Long before photo booths gained popularity, Leonard Wiese of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois posed for this quaint series of photographs. Printed on a strip of flimsy paper, each individual photograph is about the size of a postage stamp. Leonard, the son of German immigrants Fred and Emma (Stübe) Wiese, was the youngest of five children,1 although an elder sister had died before he was born.2 He likely spent his early years at 46 Thomas Street,3 before his family moved to a new home, a large frame house, at 2502 North Neva Avenue.4 His father earned a living as a cigar maker, and must have done well in order to be able afford this home for his family.5
Leonard looks to be about five years old in these photographs, dating them to approximately 1905. His hair is parted sleekly to the side, and he wears a white collared shirt with a patterned necktie. In the first three photographs, he poses formally while sitting upright in a chair. He has the hint of a smile in one, and artfully places his hand behind his head in another. In the final two photographs, he sports a pint-sized sailor cap while leaning playfully over the back of a wooden chair. His neat hair and dress suggest that these photographs were planned, yet the poses and setting seem more informal than what I would typically expect from a studio.
My first inclination, given the photo strip format, was to think that these photographs came from some sort of early predecessor to a photo booth, as automated photo booths didn’t spring up until 1926. Could there have been some sort of inexpensive arcade studio popular twenty years before? I also wondered if they might have been taken with an early model of a Kodak Brownie camera; another possibility is that they were proofs from which larger prints could be ordered. What do you think? This photo strip could easily have been cut apart and the individual photographs shared with friends or relatives. However, left intact, it allows a glimpse into several moments in Leonard’s boyhood in Chicago more than a century ago.
1 “Cook County, Illinois, Deaths Index, 1878-1922,” index, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 March 2014), Lillie Wiese.
2 1910 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, Chicago Ward 27, enumeration district (ED) 1184, sheet 15-B, p. 9451 (handwritten), dwelling 254, family 306, Leonard Wiese; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 March 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 270.
3 1900 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, Chicago Ward 14, enumeration district (ED) 453, sheet 9-A, p. 320 (stamped), dwelling 64, family 164, Fred Wiese; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 March 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 623.
4 1910 U.S. census, Cook Co., Ill., pop. sch., Chicago Ward 27, ED 1184, sheet 15-B, p. 9451, dwell. 254, fam. 306, Leonard Wiese.
5 1910 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, Chicago Ward 27, enumeration district (ED) 1184, sheet 15-B, p. 9451 (handwritten), dwelling 254, family 306, Fred Wiese; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 March 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 270.
If you want to know everything there is to know about a photograph, you might contact Brett Payne, the Photo-Sleuth. He’s amazing! And he’s as nice as he is smart. Here’s his blog: http://photo-sleuth.blogspot.co.nz/
Thanks, Wendy! I hadn’t come across his blog before but will be sure to follow it from now on!
I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2014/03/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-march-7-2014.html
Have a great weekend!
Thank you for the mention, Jana! Have a great weekend as well!
Melanie – I have several of these types of photo strips all taken around the early 1900s. There’s one at this blog post of mine . It is two pictures of little Ollie Mae Diuguid and are probably the only photos of her ever taken. She was born in 1912 and died in 1914 so I believe these were taken around 1913. I have several others on this side of the family, but not scanned. Hmmm, something I better remedy! Thanks for the interesting post :)
Hi Dawn, Thanks for your comment! The pictures of Ollie May Diuguid are so sweet. You’ll have to let me know if you get your other photo strips scanned. They seemed to be a popular choice for children’s photos!
We have an envelope with approximately 30 such photo strips from 1904-1909. The note on the envelope says ‘Ping Pong Photos’, however, none of them are of table tennis which makes me wonder whether that was a term used for this style of photo that we now call ‘photo strips’ but I haven’t been able to find anything online.
Thanks for your comment, Jan! It sounds like you have a great collection of photo strips. I’ve never heard the term “Ping Pong Photos” – you could be right that it referred to the style of photo, or perhaps it was the name of the studio that produced them? Interesting!
Jan’s right — the term “ping pong photos” was used to refer to photo strips like these back when they were being taken by live photographers instead of in self-service photobooths. There was an attachment on the back of the camera that ping-ponged back and forth, hence the name. I’ve just posted a piece on my own blog about “ping pongs” if you’re interested in some more details and examples: https://griffonagedotcom.wordpress.com/2017/12/23/ping-pong-photos-an-introduction/
That’s fascinating! Thanks so much for your comment, Patrick. I enjoyed reading all that you uncovered about “ping pong photos” – all new to me!
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