One Hundred Years Ago, 55 People Posed for a Mysterious Photograph

I found this fascinating photograph in a pawn shop yesterday:


Who are the 55 people in the picture? They must have been rather well-to-do, based on their fashionable clothing. The women’s hemlines and hats are circa 1914. Leaves are on the trees, nobody is wearing a jacket, and the children are dressed in white: it must be summer. Some adults smile, the children look serious, and all are posed as though in a formal photograph.

Here are the things that stand out:

  • If it is a formal photograph, it’s skewed off-center, cutting off people on the crowded right side of the image. It also contains a lot of ground and sky, whereas some of the people are blurred or obscured.
  • Though there are benches, they are empty except for one woman, whose arm is around a child standing beside her. Older women, who would appear to be more natural occupants of the bench in the summer, are standing.
  • There are only three men, and dozens of women and children. The men are all on the left side of the photo.
  • Two of the men look to be in their 20s and dressed more formally than the rest of the group.
  • The group is in a wooded area, that looks like a campground. They are in front of a Chinese hip-and-gabled roof, unusual for most places in the US at the time.
  • There’s a sign on the upper-right, and the only word that can be clearly read is “fires”.

It’s not a wedding. Perhaps it’s a church outing or a family reunion? Yet I don’t feel satisfied.

Left side of the photograph, with the near-empty bench in the foreground

Left side of the photograph, with an empty bench in the foreground

The Chinese roof and sign in the woods

The Chinese roof and the sign

The children are in the center and on the right.

The serious children

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