Category Archives: Photography

Photographic Trio

A benefit of a little digital organizing is discovering files that have been hidden. A recent David’s diary entry mentioned photographs taken in March 1971. I found the photographs! I don’t have the original, but I have a scan I made several years ago.

Deborah, March 1971

©2018 copyright owned Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found:

A Family of Three

Roscoe, Gladys, and John Yegerlehner, 1932 (Photograph from the author’s collection)

Sometimes, even when you think a project is finished, the project isn’t done! I’ve been sorting through the digital images I have stored over the years, from scans of old photographs to my contemporary collection of iPhone photographs. When I posted the collection of pictures of my great grandmother holding my uncle John a few days ago, I completely forgot the above photograph. It belongs in the same pile.

The weather was certainly mild in late February 1932! The 28th landed on a Sunday that year. The perfect day for a family get-together and presumably attending church. Roscoe and Gladys moved frequently in the early days of their marriage. He worked in Clay County teaching school. The setting isn’t rural enough to be Clay County. I presume the photograph’s location to be Terre Haute. In 1932, Emma and James Foster resided at 719 Harrison Street, Terre Haute. When the photographs were taken, James’ divorce from his first wife Gladys was about to be finalized (March 1932). I am also making the assumption that the automobile belonged to Roscoe and Gladys. He bought his first car a year or two before he married Gladys.

719 Harrison Street, Terre Haute (Image courtesy of Google Maps)

If Roscoe, Gladys, Emma, and Jim were standing at the curb, looking back at the house when the photographs were taken, their house would not have been visible. By panning the angles in Google Street view, a large tree obscures the view of the house directly behind the family! Notice the newly planted trees in the background behind Roscoe and Gladys. However, by moving back down the street a house of interest is detected. The two-story house behind Gladys’ head has a gable window as well as roofs of two different heights.

Harrison Street, Terre Haute (Image courtesy of Google maps)

Emma and Jim’s house is the first house on the right. The tree obscures the house directly across the street, but the house with the two roofs and gable is visible to the left of the tree.

Have you searched for an ancestor’s home using Google yet?

©2018 copyright owned by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found:

A Funeral

Another three photographs create a grouping in my collection. Since everyone is dressed in black—at least they seem to be in the black & white photographs—I assume the foursome attended a funeral. Again, the time frame appears to be the mid to late 1920s. None of the women are wearing jackets, but the ground is covered by a light layer of snow. The tree limbs are bare. The photographer is unknown (since they never make an appearance). The petite woman standing next to Gladys is believed to be her Aunt Minerva, fraternal twin to Gladys’ mother Emma. Minerva’s dress is old-fashioned compared to Gladys’ stylish frock. The longer skirt hem and squarish collared neckline hearkens back the the World War I years. James (Jim) and Emma stand in the background. He was quite tall; his shoe can be seen on the ground next to Minerva’s feet. While Emma stands on the lower step—her boot just visible behind Gladys’ legs—creating the illusion that mother and son are the same height.

Gladys, Emma, & Jim Foster, with Aunt Minerva (Photograph from the author’s private collection)

I do not know whose funeral generated these photographs—especially since the mood is not particularly somber. Gladys smiles in both pictures. I have not discovered a Foster or Lawhead relative, living in the Terre Haute area, whose death occurred in the late 1920s, who would have prompted such a reunion. Perhaps I will someday…

[Photographs from the author’s private collection.]

©2018 copyright owned Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found:

Sunday in the Park


Another group of photographs in my possession likely dates from the spring of 1929. I did not acquire them together, but spread out over a few years. Until I started looking at each photograph closely—sometimes better achieved once a photograph is scanned—I did not realize that they were taken on the same day. Or at the very least, Gladys is wearing the same dress. Because of the quality of the photographs, the different angles, lighting, and her hat, it may be hard to tell that the dress is the same. The feature that stands out the most is the sleeves—a fitted upper sleeve with a gathered, more voluminous lower sleeve controlled into cuffs at the wrists.

