Motherhood Times Three

Motherhood Times Three

Judy Linnebach sent me this haunting photo of a couple and their three babies. That's right, triplets! I don't have all the answers yet, I'm still working on it. I'll post the second installment next week. This image has obviously been enhanced by the photographer—the man's beard, her hair and...

Judy Linnebach sent me this haunting photo of a couple and their three babies. That’s right, triplets! I don’t have all the answers yet, I’m still working on it. I’ll post the second installment next week.

This image has obviously been enhanced by the photographer—the man’s beard, her hair and all their eyes have additional dark ink added to them. The baby on the right has eyes dotted in. Blue or light green eyes tend to appear very light in early photographs so it’s not unusual to see this type of enhancement.

Since I’m still gathering facts about this picture, the family and the photographer, I have some general impressions but no real answers yet.
I have, however, learned a lot about multiple births in the 19th century.

A century before fertility treatments made multiple births relatively common, it was unusual to bear more than two babies at once. According to George Milby Gould and Walter Lytle Pyle, authors of Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, published in 1904 (available on Google Books), most multiple births in the 19th century were to women in the age range of 30 to 34, and heredity was a factor. The odds of having a multiple birth varied by country. In Germany, for instance, it was one in 7,910.

They cite examples of multiple births including a Mrs. Page of Texas, who gave birth to quadruplets in 1890 and was such a sensation that the family toured the following cities: Denver, St. Joseph, Omaha, Nebraska City, and then Boston. She’d already given birth to three sets of twins. I’d love to see a picture of this family! There were 14 children.

Judy wrote that she “hoped this photo is enough to pique my interest.” Absolutely! It’s a complicated story, so bear with me while we sort it out.

Related Products


Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


  1. I’m fascinated with this and I really wish I had a picture of the triplets that are in my family! My grandfather, born in 1918, was a triplet — two boys and one girl. The girl died at 6 months and a picture of the two remaining boys was taken in 1923. I wrote a blog entry about him — and featured the picture as well — at:

    You say that many multiple births in the 19th century were notable and newsworthy events. I am excited to hear that and wonder if that practice continued into the first decades of the 20th. Would you happen to know if that was the case?

  2. The parents may look serious as 1 or more of the children might be dead. Very common to take a picture and include the dead as a last remembrance. My father’s family photo album has several photos we know include a child who died and the family gathered for that last photo before the funeral.

  3. While researching at the Library in Gonzales, TX on the SELF line, I discovered that multiple births of twins, triplets, and even quadriplets (sp??) ran in that family line. I was amazed as I was doing the research (actually I was looking up old newspaper articles, etc. when I ran across the line) for a SELF family in Arkansas who had two sets of twins and a single older daughter at that time. One mother had twins, triplets, and then twins if I remember correctly.

  4. What a cool photo! My gr-gr-gr-grandparents had triplet boys born in 1843 (birth order in family was 2, 3, and 4, right after my gr-gr-grandmother, the oldest). They went on to have seven more children after the triplets. The triplets survived childhood, and all three served in the Union army along with one younger brother. According to my records, the first one died in 1895. By the way, they were named Andrew Jackson Burns, Benjamin Franklin Burns, and George Washington Burns (and the younger brother who also served in the war was James Knox Polk Burns)! I sure wish I had a photo of them all!

  5. I’m found an interesting newspaper article about triplets in my family, born to Dr. Samuel D. Meriwether in 1875 in Maries Co., Missouri. The article was published in 1949.

    It was an interview with one of them at age 74. It begins with-

    &quot;Ever hear of people getting more than they bargained for? When my mother ordered the stork to bring me to her farm home near Vichy, she certainly got more than she was looking for. Instead of one baby she got three – all girls.

    Come to think of it, I couldn’t have been the one she ordered. I was so poor and scrawny – weighed only two pounds. Mother used to tell me they could put a teacup over my head down below my ears. For almost a year they carried me on a pillow – so afraid they would hurt me. Added to all the rest I was a sort of mousy blond.

    On the other hand, my sisters, Eda and Ada, were nice, plump babies – weighed six and one-half pounds each and had dark hair and eyes. Everybody made over Eda and Ada. I must have been a care and worry.&quot;