1904 SUMMER in the WHITE MOUNTAINS NH PHOTO ALBUM - HILDEGARDE LASELL WATSON
Measuring approximately 12” X 10 ¼ “, this book-bound album contains 65 photos mounted on 9 double-sided pages. Two photographs have gone missing, apparently removed deliberately. 41 unused pages follow, for a total of 50 pages. The album has a dark-green linen cover, with “Photographs” embossed in the upper-left corner in gold, using Art Nouveau typography. The album cover shows edge wear and worn corners, but is otherwise in good condition. The first page has come partially loose from the binding; towards the end of the pages of photographs, which all are at the front of the album, one page has come completely detached from the binding.
Written on the inside cover is what looks to be the name “Hildegarde Lasell,” and an internet search finds a Hildegarde Lasell Watson (December 28, 1888 – September 26, 1976), who was an American actress, singer, writer and arts patron, who was from Massachusetts. An interesting tidbit is that EE Cummings was an usher at her wedding.
The subject matter of the album, a summer vacation in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, might be summed-up as rustic cosseting of the privileged. The party seems to begin with a stay at The Mt. Washington House, a large resort hotel. Later on, the party stays at one, or perhaps several rather primitive vacation cabins, and indulges at least once in tent camping
The participants, mostly but not exclusively women and girls, engage in a number of activities: canoeing, hunting, fishing, picnicking, swimming. Several photographs depict the antics of a Boston terrier.
The photographs on the initial page have faded a bit, but for the most part, the rest maintain good tonality and admirable contrast. The photographs have no borders, and all measure roughly 4 ⅝” X 3 ½”. They are mounted four to a page, with one exception: a page where a fifth photo has been partially tucked under another photo. That page features a woman holding what looks like a double-barreled shotgun; in one photo the woman aims up into the trees. Another photo on the page shows a dead porcupine displayed on a tree stump.
Beyond its documentation of a time and a place (the summer of 1904), what most recommends the album is the quality of several of the photographs. There is the inevitable automobile breakdown sequence, where the party apparently walked quite a ways to return to their lodgings. 17 of the photos have captions written in ink on the photo itself. One notable photo shows two older women and four younger ones sitting at the counter of a soda fountain, seen from behind, with the caption: “Mother feeding her babies, Coldbrook 1904.” In another favorite photo, taken from the shore of a lake, five blurry figures, one of them male, enter the picture frame on the left and scurry through shallow water towards two young women observing from a spit of dry land jutting into the lake. Another notable photo shows a number of people surrounding a picnic table, each standing with one foot on the table top, another on the bench, all holding some sort of libation, with the caption “‘A foot on the table. here’s a health to the American born.’ 1904.”
To sum up: the album presents a glimpse of a simpler time and a life of relative comfort and ease available to some, but not all. The sign affixed to a tent: “Dreamland,” perhaps provides a comment on the whole.