Friday, February 19, 2016

Sepia Saturday: Faithful Companion

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt features jazz singer Billie Holiday with her beloved dog “Mister.” Like many animal lovers, Billie Holiday liked her dogs better than she did some people. The sheer number of photos of poodles in my collection makes me wonder if my great-grandmother’s sister was such a person too.

Anyone who reads my blog faithfully is well aware of my struggle to identify one particular family who lived in New York in the early 1900s. Picture after picture identifies the children and ONE of the poodles, but none of them name the woman who is likely my great-grandaunt.

Just this week, I found another clue in the form of this photo found in a box of "stuff" recently given to me.

Sister of Mary Theresa Sheehan Walsh 1915
Woman and poodle 1915
Likely a sister to Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh
It’s a good thing there is a poodle in the photo; otherwise I might not have recognized the woman as a possible sister to Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh. Surely the woman in the photo is the same as this woman                                                                                                                                                       
John Jr and Bob with Unknown Sheehan about 1922

Sheehan aunts and cousins New York 1921
New York 1921

and this woman on the left -->.

John Jr. and Cutie 1918
John Jr. and Cutie 1918
The photo of woman and poodle is dated 1915 – a full two years before the oldest of the other photos I already knew about. While my other photos name the children John Jr. and Bob or Barbie and one poodle Cutie, there are very few clues other than dates and an occasional mention of a location. 

This new-found picture, however, has some more clues on the back.

Back of photo of woman with poodle 1915

What does this say?  Salma Moss? Is that her name?

Or is it Salma, Mass? Salma, Massachusetts? However, there does not seem to be a town in Massachusetts called Salma. Is it a dyslexic spelling for Salem? Salem, Massachusetts? I still don’t know the identity of this family, but this photo gives me someplace else to look besides New York.

And what is that other word? Cuucy?  Anny? Is that the dog’s name? “Cuucy” sounds a lot like “Cutie.”

2 Poodles
Cutie and Unknown Companion
Could the dogs be related too?

No use singing the blues when you can join my faithful companions at Sepia Saturday.

© 2016, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Cutie is super cute. Many people like their pets more than the humans they meet.

  2. I think you are right in that the woman in the first photo holding the poodle and the woman on the beach are the same, if not they must be twins.

    The hand writing is very hard to decipher - do you know any hand writing experts of that era?

    To my eye the first initial may be a capital L - L A L Q U E and the second name Mass or Moss.

    The word beginning with C is beyond me, I'm afraid.

  3. Almost looks like it could be Curry, but I agree, it is hard to decipher. Stunning too to think that photo is now over 100 years old. Hope you can start unraveling some of the story1


  4. Girl! This funny how many dog pictures you have.

    Maybe the two dogs are Cutie Sr. and Cutie Jr.

  5. Could the top be a woman's name of Saloma, a variation of Salome? Maybe there is more to the last name (Mass...) hidden under the black paper stuck to the photo? Perhaps the top of the "t" has worn off in the name Cutie or Cuitie? Good luck!

  6. Oh, love the stroller with John jr, and the idea of the little poodle having a seat as well. Nice, decent people who appreciate their faithful companion. The writing, yes, I have even trouble reading mine after a while!

  7. I had a boss once with handwriting that only I could decipher but this is beyond me. Great photos, though. I hope you find more clues.

  8. I agree, it has to be the same woman. The dog or dogs look like they were treated like little children. I love the photo of the little fellow in his pusher with the dog riding behind.

  9. It looks to me that you have the oldest photos of dogs this week. The poodle getting a ride had got it made.

  10. I like the top photo. I write my r's in the middle of words similar to the second word on the back of the photo. When I looked at it I thought it was Mars. Maybe the beginning of a last name?

  11. Each pup here is just adorable, what a sweet post, and lovely photos. I'm a big fan yet of mysteries and we have a few in our family photos too. I wonder if we'll ever get all our questions answered? It makes me think I better make sure some of our photos are clearly marked for years to come!

  12. I think it is the same woman. I think that is an "L" not an "S". Horrible handwriting to decipher. Reminds me of indexing old records :/

  13. I think the words on the back of that photo are Salam, Mass, but the other, beginning with 'C' is ??? Cutie is certainly a cute little thing, however. :)

  14. Lucky get a box of such interesting stuff. It frustrates me to attempt to read the handwritten census information. The photo of John and Cutie is charming.

  15. I read the first letter as a "L" and see Lalana. I think it might be Mass for Massachusetts but I could also interpret it as Morse with the final "e" under the black spot. The last word looks like Quincy to me. The first letter looks more like a fancy "Q". My two cents. Your photos are wonderful!

  16. A most intriguing puzzle, especially with such a great clue as a recurring dog. I like your interpretation of dyslexic spelling. I think it reads Salem, Mass. but written by someone with bad spelling or unfamiliar with the place name. I'm fascinated by the fence in your first photo. Why is would a fence need such a stout top rail? Hitching a horse and cart? And is that a mini-roundabout at the intersection of the dirt streets?

  17. I’m a bit of a softie where poodles are concerned as my childhood pet was a poodle. Nowadays I just make a fuss of other people’s dogs and enjoy galleries like yours.

  18. So funny that they would write the name of the dog in the photo and omit the name of one of the people in the photo.