Family Reunion: Red Velvet Album

You may remember this photograph from the Red Velvet Album, which we recently concluded. At the time I had called it The Whole Family thinking we might have seen the boys in previous photos. Later as we went through the album I showed you the baby photo of Franklin Francis Ford and that one solid identification has led to the identification of the image above! This is Elias Cole Ford, his wife Belle Kirby Ford, older son Elias Kirby Ford and the four or five year old Franklin Francis Ford.

I have been in contact with the wife of a great nephew of Frank Ford, and she said that her family does have a copy of the photo above, but it’s a poor quality copy and is part of a montage of other images. She also thinks that the photo titled A Sister Surely could be Sarah Elsie Ford who died in 1881. The resemblance of that young lady to the girl with the long hair in Long, Beautiful Hair makes me wonder if that is also a Ford family member.

Happily, Susie Ford will be taking ownership of the Red Velvet Album and working to determine if there are family connections in Pennsylvania. The family definitely was in Dakota Territory as they made their way West. Another happy ending for a lost and formerly wandering photo album!


Early Middle Age

This is the final image from the Red Velvet album, and depicts a woman in early middle age. She looks a bit tired, but cleaned herself up for the sitting. It is unusual that she is quite over weight. While people certainly had the ability to become obese in the 19th century, it wasn’t as common as it is today. Just chores around the house could be a chore – cooking required wood for the stove (chopping & hauling), iron pots and skillets were quite heavy and there were no electric appliances to chop or mix. Cows required milking, gardens required tending, and going to the store was an experience in itself. If the family had a horse & buggy, someone had to take the horse from the barn and hitch it to the buggy, drive the buggy, find parking, etc. then there was walking all around town for goods. The department store was not as prevalent as it is today, so vegetables came from the produce stand, meat from the butcher, bread from the baker, shoes from the shoe maker, dresses from the seamstress, hats from the milliner, etc etc etc. Depending on how far from town the person lived, they might save up all their shopping for one day.

This photo dates from the 1860s, as evidenced by the gold line and square corners, as well as the size and shape of the image (round or oval, in the center of the card). Also, the clothing is consistent with 1860s fashions for women.

I have found a great nephew of Franklin Francis Ford, our one firmly identified photograph from the album, and I’ve asked if they would like to own the album on the chance there are other Ford photographs within. I’ll keep you all posted on how that goes.

So many cute babies

Yet another unidentified baby from the Red Velvet Album. This one appears to be a boy seated on a chair with the hint of a smile on his face. Hopefully it is a hint of a happy personality.

Franklin Francis Ford


This little guy is Franklin Francis Ford, age four months, weight 22 pounds.  He’s a good size boy at four months. Franklin (Frank) was the son of Elias C Ford and Belle Kirby Ford, born July 11, 1883 in Dakota Territory. The Fords were a travelling family. Elias C was born in Ohio, his wife in Wisconsin. Daughter Sarah born in Wisconsin, son Elias K born in Wisconsin, Frank, in DT, Lillie Mae in Washington, and Arthur in Washington. Eventually, the family migrated to Oakland City, CA and Frank settled in and around the area, living in Ophir, Oroville and Butte in Butte County and Berkeley in Alameda County. Frank was a farmer and real estate office manager. He married Nellie Lorinda on the last day of 1910 and they were together until his death in 1946. Nellie lived until ’53. They did not appear to have had any children. However, I have a great lead on a family member, so keep your fingers crossed!

The photographer was Judkins in Bismark, DT.


A pair of siblings posed for their portrait. You can just see behind the girl’s feet the base of a positioning stand to help her hold her pose. The boy is handsome but unremarkable. The girl is wearing a great example of a girls’ bustle dress from the 1880s. The dress does not go beyond mid calf to allow her to play outdoors, but she is beginning to dress like a woman. She has very curly hair, which was very popular at the time. You can’t easily tell, but she is most likely wearing a junior corset.

Baby with beads

This little girl doesn’t look very  happy. Sometimes children have an inherently hopeful or happy look on their faces, but not this one. She looks like she wants her nap. She is posed in the corner of a chair covered with a blanket and has on several strands of beads as a necklace. It makes me wonder about the beads. What did they mean to the family? Were they just a trinket to make the baby look like a girl in the photo? Or were they something special that came as a gift from family far away?

The photographer was Barry in Bismarck, but we have no way of knowing if this was DT or North Dakota. The photo was mounted over to top loop of the B, making it look like Darry, but when you enlarge the image on-screen, you can see that missing loop under the image. Yet another unidentified child in the Red Velvet Album.

Hey, cutie pie

There was only one challenge for photographers in the 19th century that we can really see evidence of today, and that is movement. Because the exposure time was slow, subjects had to sit still for a long time. We see stands behind subjects helping them hold their pose, they lean on chairs or tables to hold their balance, or as in this case, there is an adult sitting next to this infant trying to hold him still. But where is the baby’s nose? You can see the child was moving because the hand is blurred and the nose, diminutive on a child at best, was blurred out of existence due to his moving.

The child is another unidentified person in the mystery of the Red Velvet Album. No photographer’s mark is on the photo either.

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