Internet Tag: Happy Baby Photo

Internet Tag: Happy Baby Photo

I love the blogosphere! This week the sharp-eyed Kathryn M. Doyle of the California Genealogical Society sent me a posting she spotted on the Genealogue blog about a baby photo. Chris (the Genealogue) threw out a comment that he'd love to see what I'd say about this smiling...

I love the blogosphere!

This week the sharp-eyed Kathryn M. Doyle of the California Genealogical Society sent me a posting she spotted on the Genealogue blog about a baby photo. Chris (the Genealogue) threw out a comment that he’d love to see what I’d say about this smiling, barely dressed tyke.

The photo shows a toddler in a droopy diaper. I can’t copy the photo here, but you can see the original posting on the Swapatorium: A Journey Through Junkland blog. It’s an odd picture. The child’s stocking are dark; and the diaper, light-colored. He’s probably around 2 years old.

But it’s not his lack of attire that grabs the viewer. This kid’s an optimist. His diaper is falling down and he’s got to be uncomfortable, but he’s happy. It’s great to see a 19th-century picture of someone with a full grin—doesn’t happen very often.

The wicker chair and animal-fur rug date the picture to as early as the 1890s. Anyone want to help me out by researching the photographer, Bigelow of St. Joseph, Mo.?

Why pose him just in a diaper? There are two reasons: First, the mother is showing off her healthy kid. Second, believe it or not, it was the style in the late-19th century to pose in your undies. I’ve got one I’ll share sometime, a middle-age woman in a chemise.

Send me pictures of your smiling ancestors and I’ll post them in my new SmugMug album. It’s fun to see what’s in other people’s photo collections. SmugMug’s security settings let me watermark your images and prevent right-click copying.

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  1. Nevadagenealogist

    From the excellent reference book, &quot;Biographies of Western Photographers&quot;, by Carl Mautz:
    Bigelow &amp; Parcell, Operated the Photo and Art Company, Frederick Avenue, St. Joseph, c. 1890. Awarded the Medal of Honor at the Paris Academy of Science and Invention 1891. You were right on the money Maureen.

  2. &quot;The Bigelows had always been known for their eccentricities. Lyman, the talented patriarch, invented the Bigelow Revolving Photographic Background, which he sold years earlier to the Scoville Manufacturing Company. Later, this invention would become an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution. After he discovered, patented, and sold the Bigelow Calcinated Retouching Flour, a Mr. Eastman from New York had invited Lyman to come to work for Eastman’s company.4 But like his daughter Lou, Lyman Bigelow was too independent and greatly enthralled by the possibilities for studio photography to accept the offer; he turned it down.

    By the time Lou Adelaide was born on November 24, 1884, Lyman had become known for his beautiful studio portraitures in both Detroit, Michigan, and St. Joseph, Missouri. His wife, Ada C. Dickenson, had also been interested in photography. Earlier, she moved from New York to Detroit, hoping to find a job as an assistant in a photography studio. Ada became Lyman’s studio assistant four years before she became his wife.&quot;

    More here:

    A quick search at Google Patents turns up a number of patents in Lyman Bigelow’s name, but here’s a direct link to the one for the revolving photographic background referenced in the article above:;printsec=abstract&amp;zoom=4&amp;dq=lyman+bigelow

    Good stuff!

  3. There was another photographer named Bigelow operating in St. Joseph at the same time: Edwin Bigelow.

    Edwin (b 1871) is recorded there in the 1900 Census with his wife and two sons; occupation: photographer. There’s no telling when Edwin moved there from Michigan (also Lyman’s home state), but the oldest boy, Harold, was born in Missouri in October 1897.

    In 1910 Edwin lived alone in St. Joe, and was still a photographer. His wife, Myrtle, and the boys had moved to California.

    In 1920 Edwin doesn’t show up.

    One suspects there’s a story there.

    I think the photograph was taken by Edwin. If you look closely at the photo card, it appears to say &quot;Central Gallery&quot; and &quot;4th and Edmond Streets&quot;. Edwin lived on Edmond Street in 1900. As Nevadagenealogist has said, Lyman did business as &quot;Bigelow &amp; Parcell,&quot; and operated the &quot;Photo and Art Company&quot; on Frederick Avenue. Finally, although it’s a cute and unusual photograph, I don’t think the quality matches what I would expect from someone of Lyman’s apparent reputation. I know that’s subjective, but there ya go.

    What do you think?

  4. By using a sharpening tool in a photo editor, it becomes clear that the baby has some sort of stick / rod in his left hand. The &quot;handle&quot; of the item starts about 2-3 inches below the crook of his elbow, and angles down behind his (or her) backside. I think this is contributing to the drooping diaper. If I had to guess, this item is either a toy of some kind for him to hold to keep him happy, or perhaps a sort of prop to help with his pose. Fun discussion Maureen!
    Lisa – the Genealogy Gems Podcast http://www.GenealogyGems.TV

  5. Lisa– I think the stick/rod you see is a device to hold the tyke in place. He looks like an active little fellow.

    Bob–I think you’re right about Edwin. Some photographers had studios in their homes. I took a quick look at the area today via satellite and it’s commercial. I’d like to know what the area looked like c. 1900. Anyone have access to St. Joseph Missouri atlases from that period?