I was going through a box last night looking for a picture to scan to send to my brother. It started a two-hour trip into the history books. I’ve been entrusted with the family pictures. Not just the past 20 years or so, but the past 150+ years! Found out a whole bunch of interesting things, pieced with some history blanks my Mom filled in for me.
Now, a lot of you may think history is in the past and meant to just stay there. I’m ok with you thinking that way, as long as you’re ok with me thinking that all that family history is actually little bits of who I am. DNA on a different scale.
I found out my Mom was infatuated with her Uncle Doug (pictured above dancing at the Monte Cristo in Paris, 1938 according to the note on back of picture). He was very wealthy, by 1930’s standards, and quite well-known in the upper crust of society. He was a salesman for Rogers Peet Company clothing in NYC. From there, he opened up his own clothing stores with Rogers Peet line of clothing and eventually his own line…Douglas MacDaid Clothing. His stores were at Princeton University and New Haven. He was often sent abroad by steam liner to research the latest fashion in Europe and the pictures I came across put him on the 4th generation ship Deutschland, in 1938, which later became a German warship,and then a floating hospital until it was sunk in 1945.
My Mom was able to completely describe Uncle Doug’s “apartment” on 5th Ave NYC from the doorman, to the 6 steps down into sunken living room, and the glass that surrounded the entire floor giving the views right down onto 5th Ave. She was 12 at the time, and today, at 87, she shared the particulars with me like she visited there only yesterday! He was a god-father to some famous movie star at the time, she couldn’t remember who today, but it sure stood out as important to her then.
As we sifted through the photos last night, and the internet, we discovered that the mere fact my family has so many photos is very informative. Cameras were not found in every household as they are today. Film and ease of use didn’t come around until Eastman Kodak made it affordable for everyone in the 1940’s. So the value of that box of photos went even higher in my mind. The tin types alone share a history not only of family, but of the type of photo they are to begin with. They are fading, and the process to save them will be interesting to say the least. Did you know that in the early 1800’s, a person had to sit still for almost 15 minutes for a picture to be exposed? Now we know why no one smiled in old pics…who could hold it perfect for that long?
Another really cool discovery was in our internet search for Rogers Peet Company and Douglas MacDaid, was that there are some really cool people out there that peruse estate sales and grab up those wonderful heirloom pieces, so that people like me can find more connections to history. I found a piece of clothing of Douglas MacDaid on an Etsy shop called MemoryVintage. I will soon have that Polo in hand to add to the collection of photos of my Great Uncle Doug. That’s history that shouldn’t be kept in the past!