Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sepia Saturday 189, 2013 August 10: What to Wear in that New-Fangled Contraption





"What's that contraption?"  as a prompt is a good one, however what took my eye was the way they couple was dressed.  In my great grandparent's day, one didn't venture forth to ride in those new-fangled contraptions in just any old clothes.  Such an outing was an event, and must be considered so.




WHAT TO WEAR IN THE NEW-FANGLED CONTRAPTION


Courtesy of  the JGH & Roots"n'Leaves Archives


Here you see members of my McPherson family on a family auto outing.  Based on the photo and the information in my Uncle Ralph's letters, it appears that this was a new car purchased by either Clare McPherson (back row, left) or Walter McPherson (who was most likely taking the photograph).  My great grandparents, James B and Libby,  never owned a car and depended upon their sons for automobile travel.  They were more comfortable with the horse-drawn wagon or surrey.

Bundled into the car were my great grandparents James B. and Libby McPherson, their son Walter and his wife Grace, sons Donald, Bud and Lyle;  and James and Libby's youngest  son  Clare.  Their destination was Monticello, Minnesota, to visit Aggie Fiske (the eldest daughter of James and Libby), her husband Clive and their family.  The trip would likely have taken a half a day or more from their home near Crow Wing Lake, which was about 150 miles north of Monticello.  They would have stayed at least overnight, and probably for a couple of days before heading home.

I would venture to say that the photo was taken as the Crow Wing Lake folks were preparing to return home because they look like rather neat and tidy which is not what one would expect after a 5 hour or so drive from their homes up north.  As you can see, the Fiske family's apparel is casual, everyday clothing, while those in the auto are neatly and stylishly dressed in warm clothes for the trip. Although Grace's attire is not visible, I am sure she was properly dressed for the occasion.    Most pictures of my great grandfather James B McPherson show him in bibbed overalls, so he too was well dressed for the occasion.


circa 1919, l to r: Clive Fiske, Olive Leone Fiske, Aggie (McPherson) Fiske,
and Henrietta Elizabeth (Libby) McPherson
Courtesy of  the JGH & Roots"n'Leaves Archives
The above picture appears to be taken after the first group photo, however, Libby, appears to be wearing a similar outfit for travel, which makes sense as they would have most likely taken the auto to visit her daughter Aggie and family.  Libby, as did most women when they rode in the automobile, most likely wore a grey scarf to hold her hat in place as well as protecting her from dust, dirt and grime.


According to all reports, Libby was a frugal woman who could squeeze a penny to make a nickel.  So I would guess that she made her driving outfit and took the pattern from a picture in a mail order catalog, such as the one below:



It looks to me like Libby patterned her outfit, with modifications, on the $4.35 number in the top row. Taffeta was one of the more popular fabrics used in this type of dress, and, to me, hers does look like taffeta.  Her daughter-in-law Grace was a fashion conscious woman and more than likely had a newly purchased driving suit.  In fact, Grace owned a stylish millenery store in Canada a few years before these pictures were taken.


The following  pictures  reminded me of how I imagined family visits in my great-great grandparent's time.  My McPhersons would travel the length and breadth of state after state to visit a relative and automobile travel made it much easier to travel great distances.
Courtesy of brtprojects.org
1920 Centerdoor SedanCourtesy of "The Henry Ford", 2006
I a particularly fond of the following picture.  These folks really knew how to dress for a drive through the countryside.
1920s An Outing in Hawaii
Courtesy of the State of Hawaii, Dept of Transportation


In my Uncle Ralph's description of preparing for the 1922 trek from Minnesota to California, he told how their family tied all of their belongings on the sides, back, and on top of the car, as well as some necessary extras wired under the car.  That was in addition to whatever they could carry inside the car  -- along with two adults, seven children and a dog.  So this family in Hawaii may have only been packing for a weekend or so.
A Hawaiian Outing
Courtesy of the State of Hawaii, Dept of Transportation

