Only a handful of photographs exist of little Leon. He was barely five years old when he tumbled into a bonfire and died from his burns.1 This photograph, however, taken when he was perhaps three years old, gives a glimpse into his brief but surely happy childhood.
Leon Francis Adam was born in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, on 23 August 1913.2 He was the second and youngest son of Henry Joseph and Melanie Veronica (Lutz) Adam.3 It wasn’t uncommon at this time for photographers to travel through towns with some sort of enticing animal in tow – often a pony,4 or, in this case, a wooly ram pulling a two-wheeled cart. Mothers must have smiled to see their children flock to the attraction, making their parting with a few pennies for a photograph that much easier. This particular photograph is a picture postcard, a format that reached its peak circa 1905-1920.5
Leon is wearing simple play clothes – tiny overalls, a check shirt, and black, button-up shoes. His expression is cautious, and he appears to look not at the photographer but at someone off to the side, likely his mother, offering encouragement. Note the bone placed in front of the wheel of the cart, perhaps necessary to avoid a situation of a runaway ram!
Did your young ancestors ever pose with a pony, ram, or other barnyard animal?
1 “Plays in a Fire; Lad Dies of Burns,” unidentified newspaper from Sioux City, Iowa, September 1918.
2 Grave of Leon Adam, 1913-1918, Calvary Cemetery, Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa; image date unknown, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2013.
3 “Plays in Fire; Lad Dies of Burns,” 1918.
4 “Wayback Wednesday: Remembering the Pony Photographer” The Family Curator, 14 August 2013 (http://www.thefamilycurator.com/home/2013/8/14/wayback-wednesday-remembering-the-pony-photographer.html : accessed 13 December 2013).
5 Maureen A. Taylor, Family Photo Detective (Cincinnati: Family Tree Books, 2013), 65.