Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sepia Saturday: Uncle Will

Last week I introduced you to "Aunt Carrie", the eccentric great-great-aunt who strolled through the neighborhood late in the night. This is her husband, W.R. "Will" McCarty in May 1865. It was a few weeks after Booth shot Lincoln, Will had likely come home alive and victorious from the Civil War.

This "photo" has always fascinated me since my Great Aunt Goldie pulled it out of a trunk in her spider webbed strewn attic in St. Louis. "Oh, would you want that? It's so old, why would anyone want it?" I've never been brave enough to remove the gold framing and glass to get a better scan of the photo. But perhaps it's more fascinating as a series of shadows, a true ghost. There is a youthful grace to young Will's post, what looks like a light beard and his elegant white shirt and what I assume to be a dark velvet jacket. Was he all dressed up as his family greeted him back home after defeating the racist bastards of the South?
It is also just a few years after Leaves of Grass was published and his future wife, Carrie, was about to begin kindergarten.
Although I feel lucky to be the heir and steward to this heirloom, it makes me a bit sad and reflective that although Carrie and Will apparently had a loving marriage and a daughter, they lost her when she was just eight. So any heirlooms went to no direct descendants. I plan to remain a good steward of this and make sure it stays in the family, but it raises questions I've toiled with in recent years about family and bloodlines.I remember my mother and other relatives worrying that I had reached a point in life where I would never produce my own heirs. There was a fear that by being "alone", I would have a lonely life. Yet I look at the story of Carrie and other relatives who had spouses and children that they lost and when alone were so bereft that they didn't know how to survive. I remember my own father after the loss of my mother and wishing I could pass to him the skill of coping while living alone, that being single was not a state of despair. It was a skill I foolishly thought a child could teach a parent, but it never took.
I wonder what Will was thinking about life and the future at the time of the photo, and why he waited another 25 years before marrying Carrie. We know only tidbits about the two of them, some of it blurred by legend and neglect. What has also been a treasure is the inscription inside by my great grandmother (Carrie's sister-in-law, if I remember correctly) and the imprint for Holmes, Booth and Haydens.

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15 Comments:

At 7:39 AM, Blogger Martin H. said...

Another fascinating post. I'm sure you will be a good custodian. You reveal how much it all means to you in your writing.

 
At 7:50 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Martin - Thanks. I hope Will and Carrie would agree.

 
At 8:01 AM, Blogger Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

There has been such a change in attitudes to photos. When I was a little girl (in the '50s)camera prices were dropping and the "snapshot" was invented. We had boxes and albums full of them. Now with digital cameras and sites like Facebook my adult offspring takes dozens of shots and post them to Facebook and online services like Flickr. There's a disposable feeling to it all.
Such a contrast with these photographs with elaborate frames and even set into book-like forms!

 
At 9:03 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Evelyn - Yes, it's been quite a revolution since the 1830s and the first photos. Our attitudes keep evolving.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger McHargue said...

I loved your notion of the photo being ghost like. Your writing is excellent and offers up many fascinating questions. A great post.

 
At 9:50 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

McHargue - We only have this dark and fuzzy of Uncle Will in his youth. The only clear photos of him are as an old man. I guess it's fitting that our youth does become just a dark, ghostly memory.

 
At 10:01 AM, Blogger willow said...

The tintype photos are such marvelous treasures. I'm glad you were able to rescue it from Great Aunt Goldie's spider webs, and savor the fascinating family connection.

 
At 10:15 PM, Blogger Christine H. said...

Wonderful post. I'm glad you have are a faithful steward of this photo. Who does it go to after you?

 
At 10:19 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Willow - At least Goldie -- unlike my other aunt -- would not have thrown it out.

Christine -- Most likely my niece will be the next in line.

 
At 10:19 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Willow - At least Goldie -- unlike my other aunt -- would not have thrown it out.

Christine -- Most likely my niece will be the next in line.

 
At 4:30 AM, Blogger Cynthia Pittmann said...

Enjoyed the vintage photos and your own family connections, Gregg. I particularly appreciated the final melancholy thought about your father.
Thanks for responding to my facebook query about your blog.
I look forward to reading more inspired posts!

 
At 7:19 AM, Blogger Barry said...

These are treasures and you are a great custodian. It is wonderful to see a picture from such a distant time.

 
At 8:31 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Cynthia - Thanks for dropping by and checking me out through Facebook.

Barry - It is a bit amazing to realize just how old this photo is -- 145 years.

 
At 4:17 AM, Blogger Alan Burnett said...

Does this get the prize of the oldest photograph ever to have been featured on Sepia Saturday? It is quite fascinating - the entire post is a wonderful read. Like you, I always wonder what they might have been thinking about when the subjects of our photographs were captured during their moment in time.

 
At 6:42 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Alan - It is old, and photography was only about 30 years old then. I would say he was thinking how glad he was that the war was over.

 

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