“NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP” PORTRAIT OF A LITTLE BOY PRAYING

This vintage photograph features a young boy wearing night clothes deep in prayer. He has a far away look as he kneels and looks toward heaven. The photograph was taken by the Schriever studio in Emporium, Pennsylvania. The reverse of this photograph has an inscription with the name of the subject “James Speltz”. The name is difficult to decipher and I may be incorrect about the exact name. The inscription also reveals that the photograph was taken in 1897. James Beniface Schriever  (1868-1943) was a noted Pennsylvania photographer. He began his career in 1888. His original gallery was in the town of Kane. In 1890 he took his talent and went to work in Emporium. Between 1900 and 1937 he conducted his photography business in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Wilson’s Photographic Magazine (1900) announces the opening of Schriever’s Scanton studio and it appears that he was a talented in marketing. Music was played at the opening and invitations were sent to the public in the form of a legal summons. In 1900, Schriever was the President of the Pennsylvania Photographers Association. He was a 1906 member of the Scranton Board of Trade. He is reported in a “Rootsweb,com” entry to have photographed more than 130,000 people in Scranton during his career. He trained his nephew William G. Bair in the art of photography and sold the business to him in the early 1900’s. The business became known as the Bair Photo Studio. It burned down in the 1930’s. Schriever was also noted for his founding of the “American School of Art and Photography”. The school was actually a correspondence school that utilized the “Schriever System” to teach photography by mail. The course was entitled “The Complete Self Instructing Library of Practical Photography” (1908).  Schriever apparently was an innovator and an entrepreneur.The cartoon below is a caricature of J. B. Schriever from the book “The Story of Scranton” (1914) by Bill Steinke.    ADDENDUM: A visitor to this site left a comment that led to the likely identification of the child seen in this photograph. The commentator skillfully deciphered the inscription and posited that the name written is “James Keltz”. Research revealed that a James DeCoudrey Keltz (1888-1953)  lived in Emporium and nearby communities his entire life. The 1910 US census reported that he was working as an apprentice mechanic in a factory. His World War I draft registration papers revealed that he lived in Emporium. The 1920 US Census found him living in Shippen. He was married to Nancy Miller who was nine years his junior. They were married in 1918. He was working in the coal mines and the couple lived with his parents. The 1930 US census found Keltz living in Canton and working is an enamel room of a hanger factory. He died in 1953, at age 65, and was survived by his wife. His death certificate indicates that he died from “Circulation Black Pulmonary” disease due to asthma. It is my hypothesis that he died from Black Lung Disease related to his working in a coal mine in his younger days.

 

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I so enjoy seeing your pictures and their story’s.

  2. Indescribable image. The light in a child’s pure heart. That is the image for a child that would see World War I. And Two. The “Little Lord Faunteroy” (spl?) look of the time adds to the sweetness of the image. His eyes are lit with light. Today he would be jamming on a computer – social media – Not exactly a ‘selfie’, is it? – What is the contrast with today’s little ones? Did this famous photographer imagine what emotion he would render over a century later 0 and what questions? The image is eternal. Thanks so much Cabinet Card. This was a pleasure to behold.

  3. A boy? With hair down to his waist? The name on the back could be that of the father, rather than the subject.

  4. Most peculiar. I know (but never understood) that dressing young boys as girls was not uncommon in that era (the Lord Fauntleroy effect?). I once owned several spectacular examples. But with pretty, long curls and a nightgown … it’s unique, in my experience. Fine photographic work, indeed. I certainly could be wrong … but do feel it is a boy and your reading of the name is correct. I love a mystery. Could be related to a theatrical event … but I doubt it. Interesting … thanks much for sharing it.

    • The only thing about this person that looks male are the hands. Maybe he was a twin; but I seriously doubt it. Every thing else convinces me it’s a girl.

  5. Mr. Patterson, you are spot on. The “Little Lord Fauntleroy” epidemic spread throughout the nation at that time. Certainly, in prior decades, it was not at all unusual for males- especially aristocrats, and particularly royalty, to sport such hair. The 18th Century fashion was long, curly “feminine” wigs for men: especially the aristocracy. – And don’t forget Biblical times when a man’s hair was often thought to reflect his male vigor: Samson and Delilah… Photos of congregations of young children in the 1920’s often feature the occasional one or two boys cowering, trying to hide this type of outfit from the camera. Mamma made them dress like that to their obvious humiliation. One can be sure that the other boys in their crowd made them cringe!

    • Good point. Maybe the poor kid in this shot was praying that Mama would relent and let Papa cut his hair. LOL

  6. Just a note: I believe that the surname inscribed on this cabinet card is “Keltz,” rather than “Speltz.”

    Lovely image.

    • Thank you for your comment. You certainly have great deciphering skills. I investigated the name “James Keltz” and I believe I successfully found a great deal of information about him. I added my findings to the initial description of the photograph and thought you might be interested in reading it. Thanks again for your help.

  7. So nice to see this photo displayed. J.B. Schriever was my grandmother’s first cousin. William G. Bair was her brother, and thus also Schriever’s first cousin. The Rootsweb post from which you took the information was written by me back in 2003, and I misspoke. Thanks for the opportunity to make a correction!


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