WELL DRESSED COUPLE IN MONROE, WISCONSIN

WIS COUPLE FRONT_0006

A well dressed couple pose for their portrait at the White studio in Monroe, Wisconsin. Both individuals are wearing corsages creating a question as to whether this image is a wedding portrait. The couple are posed with the gentleman sitting and the lady standing.It is understandable why the lady isn’t sitting. It is unimaginable that she could fit in a chair while wearing such a bulky dress. I wonder if women in such dresses ever got a chance to sit down at social occasions or if they were compelled to stand for long periods of time. The reverse of this cabinet card photograph has an inscription stating “Mamie’s mother and father (Milton Schreckengost)”. Mr. Schreckengost is extremely likely to be the gentleman pictured in this photograph. Interestingly, the German translation of “Schrecken” is “something scary”. However, research found nothing scary about Milton S. Schreckengost. He was born in 1861 in Winslow, Illinois. The 1900 US census finds Milton to be living with his wife Susan and their four year old daughter, Gladys. He and Susan had been married in 1894 and Milton was working as a farmer. The family was living in Buckeye, Illinois. The couple remained in Buckeye during the 1920 and 1930 census. Milton’s occupation was listed as laborer in both surveys but he was likely a farm laborer. On 8/5/1940, Milton died in Buckeye and was buried in Cedarville, Illinois. Susan died around three years earlier. Milton’s death certificate lists his occupation as “farmer”. Further research found that Milton’s marriage to Susan was actually his second marriage. His first marriage was to Mary Musser of Orangeville, Illinois. The couple had one daughter. Mary died in 1890. In 1894 he married a second time (to Susan Kahly). The union with Susan produced Milton’s second daughter. It is not clear whether the woman in this cabinet card is Mary Musser or Susan Kahly.  If your wondering why so much of  Milton’s life took place in Illinois yet this photograph was taken by a Wisconsin photography studio, I have a rational answer. Buckeye, Illinois and Monroe, Wisconsin, are only 15.1 miles apart. The photographer of this image is Horatio G. White who was born in Oldtown, Maine in 1834. He was listed in a Wisconsin business directory (1875) as a photographer.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Yes, women could and did sit down in dresses of this style! I have worn a similar style of dress and was able to sit down perfectly easily. The bulk of the skirt is the petticoats underneath, which are soft, and a flexible skirt support frame called a bustle, which could fold up, bend, or otherwise collapse when the wearer sat down, although most likely she would sit sideways on side chairs (that have no arms) or perch on the front of arm chairs. This style was popular in the mid to late 1880s, so if the man in the photo’s first wife died in 1890, then she is the one in this photo, because her clothing is from before 1890.

  2. I agree with the comment above – women definitely sat in bustle dresses. The bustle could collapse, and depending on how it was made it could be a small pad. This one looks like it was a wire frame or metal boned one and could easily accommodate sitting. :-) behind and under the bustle the skirts were basically unfettered to hang free.

    • My guess, too, based on the style of card, is that it is his first wife. I have long wondered about the other, which seems to have been an accepted composition tenet … gent-seated, lady-standing. I have a number of similar cabinet cards, some fine photography, and lady-seated, gent-standing is the rarest exception, regardless of the dress style. (Still, for one of those few … of an elderly couple … the overall posing and composition are so bad … overall it’s good … even funny, one of my favorites … my apologies to the long gone subjects). Gent-seated was just preferred composition among the photographers, I believe.


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