In the five photographs, Gladys is captured alone and with both her husband, Roscoe, and her brother, James. My gut feeling tells me that the outing took place in the spring before Gladys and Roscoe married—perhaps an engagement photo shoot. They married on 25 May 1929. Gladys wears a ring on her right hand (the only one clearly visible in any of the photographs). While an engagement ring is traditionally worn today on the left hand prior to marriage in western cultures, that has not always been case. The band appears simple so it may or may not be relevant. Skirt hems rose during the 1920s, and the tight fitting bell-shaped hats, known as cloche hats, remained popular throughout the decade.

It appears that the threesome had fun taking turns with the camera. Unfortunately, it appears that they didn’t find a stranger to take a photo of all three of them together!

©2018 copyright owned Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found:

Another Photographic Series


[Emma (Lawhead) Foster holding her grandson, John Yegerlehner, 28 January 1932, Terre Haute, Indiana, photographs privately held by the author.]

Sometimes we know when photographs are taken. In this case,  my grandmother probably labeled the photographs, as the one of the far right refers to Emma as “Mother.” I do not know the occasion for the photographs, but the photographer (again most likely my grandmother) took several.  We think nothing nowadays of taking picture after to picture to get the correct shot, to make sure everyone is smiling, eyes are open, etc. Not so in the previous centuries. Film cost money, and you didn’t know what you shot until the film was developed.

FOS1932 James L. Foster with John - Terre Haute, 1932-02-28

James L. Foster, holding his nephew, John Yegerlehner, 28 January 1932, Terre Haute, Indiana, photograph privately held by the author.

If the photographs had not been dated, the automobile provides a great clue, especially to all the old car experts out there. Emma’s dress—although we don’t see much of it since John is in the way—does give some clues as well. Gone is the dropped waist of the 1920s. Seated on the car’s sideboard, the top of Emma’s dress blouses over a waist (left). Soft pleats may also be visible at the hip line (right) as well as a longer skirt. These are clothing characteristics of the 1930s. A great place to look for everyday clothing styles of the 20th century are the Sears catalogues, found at Ancestry.

Sears catalogue, Fall 1931 (Image courtesy of

©2018 copyright owned Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found:


Photographic Clues

[Photographs of Gladys Foster and unidentified female, early 1920s, Terre Haute, Indiana, from author’s private collection]

These photographs of my grandmother were taken in Terre Haute, Indiana, in the 1920s. Only these three survive in my collection, and who knows if  more were taken? The clothing and hair definitely say 1920s. The length of Gladys skirt indicates the earlier part of the decade, before skirt hems rose to knee length. Born in late 1905, Gladys would certainly have been in her late teens or early twenties when the pictures were taken. The company name on the window provides a fantastic clue for when the photograph might have been taken.

Terre Haute city directory, 1924, Foster listings (image courtesy of

I already knew that my grandmother worked as a stenographer before her marriage. After high school she attended some kind of secretarial school. The whole Foster family (with the exception of the eldest daughter Lydia who had married and was deceased by 1924) can be found in the Terre Haute city directory. They lived at 2046 N. 8th Street. Gladys’ entry shows that she worked as a stenographer at Pierson & Bro. I could conclude that the photographer was taken about 1924, possibly on her lunch break with one of her co-workers.

As an added bonus, I found 2046 N. 8th Street on Google Street view. Fortunately, this house still exists (light brown in the center). (One of Gladys’ later residences was torn down and was replaced by a freeway!)

2046 N. 8th Street, Terre Haute, Indiana (Image courtesy of Google Maps)

©2018 copyright Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found:

Fashion Moments – Detachable Collars

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyWelcome to my weekly fashion blog post. Each week I will discuss a female garment, fashion trend or influencer from the age of photography (1840s through the 20th century). My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family’s history should be aware of the environment in which their ancestors lived. Period clothing is an important part of that environment from how it affects a person’s movement to their overall lifestyle. This week I introduce you to detachable collars.

