On a Sunday Afternoon
A previous article detailed the family of Hiram b. 1842 and Mary “Orner” Hagenbuch (not to get confused with Hiram Hagenbuch, Sr. b. 1847). The family lived in and around the Montgomery, PA area. This Hiram’s family line is Hiram (b. 1842) > Charles (b. 1811) > John (b. 1763) > Andreas ( b. 1711).
To recap: Hiram married Mary Orner in 1864. He died on July 16, 1905. Mary “Orner” Hagenbuch was born on May 23, 1848 and died on March 23, 1913. They are buried in Fairview Cemetery, Montgomery, PA. They had 5 children: William Henry (b. July 24, 1870, d. 1938, m. Clara Dietrich); Cora M. (b. Feb. 22, 1874, d. 1958, never married); Edmund Perry (b. Feb. 26, 1876, d. 1961, m. Maude Hunter in 1914); Emma (b. Aug. 25, 1878, d. 1946, m. William Smith); and RD Hiram (b. Sept. 2, 1884, d. 1962, m. Pauline Housel).
RD Hiram and Pauline “Housel” Hagenbuch had one daughter: Roberta Hagenbuch (b. 1915, d. 1988). In the mid 1980s, I visited several times with Roberta and her husband Richard “Bucky” Buck in Watsontown, PA. During those times we went through family photos of her parents, aunts, uncles, and others. I remember looking at several photos we came across that pictured three or four young ladies dressed in men’s clothing. Along with those were photos of the same ladies in 19th century lingerie. I can still remember that smile on Roberta’s face as she told me about those photos.
Roberta said that her mother, aunts, and friends would have Sunday dinner at one of the homes. After dinner, the men would retire to a sitting room to talk and smoke cigars. The ladies, according to Roberta, were bored. So, they would retire to one of the bedrooms to have talks among themselves. At least once they decided to try on the men’s clothes that were available. And, at least once they changed clothes and had their photos taken in other clothing, some of which resemble petticoats – women’s undergarments of the time.
Those photos are so strange because of when they were taken – about 1900. This was at the tail end of the Victorian age when socially there was a strict code of conduct. Not only do we find it strange that these married ladies dressed in men’s clothing; but, it is very strange that they had their photos taken in that way and seemingly also in their undergarments. One wonders, “Who took the photos?”
We do know, from other photos in this collection, that the family was close-knit as there are several photos of the Montgomery Hagenbuchs posing with a Christmas tree, sitting in the garden, and taking boat rides on the nearby Susquehanna River. Using a little imagination, we can hear the ladies asking their husbands on a Sunday afternoon: “Can we take a boat ride or a carriage jaunt?”
But after a large Sunday dinner, we can hear the men answering that they just want to relax, sit on the porch or snooze away in an easy chair. Perturbed, the ladies go upstairs and decide to pose in different “costumes” of clothing accompanied by props: a bottle, a cane, and a cigarette. But was this done for no other reason than a lark? Or were they play acting some scene from Little Women or the latest Sherlock Holmes novel? Perhaps, the poses were meant to be tableaus which were posed scenes of famous people or events – a popular form of entertainment in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
So, it brings us back to the question: Who took the photos and why? Someone must have had a box camera and taken the photos. All four “posed” photos are on the front of post cards, commonly taken and used in those days to send to friends and relatives. Were the ladies posing and having the photos taken to later show their husbands, proving that they could entertain themselves just as well without male company?
A sharp look at the photos identify the following: Maude “Hunter” Hagenbuch, Pauline “Housel” Hagenbuch, Emma “Hagenbuch” Smith, and a Mrs. Charles Henderson. (This name appears on the back of the one card and census records show us that her name was Minnie; she and her husband owned a laundry in Montgomery in 1910.)
Maude, Pauline and Emma were all sisters-in-law. Missing from the photos is the sister to Emma, Cora, who never married. Therefore, one mystery may be solved. Cora (unmarried and more reserved) may not have wanted to participate in the hijinks. But she may have been the one who took the photos.
These questions will probably never be answered. But once again, as in many of the articles on this website, they give us a window to the interesting world of our ancestors. We should never underestimate the feelings, beliefs, humor, and general love of life that these people had.