Last year, I purchased what I thought was a framed black and white print,copyright 1900 by the Tonnesen Sisters. I was especially interested in it because it had an intriguing handwritten note attached to the backing. The note said, “One of Mrs Jennings pictures of Sch’dy. Edna Lein’s (Lewis?) mother. Erie Pa.” Since I have had some success locating Beatrice Tonnesen’s original photos through the descendants of her models, I was interested in the possible clues offered in the note. The child model in the photo appears to be Alice Gudgeon (b. 1894), who was featured in a pictorial in the Chicago Tribune in 1900. So I scoured Ancestry.com and other sources for someone named Mrs. Jennings, Edna Lein or Edna Lewis, or any reference to Erie, PA in Alice’s life. But, alas, I found nothing. I also have no idea what “Sch’dy” might mean.
Then, recently, it occurred to me that the print itself might carry some information that I couldn’t see while it was in its frame. So I took it apart and discovered first that it is a photo, not a print, and second, it is titled “Hungry Friends #27″ on the back in what appears to be the handwriting of Beatrice Tonnesen herself! This is the third Tonnesen Sisters era photo that I have found. The other two were copyrighted in 1901 and bear the numbers “93” and “114”, a sequence that suggests a chronological numbering system similar to the T-numbers seen on Tonnesen’s later solo works. (You can see the 1901 images and compare the handwriting on them, here.)
The accompanying slideshow displays the photo titled “Hungry Friends,” the handwritten title and number and the note attached to the backing. I’m hoping someone out there will recognize the reference to Mrs. Jennings, the daughter named Edna and Erie PA, or even the meaning of “Sch’dy.” (Note: The photo is attached to a mat so that it does not lie flat on the scanner. This causes the scan to appear a bit blurry.)
Copyright 2015 Lois Emerson