In Sunday’s Mark Miller: Images from the Photographers’ Family Album – Part 1, I introduced Mark Miller, a premier photographer in Fort Collins from 1914 through 1970, gave a little background on how I came to have the use of the Miller Family Album, and shared a dozen or so of the family images. Part 1 used images of Miller’s studios, his marriage to Effie Hall and their early years together, and introduced their four children. Part 2 is going to focus on what the family did for fun, starting with this composite image of his young children and their simple toys.
On the left is John, with the light hair, playing with his best friend’s pedal car. John said the photograph was taken around 1929, when John was about six-years old. The middle image is also John but at around two-years old playing with his blocks. Somehow little sister Beth got her two big brothers Warner (left) and Keith to take part in her tea party in this image from 1920. Beth would have been one or two-years old.
But children’s events could also become a very big deal as shown below in this photograph of a very large Tom Thumb wedding.
In 1863, General Tom Thumb (born Charles Stratton) and Lavinia Warren, both little people, were married. Circus entrepreneur P. T. Barnum promoted and managed Tom Thumb and made Tom Thumb weddings a popular American fad in the 1920s, though they continued for awhile as fundraisers for school or churches.
Traditionally, children, usually under 10-years old, dressed up and played all the parts in the ceremony. Probably this was a school or church sponsored Tom Thumb wedding, since I count around 60 children in the photograph. According to a handwritten caption in the Miller Family Album, Warner took the role of Grandpa Thumb, Keith was the best man, and Beth was the ring bearer.
Children weren’t the only ones to play dress-up at this time. Adults also liked costume parties. Below is an image of what the Miller’s called a Kid’s Party, with the adults all dressed up as youngsters.
I think Mark Miller is sitting on the floor on the left side of the image and Effie is standing, in the polka dot dress on the right side. Their album contains a number of costume events. Costume events must have been very popular in the 1920s.
The Millers also spent a good deal of time in the Poudre Canyon, where Mark could mix work with a family vacation. Beth Miller told us about their trips up the canyon. By the time they piled all the photography equipment and supplies, and all the camping gear into the car, there was barely room for her parents and the four children. She also said that the car was so overloaded and underpowered that they often had to pile out, turn the car around, and go up the steeper hills in reverse.
Miller took photographs of the resorts and the resorts sold them from racks in their stores. The sold for a nickel each, with Miller getting two cents. As the children got older, it was their job to restock the racks in exchange for an ice cream. Beth said it was a good deal.
Above is a photograph of the family site at Chamber’s Lake in 1924 and to the right is a photograph of Warner and Mark getting ready to try their fishing luck.
The Miller children told us that they spent so much time in the canyon that their father finally decided to buy a summer cabin for them. Below is a photograph of the cabin, c. 1925.
Mark and Effie are on the left side but the couple on the right is unknown. The cabin was located near Indian Meadows, milepost 93, still a favorite fishing location in the Poudre Canyon.
Cultural activities were also popular. Here are two examples from the Miller Family Album. The first one was taken at a Chautauqua held locally in 1923.
Chautauquas provided education combined with entertainment in the form of lectures, concerts, and plays, which were modeled after activities at the Chautauqua Institution of western New York. Theodore Roosevelt called Chautauquas “the most American thing in America.”
This may be a photograph taken when a Chautauqua visited locally in July 1920. Entertainment was provided by bagpipers, singers, and a comedian, while a presentation on the secrets of science provided an educational opportunity. The Chautauqua was headlined by “Gatling Gun Fogleman,” a master salesman and orator, with a rapid fire delivery style.
In August 1925, several aspiring artists, including Effie Miller (standing, left), took part in a class taught by landscape painter Gustaf L. Carlson (standing, center). The local newspaper called Carlson an Arizona landscape painter and a friend of Western writer Zane Grey. The class was painting the scenery along the Poudre River near Bellvue, a town northwest of Fort Collins. The three women seated at easels are (left to right) Mrs. Morrish, Mrs. Plaz, and Miss Hardinger. The woman standing at the far right side is unidentified.
A crop of this image was chosen by Arcadia Publishing for the cover of Fort Collins: The Miller Photographs.
One thing the Millers did for a number of years was to make their own Christmas cards. One year it was a simple family photo printed with a holiday greeting. Another time it was individual silhouettes of the family members. But my favorite is the one shown below, a photograph of their home, with each card sent individually hand colored by Effie Miller.
I hope you enjoyed this look at one family in Fort Collins in the early part of the 20th century.
Sunday’s post will cover the Pioneer Museum in Fort Collins.