Hundred-Year-Old Composite Picture of the “Good Housekeeping Woman”

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, April 7, 1913:  There isn’t much for today.

Source: Good Housekeeping (September, 1912)

Source: Good Housekeeping (September, 1912)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write much today, I’ll tell you a little about what I’ve been thinking.

I am still trying to get a better understanding of how people of various backgrounds, ethnicities, and nationalities were perceived a hundred years ago.

An article in the September 1912 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine showed a composite picture of the “Good Housekeeping Woman.”

The photograph  is truly a photograph, and can truthfully be described as the typical “Good Housekeeping Woman.” It is nothing less than the portrait of one hundred of our feminine subscribers, printed upon a single negative . . . what is known as a “composite” photograph.

The hundred photographs were secured by the editor by correspondence and through agents of the magazine in widely separated sections of the continent. Some of the portraits, for example, came all the way from British Columbia. The majority, however, were from New York state, New England, and the Middle West.

I wonder how accurately the women included in the composite reflected the population.

Interesting how composite pictures were created in the days before computers . . .

17 Responses

  1. Absolutely fascinating, a 100 year old version of Photoshop image morphing.

  2. She must have been tired out and relaxing after the exciting weekend and the play. The picture reminds me of something National Geographic did several years ago when they created an image of the average man.

    • It also reminds me of the images of Betty Crocker. I think that they were supposed to represent an idealized version the American homemaker. Her image changed over the years to reflect changing perspectives and styles.

  3. It looks surprisingly like my grandmother. Wonder how many folks would say that?

  4. I agree with Dianna. She looks like my grandmother!

  5. She doesn’t look like either of my grandmothers. Their faces were not so full and rounded and they didn’t wear their hair in braids over their heads.

  6. I’m fascinated by what the criteria may be for a “Good Housekeeping Woman”, apart from appearance…

  7. I think she looks a lot like your grandmother, Sheryl.

  8. I had no idea the had that technology way back then. Very Cool. Even got a little Canadian in there.

  9. How fascinating to see this composite photo.

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