Mysterious Photos

 This past Saturday I was at the shore (NOT at the beach) at my mother's house.  (I'm going to continue to call it that because that is what it is.  My mother purchased it in 1995 and she loved it.  To me, it will always be her house. To all those sharks who have been circling me with phone calls and mailings about selling it, it's NOT for sale.  My father is quite happy there.  UNLESS you can find someone who is willing to pay at least $15,000,000 [yes you read that right] at which time I MIGHT consider it.  I MIGHT.)  I was going through some drawers (as one often does when you start to clean items out) and came across a large padded shipper that had some photos in it.  There were some that were very old (over 100 years) and some "newer".  Some had some context.  (Like the photo of my great uncle and his freshman basketball team.  He wrote all their names at the bottom and on the back had written some notes as to who had done what or scored.  The only thing I can't figure out is why he was going to a neighboring town's high school.  That's a story I'll have to dig out from his son someday.)  But there are two that are a mystery to me.

To start there is this one (above) titled "Tom Thumb Wedding).  Someone (I'm guessing my great grandmother) filled in some blanks (that I might have been able to partially figure out myself) by writing the names Jessie (my grandmother) and Harold (my great uncle) on two of the children.  (Where was my third great uncle, Bill?  Was he already sick with tuberculous?) There are also two other children who are labeled.  One is Anita. (I'm guessing this is a distant relative who was born in my town, but who eventually moved with her relatives to California.  My parents and I traveled to California when I was about 5 and we stayed with her and her husband, but I don't have much memory of that time,)  The other is a little boy and all I can make out is "Cla" with the next letter possibly being an "r" or a "c."  I'm at a loss as to who that might be.

The "event" (Tom Thumb Wedding) was apparently relatively common at the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th century and was often performed in churches.  As per an Atlas Obscura article from 1917 ( the spectacle which "reenacted" the wedding of Tom Thumb (real name Charles Stratton) and Lavinia Warren.  There was a script/pamphlet to follow (published by Walter H. Baker Company) and the performance was often used as a fundraiser.

So I have to assume that this "production" took place at our local Methodist church.  The setting is obviously a church and my Great Grandmother and her family were Methodists.  (And remained so until after her death in 1954 at which point my mother started to attend the local Presbyterian church where all of her friend went.)  The Methodist church was also THE church in town in the early 1900s.  (I know the class of 1918 had their high school graduation there on Thursday, June 20th.)  When the photo was taken I can only guess sometime between 1913-16.  This is only a guess based on the appearance of my grandmother, who is obviously one of the older children, but not yet a high school graduate AND if the Anita noted in the photo is the person I think it is, she was born in 1908 and looks to be in the 5-8 age range. Of course I could be completely wrong.  A cursory search has provided no leads as to when, why or where. (Although I am rather confident that this IS the Methodist church.) 

The photo itself was affixed to a black piece of cardboard.  Perhaps this was part of a larger poster that contained additional photos?  The backing has obviously been cut.  I will NOT remove the photo from the board.  (It’s too much of a risk in my opinion).  The back side does have the following details:


It must have been a relatively important event to have two professionals (all the way from Brooklyn!) involved.  And there were so many children involved for such a little town.  The why behind it gnaws at me, but it will remain a mystery.  At least for now.

As for the other photos…that’s a blog post for another day.


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