The Detachable Collar

According to the Arrow shirt website, in the 1820s, Hannah Montague formulated the idea to remove the collars from her husband’s shirts for ease of laundering. Soon after, Ebenezer Brown and Hannah’s husband, Orlando Montague, began manufacturing collars in the back of Rev. Brown’s general store in Troy, New York [1]. There are many conflicting accounts of what happened next from various sources. However, the city of Troy became the leading manufacturer of detachable collars during the nineteenth century. By 1897, twenty-five companies based in Troy were making over eight million dozens of collars and cuffs per year. [2].


Arrow Collar advertisement, 1907, illustrated by Joseph C. Leyendecker (Image from Wikipedia in the public domain).

Detachable collars were typically made of a material different from the shirt, from cotton to linen, and were made in only one color – white. Because they were detachable, the collar could be starched to a cardboard-like rigidity. While most detachable collars were made of starched fabric, some later collars were actually made of stiffened paper and were disposable after a few uses. Collars were attached to the shirt with a set of studs, one in front and another in back. Examples of different collar styles can be found in old catalogs. Though typically marketed to men, detachable collars were also used by women, especially during the era of the Gibson girl. By the 1920s, the use of detachable collars began to decline as more comfortable styles of clothing became popular. However, the fashion can still be seen today in the winged collars of British barristers and on rare occasion on the pupils of Eton College. [3]

Woman Worker making Arrow Collars, 1906

Woman worker making Arrow collars, 1906Source


[1] ArrowLife, website ( : accessed 28 November 2015), “Heritage” page. Some sources say Hannah had her brilliant idea in 1820, while others state 1827.

[2], website ( : accessed 28 November 2015).

[3] “Some Notes on Dress at Eton College,” Internet Archive Wayback Machine ( : accessed 28 November 2015), anonymous article by an Eton pupil, October 2008.

Further Reading

Amazon Drygoods (a completely different company than Amazon, and has been around a lot longer, too!) is the only remaining manufacturer, according to their website, of detachable collars. In my theatre days, we regularly ordered detachable collars from them. They still have a variety of collar styles available for purchase on their website.

An comprehensive blog article about the Arrow Collar Man and its illustrator Joseph C. Leyendecker. The Arrow Collar Man was such a huge marketing sensation that many women thought he was real. The book The Girl on the Magazine Cover by Carolyn Kitch states, “Cluett, Peabody & Company, the firm that made Arrow Collars, received on average of 17,000 letters per month from women writing to the Arrow Collar Man, some of them proposing marriage.” In contrast, Dayneford’s Library: America’s Homosexual Writing, 1900-1913 by James Gifford takes note of Leyendecker’s indifference to women in his Arrow Collar Man illustrations, thereby making them the “first American representations of gay sensibility to gain wide distribution.”

A history of the Arrow brand can be downloaded from the website American’s Greatest Brands:

Blog article, “Detachable Collar & Tunic Shirt,” from the Morning Dress Guide website.

Working Women of Collar City: Gender, Class and Community in Troy, 1864-86 by Carole Turbin

Troy: A Collar City History by Don Rittner


Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Woman Worker Making Arrow Collars, United States, 1906.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed November 28, 2015.

©2015 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found:

Fashion Moments – Overalls

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyWelcome to my weekly fashion blog post. Each week I will discuss a female garment, fashion trend or influencer from the age of photography (1840s through the 20th century). My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family’s history should be aware of the environment in which their ancestors lived. Period clothing is an important part of that environment from how it affects a person’s movement to their overall lifestyle. This week I introduce you to the humble overalls.


