Vintage Snapshots

the wondrous world of vernacular photography

Category: Names

“I Love the Ladies”

Vintage snapshot of woman playing piano, with sheet music and family portraits on piano

Edith at the piano (detail), c 1910s/20s (click to enlarge)

Vintage snapshots of people sitting at pianos are not uncommon, though this is one of the nicer ones I think I have come across — for several reasons in my view, including its composition/light, the framed photographs on the piano, the fact that the woman is actually playing rather than merely sitting or posing, and for the sheet music to her left. (See the full photo below.)

“I Love the Ladies” first appeared in 1914, and was written by Grant Clarke and Jean Schwartz, the latter a Hungarian immigrant born in 1878 who was one of the more prolific composers of the early Broadway era. Those early popular songs certainly had some great titles; some of my favorites from Schwartz include “Rip Van Winkle Was a Lucky Man,” “Why Do They All Take the Night Boat to Albany?” and “I’m Tired.”  For his part, the Akron, Ohio-born Clarke contributed to titles such as “Weary River,” “He’d Have To Get Under – Get Out And Get Under – To Fix Up His Automobile,” “There’s A Little Bit Of Bad In Every Good Little Girl,” and “I’m The Medicine Man For The Blues.”

Vintage photo of woman named Edith playing the piano with sheet music and family photos on the instrument

Edith, c 1910s/20s

Here is a link to the sheet music, and should anyone be interested in the place of the piano in early-20th century culture, I wrote a long piece that touches on that subject in connection with the jazz pianist George Shearing for another blog I do here.

“Enjoyment” on Mt. Wilson

Vintage photo of two hikers on Mt. Wlson in September 1907

“Enjoyment – Mt. Wilson, Sept. 1, 1907” (click to enlarge)

Mt. Wilson is a 5,712′-high mountain in Los Angeles County, and seems to have been a very popular early-20th century destination for hikers if the number of vintage snapshots taken there is any indication. According to this website, the first modern trail  up the mountain — transforming an old Indian path — was built in 1864, and by the 1880s “up to 70 hikers and horse-riders [would] climb the trail to camp at Mt. Wilson on weekends, building huge bonfires at the peak to signal their safe arrival.”

The names written on the back of this shot are “Davis” and what looks like “Goodan” —  should anyone in the area have any inkling of who they perhaps were.

A Bird Named Dicky

Vintage (circa 1910s) photograph of a boy and his caged bird posed on their porch.

Unnamed boy with a bird named Dicky (1918)

A boy, a bird, and an open door – as well as, presumably, a mother overseeing things to the left. Oddly, in the many shots in which he appears in the photo album from which this was taken the youngster is always identified as “Boy,” while the little bird has a name.

Old-Fashioned Names: Fern


Vintage photograph of a woman named "Fern."

Fern Steinbock, 1920s

Old photos often have the name of the subject(s) jotted down on the back or, sometimes – as here – the front, and those names can be just great. I have one somewhere (I’d have to find it or I would have posted it along with this shot) of four people posing, all identified on the rear and all bearing absolutely classic old-fashioned names. Not a single “David” or “Susan” or “Michael” or anything remotely like that among the lot.

“Fern” is definitely one of those names that has a classic ring to it. One site ranking the popularity of baby names says that its last year in the top 1000 names was 1961, but that it peaked in 1916, when it was number 152. I did come across a current Fern, however, and her account was kind of worth passing on, I thought. I like her spirit.

“Hey, my name is Fern, and at 16 years of age, I’ve only met one other Fern in my lifetime, and she was an 80 year old friend of my grandmothers. I’ve actually grown to like the name, but personally, if I was a mother, I’d go with something a little more conventional. Fern automatically singled me out from other kids, and there were some less-than-sweet children who made their opinions of my name known in elementary and middle school. I’ve actually found it easier to go by my middle name…

As you get older though, the teasing seems to die down.
Ugh, Charlotte’s Web comments were among the most resented! I can’t say how many clever boys and girls asked me ‘Hey, Fern, where’s Wilbur?’
But, in all the name has become almost a positive thing.”

%d bloggers like this: