J. Granger’s studio, located in Sparta, Illinois, produced this cabinet card portrait of the Brown family. The wide-eyed Brown’s give the appearance of a family that are overdosing on “Red Bull” or some other mega dosed caffeine drink. The Brown’s first names are written on the reverse of the photograph but only half of the names are legible. The United States Census provided assistance in learning more about the Brown clan. The 1900 census reveals that Sylvester W. Brown (1857-?) was a 42 year-old man living in the town of Central, Illinois. He was a farmer and married to Lydia Brown, three years before the census (1897). The census reports that Sylvester Brown lived with his wife Lydia (age 37), his daughter Hazel (age 12) and son Olin (age 4). It is not likely that Lydia is the mother of Hazel and Olin. That would only be possible if she was not married to Sylvester at the time of the children’s births and only married him later. A more likely scenario is that the mother of these children had died and Sylvester was a single father when he married Lydia. This theory is supported by the fact that Sylvester and the children’s names written on the reverse of the image are very legible but the older woman’s name is illegible and the name is clearly not “Lydia”. My best guess is that the woman standing next to Sylvester is either his first wife or an elder daughter. More research is required to clarify the family structure and history. The 1920 census indicates that little Olin became a soldier and pilot. The census states that he was sergeant/radio operator stationed in Pasadena, California. The 1930 census reveals that Olin became an “Air Pilot” in the US Army. Olin was then living in Belleville, Illinois with his wife, Fern. Olin was mentioned in an article appearing in Aerial Age Weekly (1922). The story is about the Army testing the Airship T-C-1 and Olin’s role as a “Motor Specialist”. The T-C-1 was a hydrogen inflated blimp. In 1923 the T-C-1 caught fire and was destroyed. No biographical information could be located about photographer J. Granger.
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