Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 1 September 2011

In Her Sunday Best

                           In her Sunday Best, cradling her doll for comfort,
                           Her eyes wide and uncertain,
                           Not confident enough to smile,
                           Standing as straight as chubby two year-old legs 
                           and starched petticoats will allow,
                           She poses for her place in The Album of Immortality

I was delighted when Alan’s Sepia Saturday prompt this week was a photograph of an angelic little girl. I have quite a few cherubic little girls in my family albums, but I think they will keep for another day. So, instead of producing what could have been a portfolio of potential models of yesteryear, I went for the ‘less is more' option and stepped outside the family to another little girl, clutching her favourite doll. She has one of the sweetest and most angelic faces I’ve seen in sepia. I inherited the picture when she died and have always loved it.

You may remember an earlier post I did about her father, ‘A Fine Looking Gentleman’, who bought Mary up after her mother’s early death. I mentioned this picture then, as I think it was taken on the same day as her father’s; the furniture is the clue, and if you check back to the picture of her father I’m sure you’ll agree.


I don’t have lots of information about Miss Mary Carter, as she died an elderly spinster with no living family that I knew of, so it’s good to be able to honour her memory in this way. The back of the photograph shows that the studio was in London, so perhaps she lived there with her family for a while. Each photograph, and the one which I think must have been her mother, bear the marks of a triple folded photograph frame with an arched top, so I am taking that as a further clue. I think she came from a loving family, as there is a further ‘snap’ of a family group with what appears to be grandparents, aunts and three children, but which is Mary is difficult to tell. Is she the shy little girl on the left, the long-haired girl on the right, or the baby, sitting on the rather stern looking grandma’s lap and reaching out for her older sister? I don’t even know if she had any sisters. The gentleman on the right could well be Mr Carter; he certainly has the neatly-trimmed beard. I also inherited a very old copy of ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ inscribed, "To Pops’ Mary Carter on her 8th Birthday”. I like to think ‘Pops’ was her grandfather, and that he is the patriarch on the left in the photograph.

Miss Mary Carter was the companion of my mother’s maiden aunt, and always dressed as elegantly as in the studio portrait below. I had maiden great-aunts from that generation on both sides of the family; so many young eligible men died in the First Word War, so it was quite common when I was growing up. By the time I knew Miss Carter she would be in her fifties. The photograph of her with her cat, Peter, was taken in her garden in 1954.


I think my Dad took the picture, as there were several taken on the same day with Miss Carter and her friend, my own great-aunt Maude. Among that batch was this one of another little poppet with her dolly; me, aged two, closing the circle for this week.


20 comments:

  1. I love popping by to read your posts - they always seem so thick with history and the stories you share with us set my imagination whirring. Mary Carter made an extremely beautiful little girl - how sad that she died a spinster :-( My Dad had a maiden Aunt growing up only she lost her beau in the second world war rather than the first. It's a heartbreaking thing, all those young boys lost in both wars and their sweethearts left to mourn them. xXx

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  2. Great pictures and history - thanks for sharing. Scarlett x

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  3. Oh, how sweet is that first pic! Lovely and interesting post.
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

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  4. What a beautiful young girl followed by a fascinating post. The young you at the end looks full of mischief.

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  5. The first picture is almost haunting, but the last picture is priceless, such expression!!!!

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  6. Great photos and a great story to go with it! It was wonderful of you to remember Mary Carter in this way.

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  7. Great photos. It's so nice to see the contrast of child and adult photos. In the first photo, she looks as if she may have been crying just before the photo was taken. She was certainly adorable - as were you in that last photo.

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  8. The first picture is my favorite, but I also love any picture of people with their pet cats.

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  9. What a super photo and interesting story. I like the clue of the furniture and palm branch.

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  10. I agree, Nell, about Mary's portrait being from the same studio, and perhaps sitting, as that of her father. The furniture has identical fabric, and I think must be part of a set of studio furniture which the photographer used. Gorsuch operated from this address from 1891 to 1911, but my guess is that this is from the mid- to late 1890s.

    I have also inherited a couple of albums which used to belong to a maiden great-aunt. It's interesting to see what photos are in there, and how they relate to one's own close family. Thank you for sharing this interesting story.

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  11. The first picture is so striking - for a toddler, she looks almost composed and elegant. You look like a thoroughly contented little one.
    Mary Carter with the cat - she's doing that thing mothers do when they are photographed with their children, looking down and deflecting attention from herself.
    Great descriptions, ad ever, Little Nell.

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  12. Lovely story, beautifully told.....

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  13. I find the first photo with the poem introducing it, priceless. Yes it was a different time for sure, maiden aunts and female companions and others raising children when their parents died. This was a nice array with remembrances and immortality for Mary Carter. I think there could be a novel here somewhere..using this outline information and photos.

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  14. It must Have Been The Fashion To Give Young Girls A Doll To Pose With (I have a similar one of my Mum around the same age).Mary Is,Indeed,Very Photogenic .

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  15. An angelic little girl, as you say. She actually has the same soulful look on her face in later years. The picture of you seems a great deal more cheerful.

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  16. Oh gosh all great photos but I have to say the first and the last ones stole my heart!

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  17. Lovely photo of little shy Mary - I too have several maiden aunts, due to WW11. I like the photo of Mary and Peter - but I love cats so may be a little biased towards "owner and human photos". Jo :-)

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  18. great first picture, and i think she is the child on the left, something soulful in the eyes. pity so many went throught this life alone. and you were quite the cutsie too!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  19. Oh my goodness, you look like a doll yourself in the last shot. I can easily imagine a little doll in a box with crisp tissue paper dressed like this holding a doll. What a grand toy model you'd make.

    And what a stunning little girl Mary was.

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  20. What a wonderful tribute to Mary ... that first picture is incredibly clear. I hadn't thought about what the war had done to potential husbands, that is sad.

    I really enjoyed your post very much ... the darling photo of you too.

    Thanks so much for stopping by to visit.

    Kathy M.

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