The next four pictures were taken in about 1927 just after my grandparents made their second trip out to California in just four years.  During that short interval of time, automobile travel had changed and for my McPhersons,  automobile travel wasn't so much of a social event as a necessary way of travel. The first picture shows my grandparents, Jabez and Elizabeth McPherson, and their younger daughters Verna and Betty.  From the ages of the girls, I would guess that the year was about 1927 and  their baby sister, Olive, is napping in the car.  Based on the family members involved, it appears the photo was taken in or around Calipatria.
1927 Car Gathering
Jabez & Elizabeth McPherson, daughters Verna & Betty;
sitting on the fender is older daughter Margie and her
first husband Cate Watts and an unknown couple on
the bumper of the third car.
Courtesy of JGH & Roots'n;Leaves Archives

circa 1926, My Aunt Helen, at age 12 or so
Courtesy of JGH & Roots'n;Leaves Archives
circa 1929, Olive and Betty on running board,
most likely taken when
my grandparents lived in Oregon
Courtesy of JGH & Roots'n;Leaves Archives


Circa 1926,  Grandparents Jabez and Elizabeth
with daughters Betty and Olive when
they lived in Calipatria
Courtesy of JGH & Roots'n;Leaves Archives

This last picture has nothing to do with my McPherson family, but reminds me of an often told story of my grandfather Frank Sigford.  He was never very comfortable with the automobile, but once the automobile became popular he always had a car.  One of my strongest memories of him was sitting at the driving wheel of his car with his pipe clenched tightly between his teeth and his hands as tightly clenched on the wheel. Anyhow, the story goes like this:  Klamath county roads in the winter and spring looked very much like this picture, but my grandfather insisted on driving his car.  One day he got seriously stuck in the mud.  My grandmother flung a coat over her house dress and apron, went to the barn and harnessed up the horse.  She proceeded to drag my grandfather and his car to solid ground.  She then took the horse to the barn, unharnessed him, and returned to the kitchen to finish whatever she had been doing. Just part of her day. The only thing missing from this picture is my grandmother and her harnessed horse.  By the way, she NEVER learned to drive an automobile, though all of her children took their turn at trying to teach her to drive.
Courtesy of the Model T Collection

~ ~ 

 © Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

After my slight digression from the "contraptions,"  take a look to see what other  Sepians had to offer.

37 comments:

  1. Cute picture of Aunt Helen (age 12) sitting on the hood of the car which obviously hadn't been driven very far - if at all - at that point, else she would've been sitting on the hot seat!

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  2. She was a cutie -- all of her life she was a cutie.

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  3. Wow what an array of family photos you have there loved that dress pattern
    I will do my post for sepia Saturday later this afternoon
    Jackie
    Scrapbangwallop

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    1. I am fortunate to have a rather large collection of family photos that I have collected over the years. Thankfully, I have a scanner and computer, otherwise I would be adrift in photos -- well more so than I am. Thanks for reading.

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  4. Great work you've done with this auto photos. Thanks for sharing the images and the stories behind them.

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    1. Thank you, Brett. Sepia Saturday has given me an opportunity to revisit and re-evaluate my rather large stash of family photos. I might even get organized one day.

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  5. This was a great article. I'm glad you addressed something other than the auto as it shed light on the culture of the period. Thanks for sharing more of the family history.

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    1. Jo, thanks for reading and I am glad you enjoyed the piece. I have always enjoyed look of the pictures of gggrandmother Libby, but never thought too much about how unusual it was to see her in that kind of outfit -- considering their lifestyle and other pics. Saturday Sepia lends itself to exploration on a theme -- which is a good thing.

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  6. That transition time when cars were finally becoming the norm must have been hard for many people. I think about older people today who don't have a computer and have no interest in learning to use one. It often puts them at a disadvantage, probably like your great grandparents depending on their sons.

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    1. True, the transition periods are difficult. Although I don't think it affected my great-great grandparents as much as my grandparents. The great-greats were firmly ensconced in the horse and buggy days, and tho they rode with their offsprings, it was more of a novelty than a necessity. My Uncle Ralph McPherson tells about how his dad could and did drive, but he was more comfortable not driving. That was certainly so with my Sigford Grandfather as well. However, my dad and his brothers and sisters were firmly in the forefront of the great car culture.

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  7. What wonderful, interesting stories you have to cherish. The photos of your family are marvelous! Hurray for Sepia Saturday!

