Daisy and the Mustard Jar

There are solid ways of identifying the time period of vintage photographs and good lawdy I wish I knew about them when I started on this genealogical journey.

It’s easy enough, though, to find plenty of websites to help with dating those images of yesteryear. The Photo Detective’s blog is full of info you didn’t even know you wanted and Ancestral Findings offers a descriptive example of the different types of photos you may have in your family’s collection. (And if you have a good resource you like, be so kind as to share this in the comment section below, won’t you?)

So you have the straight up things to review such as the type of photo, clothing design, suit buttons, and hairstyles. And then the not-so-obvious in the way of hidden clues require a closer look, sometimes even with a magnifying glass. Got it. Check.

But I want to share another step that doesn’t always show up on the usual Tips & Tricks lists. What can we find out about the photographer? Who are they and where did they set up shop? What are the years that the studio was in business? Was it a single location or did they branch out with several studios in the region?

This is part of the history we’re looking for, right? And besides, if I skipped this step, I would have never known about Daisy Marble.

Ok, so the photo above of the handsome uniform and its mustache is one you may have seen before at House BlackSword, and a heads up that you’ll see it again later when we share how we solved the story behind that mystery image. But before that, let’s talk about this other fine fellow I’ve been creeping on. This is the photographer’s imprint on the bottom frame of the photo above.

H. Howard Littrell & Co.
314 Wayne Ave., Dayton Ohio

The background on Mr. H. Howard Littrell and his Co. didn’t come easy. I scanned through the Williams’ Dayton Directories between the years of 1895 and 1903, which was my estimate for the photo, and I didn’t get a hit until 1901 when this finally shows up.

Now we have some names to work with. The “and Co.” is Mr. Littrell’s wife, Daisy. Just a bit unusual to see the wife’s name included as a co-owner, but the new century was progressing. After all, just another a couple of decades to go and women can vote. The couple purchased the existing photography business from Alfred Downham and changed the name.

A little more research and we get an intriguing hit on Ms. Daisy from an incident that occurred in 1899.

Dayton Daily News, Aug 14 1899, Page 5

And this follow-up printed the next day.

Dayton Daily News, Aug 15 1899, Page 8

I’m not going to take you down the rabbit hole to find out what a mustard jar looked like in 1899, other than it was made of heavy glass and probably hurt like heck to be beaned with one by a “plucky little woman.” Anyhow, there is some justice in that it sounds like Mr. Smith had it coming.

Daisy Marble was twenty-four years old when she married Howard Herbert Littrell, which was just eighteen months before the mustard jar incident likely rocked the marriage boat. Daisy’s marketability in finding future employment was now tainted with an assault and battery charge hanging over her plucky little head. It’s not a stretch to imagine this as the push for the two Littrell’s to take over the photography business.

Unfortunately, this business venture only lasted two more years. In 1903 Howard was working as a bookkeeper and the two moved to a new residence on East Third Street.

And by 1909 they’ve moved again, this time for a new start in Asheville, North Carolina.

And sadly, this is where Daisy’s story ends. In 1909, Daisy dies at the too-young age of thirty-five in Asheville and her body is returned to her family in Rising Sun, Indiana, to be interred in the local cemetery. Daisy’s marker reflects her maiden name and notes her as the wife of Howard Littrell.

Howard remains in North Carolina. A year after Daisy’s early death, he marries a young schoolteacher named Harriet and they have three children together. He makes a living as an insurance salesman and later retires from that occupation. H. Howard Littrell, Sr. dies in Rocky Mount, North Carolina in 1957 at the age of 84. Harriet survives him by another thirteen years.

There’s more to the story of Daisy. There must be. I have so many questions about this passionate young woman and the way she took the challenges of life head on, so to speak.

In the absence of answers, I leave you this limerick. Which doesn’t connect to anything other than it has a Daisy in it.

A certain young man named Carlisle
Had a face that would reset a fisle.
He loved a young daisy,
But alas! she went craisy
When upon her one day he did smisle!
  - printed in The Dayton Herald, May 21 1887, Pinks of Verse, Page 6

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