Thursday, August 22, 2013

Growing up Livingston, Part 1: Photographic Timelines for a Few Livingston Women

There is something so interesting about watching the Livingstons grow up in their photographs.  When you've gotten to know them through their letters and stories, it is fun to watch their faces and clothes change over the years, like checking in with them as their lives progress.

This is easiest with Honoria and Janet Livingston, who's mom snapped pictures in the early 1900s almost as much as mine did in 70 years later.  But the Livingstons embraced photography earlier in the 19th century, and for a few of them, we are given the rare chance to watch them grow from little children into blossoming adult and on to having children of their own.

You kind of have to peer into their eyes and their faces in a whole different way to see the resemblance sometimes.  But it's perhaps this scrutiny that gives it such an intimate connection.

Just in case you want to get to know a few of the Livingstons this way, I thought I'd post up some of their photo timelines.  Who knows, you might find it a useful skill the next time you're going through your own old family photos:  "Is that Uncle Eustace?"  "No!  ...Wait... could be.  The eyes look familiar.  But isn't that Esmeralda he's standing with?"

Alice Delafield Clarkson Livingston  (1872-1964)

Lots has been said about Alice on this blog before so I don't want to repeat myself too much here.  Suffice to say she was Honoria and Janet's mother.  She grew up at nearby Holcroft, loving art, pets, and gardening.  Her parents had a fair number of studio portraits taken of her at first, and later as home photography increased in popularity, those begin to appear too.  I've selected just four from her early childhood to adulthood since there are many more already available in different locations on the blog.

Alice was a cute kid--though I tend to think most kids are.

Alice, Age 2 in 1774
Alice age 8 in 1880

Alice age 15, 1887

As a teenager Alice grew into her slender face and slightly long Livingston nose.  Her chin, which is almost prominent, does make a good identifying feature in three-quarter or profile images.  In full-frontal images, I'm left trying to pick out her eyes, which just carry a bit of resemblance from when she was a little girl.
Alice, age 17, 1889

Alice around age 24, 1895-1900
Alice age 39, 1911

Finally, as an adult, Alice's face firms up into a kind of sharpness that is not too overstated.  Posing with her children, you can kind of read a little motherly pride and satisfaction into her expression.  Perhaps that's just me superimposing my own feelings as a mother onto her though.  At any rate, her photos capture the serenity that was favored in the photos of the era, and thankfully they have left behind the sternness that seemed to characterize many photos in the generations before her.  I would have liked to see her laugh though.  It seems like the only thing that's missing from her timeline.

Katherine L. Livingston Timpson (1873-1933)

Katherine was Alice's step daughter, though the two were only a year apart in age.  She lost her mother soon after she was born and spent a few years growing up with her aunts before moving back in with her dad John Henry and his second wife Emily Evans at Clermont.  Her aunts had at least two studio portraits taken of their charge:

Catherine Livingston circa 1874

Catherine Livingston, circa 1874-5

Katherine actually began life as Catherine, with a C, named after her mother.  But she changed it as an adult many years later.  She starts off in pictures as a chubby little cherub of a baby.  We have two that show her probably around 8-12 months and 12-18 months.  Her pudgy baby cheeks may well be her defining feature at that age.  After that, I have been able to find little until she reaches adulthood.

Katherine, age 24 in 1897
A bright bloom of a young woman, Katherine had the Livingston Nose just like Alice and was photographed with just a hint of a smile (thank goodness for some smiles!).  These studio photographs were taken in 1897, after several years of European travel, and about three years before she was married.  By this time she was also going by the nickname "Kitty."

Katherine, age 27, 1900
Her wedding photos from 1900 show off some very serious curves, most likely a mix of genetics, good corsetry and good padding.  She took two sets of photos to memorialize the day: one at the church, and another set south of the mansion at Clermont, near the milk shed (whose doors can just be seen in the background).

Katherine, age 27, 1900

And for the longest time, this was where I lost track of Katherine in pictures.  Wasn't I pleased to recently bump into a few more photos of her after her marriage?

Here she is at the age of 33, looking probably the prettiest she does in any of her photos.  Only a year after she and her husband moved to England, she is accompanied by her son and daughter.  Only two years later, she had the "Mommy and children" portrait redone when another baby was added to the picture (and appears to be making ever effort to squirm out of her arms).  Shortly thereafter, she and her husband became estranged, and no more children or family portraits followed.

Katherine, age 33, 1906
Katherine, age 35, 1908

What I love about this pair of pictures is that she followed a theme.  Just barely visible in the lower left corner, in 1908, you can see that she has put big, white lilies into her daughter's hands, and her son is wearing the oh-so-popular sailor suit.  Two years later, these same props were used again, only she had to buy Robert Clermont (her son) a new suit since he'd done some growing.

No comments:

Post a Comment