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    1. Thank you, Norma. This Sepia Saturday thing is making me much more observant, so that I am viewing the photos with a more critical eye. Wish I had done so years ago.

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  8. Great photos, Joan! I was astonished to read that two adults, seven children and a dog all piled into that car! Just like the little car at the circus that stops, opens the doors, and all those clowns come out of it....

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    1. The stories the family told about those treks to and from Wisconsin in the early days included how they walked a good share of the time. Coming from the car culture that includes a/c, comfortable seats, radio/cds and the like, I never understood why they would walk when they could ride. Well, there were lots of places that the going was slow, always the car was crowded, and the roads were little more than two tracks amongst the grass. Very different times.

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  9. A super post including contraptions and interesting family history and funny anecdotes. Some woman your grandmother

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    1. Thanks, Diane. Grandma Sigford was a powerful woman. Glad you like the pictures and stories. It was a fun post to do.

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  10. A great post. Love the phrase squeezing a nickel out of a penny!

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    1. Alex, that has always been a favorite phrase of mine since I first saw it in my Uncle Ralph's letters. She looks like she could squeeze a penny to make an nickel. It was also said that she would peel potato peelings for soup! A task master of her day.

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  11. I love seeing photographs of costume and your post fitted this week's theme so well. Great images and fascinating family history stories.

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    1. Thanks Sue. I have always been intrigued by the first picture -- definitely dressed for the occasion, which was so different than the stories I had heard of their lives. Thanks for reading.

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  12. Oh The Irony! The Fact That She Learned To Drive A Horse,Saved The Day.........:)

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    1. How true, Tony. I would imagine that although she was a stoic sort of woman there was a great deal of muttering about men and their new fangled contraptions.

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  13. Interesting group of early auto travel photos!

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    1. My McPhersons did love their cars --- and still do!

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  14. What a fashion-conscious looking family you have! These are great photos and I enjoyed the stories that went with them all, but I have to say that image of your grandmother riding valiantly to her husband's rescue, beats the lot.

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    1. Grandma Sigford was one of a kind, for sure.

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  15. What sturdy and brave souls that to have been to make that many trips across country back then. Even just listening to my father talk about cross country trips in the '40s make me wish I could go back in time and see it. But to have made such journeys in the 1920s is beyond belief.

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    1. My recent trip from Oregon to Wisconsin gave me renewed admiration for those sturdy brave souls, those ancestors of mine. From my perspective, I was most happy to be driving in my air-conditioned Subaru and traveling from one air-conditioned motel to the next, beds made for me, and meals easy to obtain. They were tuff people!

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  16. As I was looking at the various pictures, I was wondering where all of the luggage were for those long expeditions but you eventually addressed that issue. Love the story of your grandma getting the horse to drag the car and your grandpa out of the mud.
    :D~
    HUGZ

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    1. I could hardly believe those first heard stories of their first trek to Oregon and that the kids walked quite abit of the way. The more I think about it, the four middle kids (ages 7 to 12) were probably most happy to get out of the crowded car and to walk, run and be kids.

      My Grandma Sigford was born and raised a ranch girl -- and retained that resiliency all of her life, even tho she was slightly out of step for folks of her day.

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  17. This is a great post - I cannot imagine going for a ride in those early topless autos with no seat belts, we can only hope they didn't go very fast!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post. It was rather fun to do. Actually, as I understand it from my dad and his brothers, those old cars could get up to speeds of 40-50mph and even more, but the liimiting factors were the roads, brakes, and other mechanical concerns --- but power-wise they could get up and go --- so to speak.

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  18. Great photos of all those old cars. They have character that modern 'streamlined' vehicles lack.

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  19. A very interesting post. Makes me think that I should go out and take photos of our current cars as they may be interesting to future generations.

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    1. You are probably right. I am always amazed at what little, ordinary things that I have or had that are of interest to my adult children. They certainly weren't that interested when they were younger. Keep taking those photos.

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  20. "Roots'n'Leaves" has been included in the Sites To See for this week. Be assured that I hope this helps to point many new visitors in your direction.

    http://asthecrackerheadcrumbles.blogspot.com/2013/08/sites-to-see_594.html

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    1. Jerry, Thanks for the nod. Appreciate it and hope you enjoyed what you saw here.

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