Archive for March, 2015

Here is a photograph that I feel I might have a lead on:



We see that there are three females in the photo above. Is the woman in the next photograph the woman on left of the photo?


I ask this question because Grandpa identified this woman as Cora DeSmit. The photographer is the same for both photos.

Cora DeSmit was a daughter of John and Mary DeSmit. Mary was Richard DeKorn’s sister. Cora might have been born in 1888, and she passed away in 1953 (or 1954).  I have still not really investigated the DeSmit family. I believe that there was an oldest sister, Jennie, 1875 to 1908. So the oldest woman in the photograph could be Jennie. But if Cora is the middle of the three sisters in the photograph, that doesn’t fit with my preliminary information that shows these two other DeSmit sisters:

Frances Gertrude DeSmit was born 22 Nov 1883 in Kalamazoo and died 15 Jan 1980 in Kalamazoo. She was married to Charles Reeves and then Jacob Flipse.  I’ve actually written about her here and here. I met this woman when she was elderly. 

Then there was also Gertrude, 1889-1903. She died of “acute rheumatism with endo carditis.”  Could this have been Rheumatic Fever? She was only 13 years old.

So let’s say this photograph of the 3 was taken in 1902. Jennie would have been 27, Cora, 14, Frances 19, and Gertrude 12 or 13.

The configuration of sisters could be Frances, Cora, and Gertrude (before Gertrude passed away).  Why wasn’t Jennie in the photograph then? Jennie didn’t marry until she was 30 years old, in 1905. Or is it Jennie in the photograph? If it was, where was Frances? Frances married Charles Reeves in 1902, so maybe this photograph was taken around the time that the girls’ sister Frances was being married?

If the youngest girl here is truly Gertrude, imagine the sadness of these sisters not long after the photograph was taken–to lose their youngest sister. Then Jennie died five years later, magnifying their sadness.

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Here is another photo from the box of my family photos. Now this photo begs the question: was she actually a member of my family? I have found photographs in our collection that are not of relatives. I wrote earlier about Tom Richmond and his family, neighbors of my relatives. Tom was the butcher. Also, we have a photograph of Dutch Arnold, the saloon keeper.


There are no clues on the photo. Grandpa didn’t know who she was, but it’s likely that she was from Kalamazoo. I would love to have someone claim this photograph of their relative!!

Any clues you can see in the photograph?

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If you tuned in last week (here), you saw a photograph of a woman in a Pilgrim-style bonnet and black dress. The photographer was based in the Dutch towns of Utrecht and Den Haag (The Hague).  Thanks to a Dutch reader, Hubert Theuns, I learned these facts associated with the photo:

The photographer, Cornelis Johannes Lodewicus Vermeulen, was born in Utrecht 18.11.1861 and died in Hilversum 05.01.1936. Photographs from the period 1886-1915 can be found athttps://rkd.nl/nl/explore/portraits#query=cjl+vermeulen&start=0&filters%5Bcollectienaam%5D%5B%5D=RKD%20%28Collectie%20Iconografisch%20Bureau%29

In the Dutch province of Zeeland there is a society for the preservation of traditional costumes. The secretary of that society identified the traditional costume as the traditional costume of Cadzand, a small town in the Dutch province of Zeeland. In 2007 Cadzand had about 800 inhabitants. I believe this information may be useful to you.

I was thrilled with this information. The thought of a costume native to a small town–and owning a family photograph of that costume–was beyond anything I ever expected.

A couple of days later, I had a thought. What if I was wrong and this photo wasn’t the only one by this photographer in my archival boxes? So I searched and searched. And then I found. This photo:

Compare it with the photograph of the woman. Different table, but the screen and the carpet are the same. The chair might be the same. Now we have clothing that looks more fashionable for the period.

Craziest connection between the two photos: the book held by a woman above and by the woman below! The same book? What is the meaning of holding the book? Is this a stylistic tic of the photographer or does it have Victorian meaning, something like the language of flowers?

Do you think these photos were taken at the same time? Part of a family group? Could the woman below be the mother of the three above?



Here are the backs of the photos in case they offer any clues:


Note that they both have the 3 digit telephone numbers. According to the research of Hubert Theuns:

The telephone was introduced at The Hague on July 1, 1883, and at Utrecht in February 1883. There used to be local telephone directories, but I have not (yet) found any on the internet. National telephone directories were published as from 1901. The collection of national telephone directories from 1901 till 1950 are being digitalised by the dutch national library, but unfortunately this process has found delays. Only the national directory of 1915 is available on the internet, and shows that the photographer in 1915 in Utrecht had the same three digit number as mentioned on the photograph, but that his number in The Hague already had four digits.

That leaves quite a range of time that the photo could have been taken. It definitely is pre-WWI; that is one thing I know. But are the styles 1890s or after 1900? It seems to me that the skirts are becoming “slim,” so maybe closer to 1910?

Well, Hubert has been busy at work and has been able to narrow down the time period even more. This is what he wrote yesterday:

New developments. I contacted a local history circle in Zeeland (without being a member) to have the photo put up at their website for identification. I got the reply that they contacted a museum in Nieuwvliet, devoted to the regional costume of Cadzand. The museum replied that the scan of the photo is not detailed enough and requested the original photo. . . .
I also contacted the museum on communication (devoted to the telephone) in The Hague about telephone directories. The librarian informed me that the archive of the municipality of The Hague has a collection of old telephone directories of The Hague. This morning I visited the archive and consulted their collection of “Adresboeken” for The Hague and Scheveningen.
C.J.L. Vermeulen was listed for the first time in the Adresboek, 47th edition, year 1898-1899, but without telephone number.
In the books 1899-1900, 1900-1901, 1901-1902, en 1902-1903 he is mentioned with telephone number 774 (as on the photo).
In the book 52the edition 1903-1904 the telephone number is 1873.
On the basis of the information the photo must originate from 1899-1902, with a possible extension to 1898-1903).

Isn’t that something?! Now we know that the photograph had to have been taken between 1898 and 1903, most likely between 1899 and 1902. Hubert’s sleuthing is beyond compare!

For me, there is no comparison between the two photographs in interest. The woman in the bonnet has a compelling expression and handles the book as if she cares about books. The young woman holding the book doesn’t seem to care at all about it. She does look uncomfortable–as if she would rather change into her everyday clothes! I’d guess it was her sister, standing, who wanted them to wear matching fashionable dresses.

My gratitude to Hubert Theuns is boundless. I could not have imagined such a detailed answer to the questions of the lady in the unusual outfit.

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