One of the most ubiquitous articles of clothing may be overalls. It could be argued that this garment is the single most important piece of clothing in the working class wardrobe for the past few centuries. The consensus of research shows that the modern overalls evolved from an earlier garment called “slops.” However, “slops” were more like trousers than actual overalls. During the 1700s, only working class people wore long pants; a gentleman wore breeches. [1]

Carl Morris mural, 1942

Carl Morris mural, 1942-1943, Eugene (Oregon) Post Office. Commissioned by the WPA Federal Works Project

By the first part of the 19th century, the garment was beginning its evolution into what we would currently recognize as overalls. Up until the 1850s, overalls were homemade, sewn to fit the individual needs of the worker. Originally, the garment was a coverall, worn over another set of clothing for protection. Eventually, it became the worn-alone, bib fronted garment we identify as overalls today. U.S. patents from the late 19th century show a variety of “overalls” from specific occupations. For example, the illustration below shows a pair of overalls patented by Eli F. Stacy and John H. Stacy from Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1872. They were developed for fisherman, in an effort to “secure a smooth front, free of buckles, buttons, or straps where the cloth comes in contact with the rail of a vessel.”

Overalls patent, 1872 (fishermen)

Overall patent, 1872, for use by fishermen

Many patents advertised themselves as improvements to the overall. Two years later in 1874, Alfred Rosenburg of Bridgeport, Connecticut, patented a series of hooks and eyelets which made overalls adjustable “to fit persons of varying sizes.”

Overalls, patent 1874

Rosenburg’s 1874 patent

The exact date of the mass production of overalls is unclear, but many companies, such as Levi, Lee, Carhartt, and Oshkosh, began marketing overalls around 1900, although they may have been manufacturing them for several years or decades previously. [2] Overalls are unique in many ways because they have been marketed to men, women and children. They have been used as a patriotic tool in both world wars, as a symbol of everyone laboring for the common cause.

War Gardens for Victory

We like to think of our ancestors as dressing up for those rare photographic moments. For many of our ancestors, overalls were a wardrobe staple, a tool of their trade, their daily uniform. Below are a few examples of my ancestors being photographed around the farm as cameras became more accessible.

John H. Yegerlehner, wearing overalls on his farm, during the 1910s

Ralph and Raymond Yegerlehner on the farm in 1915

McCammon, Lydia & Jesse with Minerva Metcalf

Jesse & Lydia McCammon with Minerva Metcalf, haying in the 1910s

Further Reading

The History of Overalls from the Blair Mountain Reenactment Society

The Development and Use of Bib Overalls in the United States, 1856-1945, a masters thesis by Ann Revenaugh Hemken, Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa), 1993. This paper is amazing! I highly recommend it if you are interested in learning more about the history of overalls. 

Bib Overalls: From Farmwear to Fashion Icon

Documentary Connecting the Threads: Overalls to Art at the H.W. Carter Sons Factory. This 40 minute film tells the story of Henry Wood Carter of New Hampshire. He started as a traveling peddler, and later started an overall factory in Lebanon, New Hampshire. The old factory building is now an art center. There is some great history of the evolution of overalls at the beginning of the film.

A Detroit company, W.M. Finck & Co. produced overalls for the first half of the 20th century. The online encyclopedia of Detroit has a brief history of the company on their website.


[1] “The History of Overalls,” Blair Mountain Reenactment Society, 10 May 2011 (

[2] Ann Revenaugh Hemken, “The Development and Use of Bib Overalls in the United States, 1856-1945,” 42-45.


Carl Morris mural (1942-3) at the Eugene Post Office. WPA Federal Works Project competition winner, posted on the Oregon Secretary of State website.

Overall patent illustrations are from‘s database “U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Patents, 1790-1909.”

War Gardens for Victory. 1939-1945. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction no: LC-USZC4-4436

The photographs from the Yegerlehner farm courtesy of Karen Kline Brand. The photograph of Jesse and Lydia (Foster) McCammon with Minerva Metcalf courtesy of Geraldine McCarroll.

©2015 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found:

Fashion Moments – Feed Sack Fabric

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyWelcome to my weekly fashion blog post. Each week I will discuss a female garment, fashion trend or influencer from the age of photography (1840s through the 20th century). My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family’s history should be aware of the environment in which their ancestors lived. Period clothing is an important part of that environment from how it affects a person’s movement to their overall lifestyle. This week I introduce you to the feedsack, or flour sack, dress.

