This is an unusual photo from my collection. It's not an orphan photo, but rather features the new Mrs Bloomfield, my great-grandmother Minnie. The photo is dated and has a fairly large amount of writing on the back. Do you agree, it's a bit strange?
|Minnie in Bed|
Back in the twenties, folks tended to get dressed when they took the train and when they had their photo taken. Though photographs were becoming more affordable and common, they a certain aspect of glamour and novelty. When I first found Minnie's oldest photo album, I was surprised at the amount of photos she had and particularly the large number snapshots it contained. It almost seemed as if she had a camera, which surprised me, considering she did not have a lot of money. This photo, certainly indicates that Minnie or someone close to her owned a camera. It's quite an intimate shot, with Minnie lying in bed. Note: the dark bunched up section on the blanket which appears strange is actually the flowered comforter. The white duvet cover has a laced opening showing part of the comforter, which is easily discernable when you zoom into the photo with the help of the computer.
The writing on the back, in Minnie's own handwriting, provides interesting clues.
|Back of the photo of Minnie lying in bed.|
(Click to enlarge)
- Please return.
- The other picture you have of me was taken in back of mother's house in the chicken coop.
- It doesn't look much like the back of a store does it.
Minnie and William Bloomfield were married Oct 23rd, 1920 in New York City, about two months before this photo was taken. For their honeymoon, they took a short trip, stopping in Springfield, Massachusetts to visit the Golds (mutual friends who were partially responsible for setting them up) and then heading to Laconia, where William introduced his new bride to his family. They ended up staying in New Hampshire and opening up a grocery shop.
|Caption in the back reads:|
Taken on our honeymoon Oct 30th, 1920
The comment on the right refers to "the back of the store". I this comment references their new store, the Bloomfield Market, rather than her mother-in-law's grocery store which was located only a few miles away. My assumption implies that in the two months, when the honeymooners arrived in New Hampshire and the day after Christmas, when the photo of Minnie lying in bed was taken, they were able to start their own business.
Two things lead me believe this is Minnie's own New Hampshire bedroom. The first is the comment about the back of the store. I know from her memoir (Stored Treasures), that they lived in a small room at the back of the store. The note to her brothers indicate that she told them about the store and their modest living arrangements. The second clue, is the framed photo above the bed. Easy to miss initially and difficult to make out, there is a single picture hanging on the wall above Minnie's head. Thanks to high resolution scanning and further zooming on the computer, I could easily recognize the Crane family portrait taken in 1918, when Minnie's brother Will returned safely from World War I.
Remember this photo?
It's one of the earliest family photographs in existence and the only one, with the five Cranes who made it to America, including Max who committed suicide a few years later. I have yet to see the original of this photo, all I have is a xerox copy. but I loved discovering that the original was hanging next to Minnie's wedding bed. I bet that when she sent the photo of herself in bed, she must have wanted her brothers to notice the portrait above her head, and I am pretty sure the didn't need a computer to take note.
Here is the big question? What was Minnie doing in bed? Was she sick? Why would she send a picture of herself in bed? It seems an odd way to show off her new home.
We many never know the answer to these questions. She doesn't look very ill in the photo. To me, she appears healthy and happy. In her memoir, she mentions falling ill to the Spanish Influenza in 1918, but she does not mention any sickness early in her marriage. I ran the date in my handy day of the Week Calculator, and discovered that Dec 26th, 1920 was a Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas. It's very possible the store was not open that sunday, and the new Mrs. Bloomfield could enjoy a lazy day in bed while her new husband snapped away risqué pictures of his bride. But why send such a picture to your siblings?
My only guess is that she was in bed rest. My grandmother Ethel was born August 6th, 1921, eight months and ten days after this picture was taken. If she was born on time, then Minnie would have been barely three weeks pregnant in this photo. If Ethel was born a bit late, maybe Minnie was a much as five weeks along. Could she have been bleeding a bit? Did she know she was pregnant or was she hoping to conceive? Was the custom back then to stay remain in bed rest during the first trimester in order to improve the chances of a successful pregnancy? Perhaps by the time, she sent the photo, she knew she was pregnant in the photo and that is what she was showing off to her brothers.
I find it remarkable how much we can learn about Minnie from this one unusual photo. Much of the story behind the photo may be conjecture on my part, yet it comes from years of researching my ancestors and Minnie in particular. I'd love to hear what you think about these theories.