The Orphaned Images Project: Resseguie, Comstock and sundry items

20 01 2011

Several years ago Michael and I attended an ephemera auction in Alexandria, Virginia on a whim. We were out shopping and saw a sign announcing the auction to be held the next night, so we decided to check it out. I don’t remember spending much money (less than $100, as I recall), but I came away with a wealth of paper treasures. In addition to several etchings (one dated 1794!), I acquired a medium-sized (ratty) rattan suitcase, its lid bulging from the contents of the case—early 1900s photographs, concert programs (including a Casino de Paris production of Charming Paris, directed by Henri Varna and featuring French film actor Robert Berri, Joan Daniell, Nicolas Arasse and others), a 1910-11 Scholar’s Monthly Report (for fifth grader Earl C. Holsinger from Mayland, VA), books (including Hindenburg’s March into London, translated from the German original and published in 1916 by the John C. Winston Company in Philadelphia), postcards, magazines (including a 1920 Harper’s Magazine), newspaper clippings, a Savings Bank of Baltimore statement booklet (for Mr. Carl E. Weingarten of Baltimore, MD with deposits in 1939–1941 ranging from $1.10 to a royal sum of $5.00!), a 1921 automobile insurance card (for Raymond Koonts of Bedford County, PA), several 1930 Western Union Cablegrams (sent to London from a New Jersey woman named Mimi reporting about a man named Gunnar who is very ill), handwritten letters from a Syracuse University student from Maryland in 1972, and manuals for everything from motors to kitchen appliances. There are numerous other items that I’ll share with you as the mood strikes me. I have no clue as to whether this collection is from one sentimental person or a jumbled mix thrown together by the auctioneer. In any case, I will share a few of the more interesting items from this treasure trove of history.

Most items were loose in the suitcase, but there was one plastic baggie with a stack of photos seemingly all relating to a house or two and the families who resided there. Several of the photos show a family on the front porch of a beautiful white two-story structure, a grandfather with his grandchildren and various gardens around a house. The first photo is a b&w postcard of a watercolor painting of a house labeled “Alexander Resseguie—1738.” Written in pencil on the back is the following:

My great grandfather purchased this house in 1858 for his son-in-law James Comstock, who was my grandfather (father of Strong Comstock). The original Comstock house was across the road on land still in the family (grant of land, 1700) long since burned.

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In my research I first found mention of an Alexander Resseguie in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1709. Below is an excerpt from the genealogical record I found on this site here.

Alexander Resseguie was a settler in Norwalk, Conn., in 1709. Tradition has it that he was the younger son of one Alexandre Resseguie, a Huguenot refugee from France, who brought with him from the mother country a small hair-covered trunk, studded with iron nails, containing all of the family wealth he was able to secure, consisting largely of title deeds to property in France. Hoping to some day regain his abandoned possessions, he educated his eldest son to the profession of the law, intending when the time was ripe, he should return to Fiance and establish a claim to the family estates. This hope was destined never to be realized, for the son died just previous to the time of his intended departure on this mission, and the father, disheartened, abandoned the undertaking; the trunk* and papers passed into the possession of the younger son, and at a subsequent period the latter were, the most of them, destroyed by fire.

(*This trunk is now in the possession of Col. George E. Gray of San Francisco, It is eleven and one-half inches long, seven inches wide, and four inches high; the top oval. The wood is worm-eaten; very little hair remains upon the leather, and the nails with which it is studded are of hammered iron. The papers contained in the trunk were nearly all destroyed by fire, by the wife of Timothy Resseguie (14), during a fit of temporary insanity.)

Just how much of fact underlies this tradition we know not. It is the opinion of the compiler that the family fled to England, before coming to this country, and that one Alexandre de Ressiguier, from Trescle’oux, in Dauphiny, who was known as a silk manufacturer in London, in 1696, was the father of Alexander of Norwalk. It is probable that an earlier residence of the family in America would have been a matter of record, but no trace of the name of Resseguie (save one * ) has been found prior to the appearance of Alexander in Norwalk, in 1709. Thus we are compelled to record him as the head of the family, and the ancestor of the American Resseguies. On the first day of April, 1709, he purchased a tract of land of Samuel St. John, and from this time for many years, he was interested in acquiring land, the records showing one hundred or more estates to which he held the titles, located in what is now comprised in the towns of Nonvalk, Wilton, Ridgefield, New Canaan, Westport and Weston. The ability to make these large acquisitions would seem to indicate the substantial character of the contents of the hair trunk.