I was inspired to write this week’s post because of a piece which I read last week from the Kindness Blog titled Flower Sack Dresses from the Flour Mills (Historical Kindness). The original article was written in May 2015. The article contains some wonderful information about the history of the feedsack, or flour sack, dress as well as some great historical photographs. (Unfortunately, none of the photographs have source information so it is hard to tell whether they are in the public domain or whether the author has permission to use the images). The article prompted me look again at some of my family photographs from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Without being able to look at a directory of fabric patterns, it is hard to say whether or not a garment was made from a feedsack just by looking at a photograph. I had to put myself in my ancestor’s shoes, looking specifically at my more rural paternal ancestors.

Note: I can hardly imagine my maternal grandmother being in a situation where she would have worn a feedsack dress. She was a pampered only child who lived in suburban San Francisco in her youth and who later moved to New Jersey to attend teaching college. She had little exposure to farm life, despite spending a few years teaching at an Indian Reservation in the southwest in the 1930s before moving to Malaysia as a missionary.

The Yegerlehner family lived in rural Indiana on a fully functioning farm with livestock to feed. My great grandmother Lovina was a hardworking, frugal woman. I can imagine her using feedsack material for clothing or other household items, such as quilts. After my grandparents, Roscoe and Gladys, married in 1929, they lived in Clay County, while Roscoe continued to teach at rural schools. Gladys’ mother, Emma Foster, frequently visited the Yegerlehner farm, so even though she lived in Terre Haute, she had access to feedsack material. She also baked and sold pies, giving her a need for larger bags of flour. Both Lovina and Emma were quilters. I have inherited several quilts which were their handiwork. Below is one of my father’s baby quilts. How many of these scraps originally came from a cotton feed bag?

Quilt - Baby, detail (attributed to Emma Foster) #1

Baby quilt attributed to Emma Foster from the personal collection of the author

Feed Sack Fabric

Before the 1920s, goods like flour and animal feed were sold in cotton bags. Frugal housewives re-purposed the cotton for various household goods, like towels or children’s clothing. The cotton was plain, but could be bleached or dyed to change the color.

Uses for Cloth Flour Sacks, 1921

In 1924, Asa T. Bales of St. Louis, Missouri, patented his idea for packaging flour in dress quality gingham fabric. The George P. Plant Milling Company of St. Louis was the first company to print the fabric, and soon Gingham Girl Flour was marketing their product in colorful bags. Other flour companies quickly followed the trend.

Drawing for A.T. Bales patterned feed sack fabric

Gingham Flour sack ad

Gingham Girl Flour company ad from the 1930s.

During the depression of the 1930s and the war shortages of the 1940s, reusing the cotton material from these bags became a way of life for many Americans. The photograph below is from Clay City, Indiana, in the mid 1930s. A rural community even today, the majority of these children lived on farms. How many of these children do you suppose are wearing clothing made from a feed sack? [Note: This was my Uncle John’s class picture, the oldest of Roscoe and Gladys’ children. Can you find him?]

Clay City, c1935-1937 (Photograph from the private collection of Deborah Sweeney)

Clay City, c1935-1937 (Photograph from the private collection of the author)

Further Reading

A beautiful example of a feedsack dress from 1959 is owned by the National Museum of American History. The page contains a brief article of the dress’ historical background as well as a photograph of the dress.

Paper written by Margaret Powell titled From Feed Sack to Clothes Rack: The Use of Commodity Textile Bags in American Households from 1890-1960The author has a full bibliography of additional sources for information regarding the use and history of cloth bags.

U.S. Department of Agriculture pamphlet on Cotton Bags as Consumer Packages for Farm Products, 1933. Available for download from Internet Archive.

Feedsack Secrets: Fashion From Hard Times, by Gloria Nixon. I think I will be adding this one to my personal library soon!

Dating Fabrics – A Color Guide : 1800-1960, by Eileen Trestain.

©2015 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: