There’s a story here, or at least a theory. But first a greeting.


This cabinet card probably dates to the 1890s.

This cabinet card probably dates to the 1890s.

The above cabinet card of a father and his two children has the imprint of Lentz Bro’s Mammoth Art Studio, Peru, Indiana. For a number of years I’ve been setting aside early photographic images of fathers and their children. That leads to my theory regarding the absence of the wife/mother in this photo.

Cabinet cards of families usually depict a couple and their child/children or even a mother with one more young ones. Far fewer show just the dad and his kids.

Where’s mama? She was probably dead. The cause could have been any number of reasons: an accident, childbirth, sickness, or disease. That was life in the 19th century. It makes images such as this all the more poignant.

There’s a sadness that can be read in the eyes of all three subjects in this photo. But there’s also a strong bond that can be seen — the way the girl leans her head against her father’s cheek, and how the boy has his hand gently placed on the man’s shoulder.

For Father’s Day, it’s an appropriate image. And, for anyone interested in life in the 19th century, it’s a reminder that death touched young families more frequently than it does today.