COLONEL REUBEN STEERE AND WIFE (“THE SMALLEST MARRIED COUPLE IN THE WORLD”)

reuben steere

The subjects of this cabinet card portrait are Colonel Reuben Steere (1838-1915) and his wife, Rebecca (1853-1929).  Steere is elegantly dressed and has a walking stick. Rebecca has unusually long hair which is displayed prominently. Reuben Steere was a native of Chepachet, Rhode Island. He was 44 inches tall and 43 pounds at maturity. He was a member of the Lilliputian Opera Company. In 1880 he married fellow Lilliputian, Rebecca Ann Myers of Indiana. The couple settled in Chepachet in 1882 and Reuben worked as a truant officer while Rebecca operated a restaurant and confectionary shop. This photograph was produced at the “photo parlors” of Rieman & Company. The studio was located on Montgomery Street in San Francisco, California. The address printed on the front of the photograph notes that the parlors were “Opposite Lick House”. What is Lick House? The name Lick House fosters all sort of silly images in my mind but the history of Lick House is actually quite interesting. James Lick was a renowned craftsman of wood products and a successful businessman. He began building Lick House in 1861. The building was two blocks long and three stories high. It was a luxurious showpiece hotel with 164 high quality rooms. It was considered one of San Francisco’s premier hotels until it burned down to the ground during the 1906 earthquake and fire. Advertising print on the reverse of the photograph includes the following two slogans, “Rieman’s Babies” and “When others fail, try Rieman”. Additional advertising on the reverse of the image are the names George R. Rieman and Fred H. Pray. At one time, Rieman and Pray were partners in operating a photography studio. Writing on the the back of the photograph states the photograph captures “the smallest married couple in the world”. To view other photographs by Rieman click on the category “Photographer: Rieman”.

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I like this “When others fail, try Rieman” :)

  2. I don’t think they were the smallest married couple. Tom thumb and wife Lavinia, who worked for P.T Barnum Circus were 40″ and 32″ in height . That would make them shorter.

    • You are absolutely correct. Research reveals that Colonel Reuben Steere was not only outranked by General Tom Thumb, but he was also outshorted by him. In addition, the General’s wife, Lavinia, was shorter than the Colonel’s wife, Rebecca Anne. Tom Thumb married in 1863 while Reuben Steere married in 1880. Therefore, despite the inscription on the reverse of this cabinet card, Reuben and Rebecca were never the smallest married couple in the world. So much for truth in advertising.

  3. I have seen some of these portraits of little people that were produced for advertising purposes. I think I may have one.

  4. I have what I believe is an original photo of Colonel Steer and his wife. Its a 5″x7″ photo and the front on the bottom has Chapman, 155 Eight Ave New York. The back has Ray D. Chapman. I assume he was the photographer who took Colonel Steer and his wife’s picture? Where exactly was this photo taken? I would be able to upload the photo or will email it to anyone who is interested in it. I would be willing to sell this photo but wondering what the value would be.

    • I could not find any information about a photographer in New York City named Ray Chapman. There was a baseball player on Cleveland’s roster who was killed when hit by a pitch thrown by a New Yankee pitcher in 1920. He was and is the only major league player ever killed by a bean ball. I would be appreciative if I could see the portrait of Colonel Steer that is in your possession. Would it be possible to email me a scan of the image (bmarshphd@mac.com)? Another possibility would be for you to leave a link to the image in another comment and than others could view it. Thanks for visiting the cabinet card gallery and participating in the dialog.

  5. Colonel Steere not “Steer” Correction in above


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