Candid Photographs in the Archives

As the 1800s came to a close, cameras, increasingly portable and affordable, enabled people to document their personal adventures.

Noah Elwood Weaver poses with several friends and a camera, circa 1908-1910.
(MS-503, Box 1, Page 44.)

Candid snapshots show how people interacted with their world–for example, through details of how they dressed for everyday activities. The archives are full of these types of photos. Here are highlights from three of our photographic collections.

First is MS-503, the Noah Elwood Weaver Photograph Albums. Elwood, a Montgomery County resident, documented his life through photographs. Many images from a 1908-1910 album show Elwood and his friends on outdoor adventures. At least by today’s standards, they were well-dressed on their jaunts.

In this image from the Miami River Flood Plain, the woman standing at right has clambered up to her perch wearing a long skirt, heel shoes, and a corset.

Elwood is seated at center front in this 1908 picture.
(MS-503, Box 1, File 1, Page 5)

When the crew went wading in a creek, most of the women went barefoot. The woman farthest from the camera, though, is still wearing her black stockings.

(MS-503, Box 1, File 1, Page 12)
Edna Eicher, Elwood’s future wife, is at far right in this picture.
(MS-503, Box 1, File 1, Page 13)

Stylish, wide-brimmed, round hats, like the one the wading woman wears, are most commonly seen in the album. However, in this image, two of Elwood’s friends have opted for sunbonnets.

Elwood Weaver and Edna Eicher are at the far right of the group.
(MS-503, Box 1, File 1, Page 9)

All three men at this campsite wear polished shoes, but the fellow in the middle is a bit more relaxed with his outfit. He has skipped a collar and tie…and has donned striped socks!

Circa 1908-1910
(MS-503, Box 1, File 1, Page 49)

The next two photographic collections are digitized and available on the University Libraries’ CORE Scholar, so you can view them from the comfort of your home.

The first of the digitized albums, SC-63, McCarthy Family Photo Album, includes images from a Dayton family’s trip to California in 1921.

During their travels, the McCarthys stopped at various sites throughout the Southwest, including the Grand Canyon and prehistoric cliffside dwellings. They travelled during the peak of summer. Throughout the album, the family comments about the temperature. In this image, Frances and Luella McCarthy are wearing lightweight dresses, probably made of linen, to keep cool.

“Frances and Luella on the rim of a section of the Grand Canyon – August 1921”
(SC-63, page 27)

By December 1921, the McCarthys were in California with friends and family. Below, they are at Manhattan Beach on December 4. While the summer heat called for lightweight dresses, coats proved useful against the chill of the ocean breeze!

“Photo Dec. 4, 1921 at Manhattan Beach”
(SC-63, page 43)

The second digitized album, SC-217, Dayton Family Photograph Album, was assembled by an unknown creator. Its images capture aspects of a family’s daily life from the late 1890s into the early 1900s.

Many of the photographs document women’s activities in the period. Images of sports like bicycling, gymnastics, and tennis demonstrate what activewear looked like more than a century ago.

(SC-217, page 7)
(SC-217, page 22)
(SC-217, page 65)

The album also documents the fun and games (and occasional mischief) of girls and young women.

Three girls standing near (and on) a fence.
(SC-217, page 4)
Sliding down the banister
(SC-217, page 87)

Given how lighthearted their photos can be, it appears that the family may have lived by a motto pasted beneath an image in the second half of their album:

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.”

(SC-217, page 69)

Post by Megan O’Connor, student worker

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