Elva Martin sent me this picture to help settle a family reunion disagreement.
See the child in the second row on the far right? The one with a bow in the hair? Do you think this is a boy or a girl?
The picture is an example of confusing details even when you know the name of everyone in a photo.
Martin's clan is clear about this being the Peter Mower family. They even have a date for the picture, 1910.
It's that troublesome child causing the disagreement. "Petter" Mower, his wife and their nine children appear in the 1910 census for Saugerties, NY. Their oldest, Harry (age 16) stands proudly in the back. Leona (3) sits on her father's lap while baby Marion is with Mom.
The rest of the boys are Leory (15), Arnold (13), Adelbert (11), Orie (10), Louis (7) and Everett (5). Orie is supposed to be the child with the bow, but did boys wear bows in the their hair and long curls? The answer is, sometimes!
I know I've written columns about the ways boys and girls wore their hair parted—boys on the side and girls down the center—but there are always exceptions. Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1886 book, Little Lord Fauntleroy
, featured a main character named Cedric whose mother dressed him in a "black velvet suit, with a lace collar, and with love-locks." You can read the whole text for free on the Project Gutenberg site
. But Burnett didn't start the trend, she only popularized it.
Throughout the centuries, there have been mothers who couldn't bear to cut the gorgeous curls from their little boys' heads. It appears Orie's mom couldn't either. Of all the children in the portrait, Orie resembles her the most.
He has her mouth, eyes, nose and even the same-shape face. Perhaps he was her favorite. It's impossible to know, unless there's a family story about Orie's place in his mother's affections.
Despite the family disagreement about his sex, this child is a boy. E-mail me
your old pictures of boys in curls and I'll feature them in a future blog. For now, this is another picture puzzle solved.