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So here I am with my (ratty) rattan suitcase full of treasures, suddenly wishing I possessed the moth-eaten leather trunk! It is highly likely the house in these photos was inhabited by generations of people related to Alexandre Resseguie. Let’s go with that assumption until I discover otherwise.

Notes: The photo of the little girl has “Lilly” written in pencil on the back. Looks like Grandpa is catching a few zzzzz’s before dinner in the photo of the elderly gentleman in the dining room. The last photo of a house may be the same house and perhaps the portico was changed at a later date. I zoomed in on the photo in Photoshop and the shutters and narrow windows on either side of the front door are the same, but it could possibly be the original Comstock house directly across the street from this house, which, according to the postcard author, “long since burned down.” It looks like there is a lively lawn party going on—and take a look at the car in the foreground!

When researching just exactly what classifies as “ephemera,” I discovered there is a club for such collectors (but of course there is!)—The Ephemera Society of America. Their definition of ephemera: “includes a broad range of minor (and sometimes major) everyday documents intended for one-time or short-term use.” I wouldn’t consider these family photos “one-time or short-term” use, but my suitcase did contain a lot of memorabilia, ticket stubs, programs and the like.





The Orphaned Images Project: Sallie B. Gordon’s album

5 01 2011

Among the wonderful treasures in the box of “orphaned images” given to me by Doris, a family friend, is a 6 x 7.75 red hardcover “CEM Album,” produced by J.B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia. On the first page the album’s owner has written “Miss Sallie B. Gordon.” There is a thread-tied lock of hair (Sallie’s, perhaps?), a perfectly pressed leaf and a swatch of silky blue and red checked fabric nestled into the front of the album. Just imagine—these items are more than 150 years old! Other pages have signatures, poems and well wishes from dozens of friends and the date they signed her book, ranging from 1858-1869.

In the back of the book, Sallie tucked in a card with a photo of a group of men. The caption reads: Active Mitglieder des Beethoven Maennerchors, December 25, 1893. I did a little research and there is still an active “Beethoven Maennerchor” in San Antonio, Texas. You can check out their website here. It is one of the oldest German singing societies in Texas and its purpose is to preserve German song, music and language. The Beethoven Mannerchor was organized in February 1867 by William Carl August Thielepape (1814-1904), who was the mayor of San Antonio during the Reconstruction era. Research on German-born Thielepape revealed he was quite the Renaissance man—he was an architect, engineer, teacher, photographer and lithographer. He was known as the “singing mayor.” After his tenure as mayor, he was an attorney in Chicago. I also found a pdf file—Celebrating Das Deutsche—from the Journal of Texas Music History, Vol. 5 [2003], Iss. 2, Art. 4, that has a similar image (exact same men but a different exposure) on page 6 of the pdf file.

The letter shown below was written by two of her teachers (they address her as “Sarah” and not Sallie; perhaps Sarah was her formal name). The letter reads:

Presented to Miss Sarah B. Gordon by her teachers—Mr. and Mrs. Bower—as a reward of merit for attention to her studies, and obedience to her teachers.

May this token of our regard ever prove to her, that merit never goes unrewarded: that intelligence, modesty and virtue are jewels fairer and richer than earth’s boasted treasures. Be diligent and dutiful and a bright future awaits you.

Youth is not rich in time—it may be poor—part with it, as with money; sharing; Pay no moment, but in purchase of its worth. And what its worth? Ask death-beds; they can tell.

Chillicothe, Mo., May 27th, 1858

I find it fascinating that this little treasure made its way all the way from Chillicothe, Missouri to San Antonio, Texas…carried from the Show Me State to the Lone Star State by a young student, then passed down or tucked away more than 100 years until Doris discovered it at a yard sale and passed it on to me. Thanks, Doris!





