up with the most hilarious words also in translations.

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    1. I was just having a little fun with that photo. Probably in her younger days or in more natural moments when she wasn't sitting still for a photographer, she probably was much more pleasant.

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  12. At school I was reprimanded for describing an old woman on a painting as 'ugly.' I was told to remember that every woman has something beautiful about her, you just have to look harder sometimes.

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    1. You're so right. I'm sure "Ugly Woman" was loved by her husband and children, so she must have had beautiful qualities.

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  13. Mrs BC has a most enigmatic expression, hope you track her down. In Victorian times they may have titled those two sets of Star Studio portraits as optimism and pessimism.

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    1. Wonderful - I love the titles for the portraits.

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  14. I guess we are still afraid our picture will end up on a Cracker Barrel wall!

    Fun post!

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    1. Let's just hope we don't get rejected by Cracker Barrel! We don't want them to slap a rejection notice across our face saying, "Please! People are eating!"

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  15. I hope one day Ugly and Burly will be identified. No pun intended but isn't there anyone in the family resembling either person? The eyes, the chin etc?

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    1. Actually Burly Man's mouth can be seen in a number of the Davis family - my Granddaddy Davis, his sister Violetta, my mother's brother Orvin Jr. That's one reason I believe Burly could be my great-great grandfather Mitchell Davis.

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  16. Oh Wendy! This is a great post! Cold Corn! HA!

    "Ugly Woman" and "Burly Man"...you do have a way with words Wendy! They do seem a bit on the serious side though, I admit.

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    1. It makes you wonder how many people actually Google "cold corn" that it comes up as an option.

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  17. I guess I'm a meanie too as I used the word ugly to refer to my gggrandmother. I have another in a bonnet who looks quite mean, but I'm sure she was a lovely woman when she wasn't having her picture taken.

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  18. She may be a bit stern looking, Wendy, but you should see the photo of my grandfather! The post is entitled, "Not a Mug Shot"!

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  19. Oh, I've got much uglier ancestors. That poor woman just has dental problems, as in no teeth. Mary Frances is quite lovely though.

    I'm short on Halloween decorations this year, so I thought I might just put up some of my old family portraits to scare the living daylights out of those trick-or-treaters.

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    1. I read a crafter's blog in which she attached paper witch hats to cabinet cards of "ugly women."

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  20. Your great-grandparents were an attractive young couple. I think we all have family photos in our collection that resemble "Burly Man" and "Ugly Woman". Love the names you gave them! My great-grandmother had a set of photos of her friends with their names written on the back. I've added them to my Ancestry account in hopes that someone related to these people will find the photos. If you have an Ancestry account, you might want to consider adding the photo of Mrs. Coldorn.

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    1. I'm not sure how to add a photo to Ancestry except with a tree. I'll look into that. Thanks for the suggestion.

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    2. Wendy, go to the option "see all photos" in your family tree. This will take you to the Media Gallery - at the top of the page you'll see "add photo". The photo can be part of your tree without being tied to an individual.

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  21. Mary Frances reminds me of the character played by Holly Hunter in "The Piano", what with the dress and hair style.

    Don't wear the bonnet, unless you want to grow a sour puss expression like this...
    ;)~
    HUGZ

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  22. A wonderful collection, Wendy. I think we all empathize with your family album mysteries as we have our own riddles and puzzles too. Perhaps we should just collect them all and give them their own album. Wait .. that's what Sepia Saturday is.

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