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.
Melanie, thanks for leaving the link to your post here in your comment on my blog post on a similar photograph. What an adorable photograph this made of the unfortunate little Leon Adam. With the design of the cart quite different than mine, I imagine this idea was borrowed by not a few itinerant photographers.
Hi Jacqi, Thanks for your comment! I was inspired to dig out this photograph after seeing your own sweet photo of your mother. I think you’re right that there were probably quite a few photographers out there who were drumming up business this way.
Hi Melanie. I love seeing the different animals used by traveling photographers. This ram is certainly one of the more unusual. Thanks for the link to my post on the pony photographer. I have another traveling photographer snapshot I need to post — me and a local dairy cow! Thanks for the jog to my memory.
Hi Denise, I do too! I look forward to seeing your photograph with the local dairy cow one of these days. Sounds like another fun one!
Here is a link to a blog post I did in 2010, when a reader responded with a goat cart photo from 1948 that looks amazingly similar to my Dad’s photo in 1934. if you look at the two photos you might think it’s the same goat, as well as the same little cart! http://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2010/05/goat-cart-update.html
Hi Heather, Wow! It sure does look like the same cart (and who knows – maybe the same goat!). How neat that you were able to make that connection. Thanks for sharing!
A treasure under any circumstances. Given his tragic death, I love the whimsy of your photograph. I saw my first animal cart photograph last summer during a family reunion. http://nolichuckyroots.blogspot.com/2013/06/big-brother-ben-bonnel.html
Hi Susan, Thank you – it is a treasure! From your photograph, it looks like the animal carts didn’t only attract children! It also seems like it could be the same era as mine. Thanks for sharing!
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