The Orphaned Images Project: Little girl in gingham dress

4 01 2011

This is an ambrotype (circa 1854) housed in a Union Case, commonly used for ambrotype photos from the mid 1850s – 1870s. The left side of the case is made of velvet and the metal around the photos is s soft gold-colored alloy called pinchbeck. The outside of the case is made from a compound of sawdust and shellac, which allows elaborate patterns to be created. The image is hand tinted pink on the little girl’s cheeks and the frame has a cover (with a red velvet interior) much like the images in this link here.





The Orphaned Images Project, Installation #1

4 01 2011

This posting launches a new project that I’ll call “The Orphaned Images Project.” I am always a bit saddened when I discover albums and projector carousels at thrift stores, and yard/estate sales (their loss, my gain). Who gives up photos of their families? Are all the members of that family deceased? Was there a rift? And I wonder about the photographer. Was he/she passionate about being the family recorder (as much as I am about being one)?

I have quite a collection of 35mm slides, stereoscopic slides, family albums and loose b&w photos. Some I’ve purchased, but most I have acquired through my dad, who is always on the lookout for interesting photos for me. Doris, my dad’s friend and former co-worker, gave me some very old albums many years ago that I really treasure. These contain tintypes, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, carte de visite or CDVs (photographic calling cards), and cabinet cards dating back to the 1800s. One album even includes a post-mortem photo of a little girl, as well as beribboned locks of hair, calling cards and newspaper clippings! I also have a collection of more than 50 hand-colored lantern slides of various scenes and people from Cote d’Azur (French Riviera). I purchased those for $50 in an antique store near Skyline Drive when I moved here in 1985 from Texas. Another great find courtesy of my dad were four metal cabinets full of stereoscopic slides, all painstakingly labeled with minute details of where/when/what was photographed. The photographer was clearly a music lover (or perhaps a music teacher)—many of the travel images are of places where famous musicians were born, performed or buried. There are hundreds of images in each cabinet!

I will share many of these images from my various collections in the coming year.

For now, a few more recent 35mm transparency images (circa 1967-71):

Photo #1: Hey, could that possibly be former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and country singer Tammy Wynette enjoying a (plastic) glass of champagne on the afternoon of July 18, 1971? (The date was scribbled on the slide mount). I love how the lady in the groovy dress blends in with the striped couch!

Please forgive me, but both of these photos are begging to be captioned—and I’m just the one to do it.

Lady Bird: “So, anyhoo, I told her that if Lyndon pulled something like that, I would not stand by my man.”

Tammy: “I am so gonna write a song about this.”

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Photo #2: “Glocamora Inn” and “10-2-1967” is written on the slide mount for this photo. I did a little sleuthing and learned that there is a Glocca Morra Inn in Sweet Grass, Montana.

Wilma and Joan didn’t particularly care for Lou’s awkward advances, but if they were ever going to advance past the typing pool, they would have to find a way to endure them.





Fuji G617 archives: Newspaper Rock National Historical Monument

1 01 2011

Petroglyphs, Newspaper Rock National Historical Monument, Canyonlands National Park, southeastern Utah

The word ‘petroglyph’ comes from the Greek words ‘petros’ (stone) and ‘glyphein’ (to carve). The word was originally coined in French as pétroglyphe. Newspaper Rock features a 200 square foot area of ancient writings and symbols by four different Native American cultures on a cliff wall. The rock is part of the Wingate sandstone cliffs that form the upper end of Indian Creek Canyon. It is one of the largest and best known collection of petroglyphs. Dating back as far as 2,000 years, more than 650 images were etched into “desert varnish,” a dark manganese-iron deposit caused by rainfall and bacteria that forms on exposed sandstone cliff faces. Figures have been assigned to the Anasazi, Fremont, Anglo-Indian and Navajo. Some drawings are as recent as the 20th century, left by the first modern day explorers of the region.

Newspaper Rock is located on Hwy 211, 25 miles before the entrance to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. It is 28 miles northwest of Monticello and 53 miles south of Moab.

Beauty is in the details, so be sure to double click on the image to enlarge it!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.