Photo of Happy Women

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

Thursday, September 3, 1914:  My pictures arrived this morning. I was more than satisfied with the result and could hardly keep my eyes off of them the whole day. One picture especially is a beauty. It is a picture of the girls sitting on the rocks, and all three are laughing.

Alma Derr, Rachel Oakes, and Ruth Muffly at Niagara Falls (Caption order may not be correct; Uncertain of the order; of the women)
Alma Derr, Rachel Oakes, and Ruth Muffly at Niagara Falls (Caption order may not be correct; Uncertain of the order of the women)

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

I’m only aware of one photo that Grandma took which still exists, and I find it amazing that Grandma again mentioned it in the diary. Grandma must have had an uncanny sense from the moment she took the photo during the trip to Niagara Falls that it was going to be special. On August 18, 1914 she wrote:

Arrived at the hotel. We rubbed up a little and started out again to the falls a second time. We lingered a long time, loath to leave the spot. I took a shot at the girls sitting on the rocks. The funny part of it was, they sat so nice and quiet, after I had pressed the button, and could hardly believe the picture had been taken.

Grandma apparently liked the photo enough to frame it, which probably facilitated its survival across the years. My cousin Alice now has the photo. I’m going to repost a portion of what Alice wrote about it:

. . . I love the picture so much. It still hangs in my office and I enjoy looking at it every day. Everyone looks so happy.

And, I tingle when I think about how the picture has brightened people’s lives for a hundred years. Grandma enjoyed looking at the happy faces a hundred years ago, and Alice equally enjoys looking at them now.

44 thoughts on “Photo of Happy Women

  1. And now your readers have enjoyed this picture, too (twice!). It is wonderful that you have a copy of it and Grandma’s diary with information about it. I love that you share her diary with us in this blog!

  2. At least you know who’s in the photo. I’ve got a boxful of people no one can identify because no one thought to write the names on the back. And I have one tintype of my great-great-grandparents and their three girls. Unfortunately, we don’t know which girl is which, although I have my suspicions, based on what I know of them.

    1. I can’t count how many pictures I have that don’t say who is who. Today, we have the ‘tag’ feature for faces in many photos. I doubt if those will remain permanently with the photos after 100 yrs.

      1. I worry about preserving photos that include the names of the individuals in the pictures. I feel very uncertain about what formats are most likely to survive across time, so try to save some items using multiple formats–but I probably should be doing it more consistently.

    2. Unfortunately, the photo did not have names on it. We figured out who was in the photo based upon Grandma’s description of the trip to Niagara Falls. My cousin had the photo–and had originally thought that Grandma was one of the women in the photo–but an aunt told her that Grandma was not in the picture. We then determined that Grandma took the photo.

  3. How this one photograph made it through 100 years is an amazing story! Helena must have wanted to share all the laughter and fun they had on that trip and captured it beautifully in an age when most people were told not to smile for the camera.

    1. That is an interesting point. I hadn’t thought about the stern faces on many photos from that era. I really have no idea why, but here are a few random thoughts–

      Many old photos were taken by professional photographers who may have had opinions about appropriate facial expressions–but maybe Grandma didn’t worry about any silly rules about what photos were “supposed” to look like.

    1. I’d love to know how her mother found out about the camera, and what she said when she learned about it. Unfortunately some stories have been lost across the years, and we’ll never know. 🙂

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