This blog originally appeared on She Was a Bird April 27, 2012.
I found this non-descript portfolio, about the size reproduced above, in a box of photos at an estate sale in Inglewood a few years ago. Nashville-ites who know the area, it was one of those big Tudor houses near the library on Gallatin Road, the HUGE 1920's and 30's houses built on the main drag, many of which have been converted into law offices, dental offices, or in one memorable case, a palmistry shoppe. The layout of the house featured a rabbit's warren of twisty, narrow little rooms on the first floor, and a slope-ceilinged second floor area up a central set of stairs, and just lo-o-o-ots of stuff. As it was a Sunday, everything was deeply discounted and I bought the whole box of pictures for less than five bucks, thinking I would go through it later to enjoy the treasures. I'd forgotten all about them (remember how I said I was a kind of, sort of a hoarder?) until I was scanning some from the box in, and met the cutest little couple in doing so!
People, meet Gentleman Jim and Flapper Fran. The snapshots didn't come with any kind of descriptive captions or names other than the St. Louis based developing company on the back, but we'll go with those descriptive monikers for the moment.
As much as I like any kind of vernacular photography, the kind I like best, being a little dress-a-holic, is seeing the detail of old clothes in old photos. I thought this was Flapper Fran, but in looking at the other photos, and by way of the clothes, turns out this is her cousin Flapper Frieda! The second flapper is wearing a daisy of an outfit in sharp heeled satin pumps with little bows on them, a straight-up-and-down flapper dress with tiers of ruffles at the bottom, a drop-bead neclace, corsage, and the de riguer cloche hat of the day (the coat from the first picture seems to have taken a powder). Frieda, Fran and Jim are posing on and in front of some kind of public building, but I can't tell from the photos what building. Is this a shot on the courthouse steps just after they've been married ? Or is it just a good looking building on an afternoon stroll downtown?
Gentleman Jim's friend, Gentleman Hal, makes an appearance in the next shot:
Something about the posing in this one reminds me of a ventriloquist and his dummy. Am I right? Dig Hal's tie.
Whoah! Double vision! Flapper Fran and Flapper Frieda together. See how similar their faces are? I assume they're related, but again, by the lack of markings, I really have no way to tell.
Frieda and Hal together. It looks Frieda and Hal are a couple, and then Fran and Jim are a couple. Don't you love making conjectures about old pictures with no hope of ever finding out if you had the context correct? It's kind of fun and it's kind of sad, thinking there were at least four people at one time who knew exactly what was going on in each of these photos.
THIS IS PROBABLY MY FAVORITE. Moving out of town to the country side for a picnic, the foursome pose in various rocky/scenic places around an old wooden bridge. I love the stiff body language and scowling faces of people in the pre-digital-camera, how-did-I-look-no-erase-that-one era. Those planar, Cherokee cheekbones remind me of Loretta Lynn and my own great-grandmother on my dad's side. Look at that dress!
This one turned out very fuzzy, but look at Jim's hat. Nice hat, Jim.
Rethinking straw for the summer 1929 season, Jim removes the hat for a solo portrait. See the sharp crease in his pants and the short-at-sides-longer-at-top-F-Scott-Fitz haircut. Handsome, huh?
Last but not least, Fran looking as rawbone and skinny and scowly as her cousin:
I still love it.
Do you have any vacation/day trip photos in your collection that tell a narrative like Fran + Jim + Frieda + Hal? Which flapper styles do you wish would make a comeback so you could copy Fran and Frieda's look without looking like you're doing a stage production? Have any good estate sales coming up this weekend? Let us know!
Have a great Friday, and we'll see you on the other side of the weekend!