.jump-link{ display:none }

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Portrait Props - Sepia Saturday

Sepia Saturday gives bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photographs. 

Hats seemed to be the main  point of interest in this week's picture prompt, but earlier in the year I had  posted an Array of Hats,  

So I decided to go for a different theme - namely Portrait Props - the chairs, tables and artefacts  used in studio photographs.

On a bear skin rug?  My mother Kathleen Danson, born 1908, in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lacnashire,  is on the  right of this photograph, with her older sister Edith born a year and a week earlier in 1907. Needless to say this is the earliest picture I have of my mother. The Two Sisters remained very close all their lives
Who was that very stern, rather Spanish looking woman sitting in the  imposing chair?  This was the question  that started me on the family history trail when I found this photograph in a shoebox collection at my grandfather's house.   The answer -  my great grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe.   There was an apocryphal  story that her dark looks had come from sailors, who after the Armada were shipwrecked on the Fylde coast of Lancashire.

By her side, her granddaughter Annie Maria who made her home with Maria after the early death of her own mother.  Annie was born 1905 and she looks to be around 10-11 years old in the picture, so I estimate it was was taken  c.1915.  Annie's father died in 1917 whilst at military camp.
This   was amongst the large collection of photographs of my Great Aunt Jennie and it seemed to be the fashion to stand young children on chairs and tables for formal photographs.
Written on the back was "From Mary, Charlie & Nannie Hardisty, Villa Farm, Bispham, Blackpool.  The photograph was taken at W .J. Gregson & Co, W, P. Beck, proprietor, Photographers, 92 Talbot Road, Blackpool.  
I did some quick detective work and found the family in the 1911 census, with Mary,  26 years old, husband Charles Alfred 24 and Nannie Ada 1 year old.  She does not look too happy here  in her best knitted coat and bonnet, plus little boots.   c. 1912. 
Another picture from Great Aunt Jennie's collection.  This photograph is so sweet, but I know next to nothing about it.   At least Jennie had written the names of the children  on the reverse as Jesse and Bernard Penington.  I like the seascape background, and is that a spade that Bernard has in his left hand?   I was unable to trace the children in the 1911 census, so think the photograph must have been taken later.   


An idyllic country scene as the studio backcloth in this photograph of Joseph  Prince Oldham  (1855-1917) and his granddaughter Elsie (1906-1989)  - plus Dolly, taken c. 1911.

Elsie Oldham and my mother, Kathleen Danson, were second cousins, and I am grateful for Elsie's son, Stuart for the use of this lovely photograph.

Joseph became a carter and coal merchant in Blackpool, Lancashire, in a house with stables, opposite the North Station. His son John William Oldham carried on the business.

In the 1920's, Elsie became a hairdresser, giving her name a French twist as "Elise", working from the family home.
 My Great Uncle George (Jennie's youngest brother), looking very studious in another imposing seat which reminds me of the Coronation Chair . George, born 1894,  was killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.   See A Sad Watch Tale. 
A light-hearted moment in war time for this posed picture of my grandfather William Danson.  A family story related that during the First World War, he befriended some Scottish soldiers and dressed up in one of their  kilts and tammie  for this photograph.  In reality he was a Lancastrian through and through.  He won the Military Medal at Givenchy but would never talk about his wartime experiences to his family.
 Finally 1944 and my elegant  mother Kathleen Weston, nee Danson.  I am the baby!   A studio  photograph that my father carried with him during the war. 
Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

To see how other bloggers have interpreted the theme,  look  here


  1. That's funny! In Scheveningen goes the same story about the Armada being shipwrecked and leaving Spanish sailors in our village. Some people even wore the surname "Spaans".

  2. Such a fantastic collection of family pictures. Really enjoyed each one and the stories as well. Wonderful.

  3. I LOVE old photos, so your post has gotten my day started off quite well. I laughed at your observation about posing children STANDING on chairs. I have MANY such pictures, and one of the most used chairs has a broken spindle. Didn't anyone have a GOOD chair to use??

  4. A super collection! I am sure your father treasured the one with your mother and yourself.

  5. What a great idea, to concentrate on the background and props. You have so many wonderful family pictures here. In the first one, your Mom looks as if she is about to tip over.

    I like to imagine your father taking out that photo and missing you and your mom so much; can't waiting to be back home.

    Thanks for sharing these.

    Kathy M.

  6. I had a sister whom I never knew as she died in childhood way before I was born. I have a vague recollection of a photo of her stood on a chair just like the girl you have shown.

  7. It was such fun looking at your photos and focusing on the props and backdrops. That ocean backdrop with the 2 little boys is my favorite. It's so lifelike. And the little shovel for a prop. Very, very cute. Great photos.

  8. New follower. Such sweet photos of the children, and a great portrait of your grandfather! Thanks for sharing.

    The Overnight Bestseller

  9. a really nice collection of photos. I too have ones with children standing on chairs.

  10. How wonderful, a very fine collection of hats too! I always wonder when I see those photographs with the fur cloth in them, why they ever decided to use those, they almost always really stand out...more than the lovely people for me! Especially when you see just a bit of it, makes me wonder if it's a dog or another animal! Very lovely sepia post, thanks so much! The children and baby doll are so adorable!

  11. What a delightful collection from your family album Sue. You're absolutely right about children standing on chairs in portraits. I have a sweet one here: http://hangingonmyword.blogspot.com.es/2011/09/in-her-sunday-best.html
    by your father I'm sure and I love the one of little Jesse and Bernard with his spade.

  12. I see they have propped your mother up against the settle arm in the first one, how nice to have such an early photo. A great collection of family photograph, those seafaring children are adorable.

  13. Lovely, lovely photos Sue! And the last one with you and your mom is so precious, especially since your dad carried it with him during the war.

  14. Very interesting take on the theme. True how the backgrounjust sets the stage. I wish I had more of my family. That early photo is a treasure.

  15. What an interesting batch of photos. And all identified! The faces are all interesting.

  16. A terrific idea and great that it could be done with your own family photos. Do you think the first could be a "Hidden Mother" shot with mom's arm holding the child discretely under the sheepskin?

  17. Wonderful images. Especially love the Penington boys. And I'm fascinated by the odd table your grandfather is touching. Seems a wobbly light table to use for a prop. I wonder if it had any significance.

  18. Thanks for tackling this subject, the props photographers used in old photos has always fascinated me and it is therefore interesting to read your post on the subject.


Thank you for your comment which will appear on screen after moderation.