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Modern Family: 1914

Modern Family: 1914

"Dickey tree, 1914." Our fifth Christmas visit with the family of Washington lawyer Raymond Dickey, whose portraits mix equal parts Chekhov and Addams with a dash of Dickens. National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.


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He's a member of the intelligencia

Fountainpen in breast pocket of coat - check - necktie on -check. Yup, he's not one of the Great Unwashed.

[Or perhaps he's a member of the intelligentsia. - Dave]

Dickey Family

From left-to-right: Granville (a year after running away to watch baseball), Alice (future fashion magazine editor), Rose, John and Raymond.

Cash for Christmas

Those ornaments would be worth big money today.

A beachy Christmas

So I am wondering if they picked up the flamingo ornament at Colonial Beach.

Ornamental reflections

looking closely at the ornaments I was amazed to see and recognise many that were still in use by my mother and grandmother well into the 1970s, when alas the very thin glass they were made from gave way apparently all at once. I remember lifting the boxes down from their storage place and finding that despite being wrapped in tissue as they had been every year of my life, virtually every one of them had shattered. As my own kids were small then, we replaced them with the plastic variety common today.

My grandmother had used her set on an outdoor tree (in Australia, it used to be common in the 60s to decorate an outdoor tree), and the ornaments that had been outside had faded unevenly. I wish I still had a few of the ornaments now, but alas they are long gone.


That the two oldest children seem to be emulating the expressions on ornaments hanging near them -- directly to the left of the boy, and above the girl. Maybe that's how you were supposed to look at Christmas.

The Look

The little girl has exactly the same expression my wife has whenever I screw up. Which is hardly ever. No really.

But they have such lovely presents.

Along the back wall, on the left, appears various toy houses, kitchens, etc.
And on the right there looks to be the business end of a rocking horse?

I love all the ornaments, especially the one the boy is holding. I'd find it quite sweet too, if only there was just a hint of a smile on his face.

What might this be?

At the very right of the photo just above the fathers arm is something that looks to be a ponytail. It looks like human hair. Wonder what it is?

[A toy horse's, um, tail. - Dave]

"Young man, straighten your collar!"

"You don't want people ninety-seven years from now thinking you're a slob!"

I note that the ornament he's holding shows up next to mom in the 1922 picture.


As always I find the fascinating aspect of these pics is the details unintentionally revealed in the reflections in the ornaments.

I Spy

- a little pinecone guy; like yours, tterrace.

Say "cheese"!

Photographers evidently hadn't yet discovered that back in those days.

Spirits of Christmas

Dad appears to have a large flask in the inside pocket of his suit coat.

Shiny balls

Hey Dave can you enlarge the dark Christmas bulb to the left of the picture, halfway between the bottom of the tree and the banner on the wall? I think you can get a nice reflection of the room and the cameraman's feet. Thanks!

(A user speculates: the assistant setting off the flash.)

Keep it down, folks!

Obviously the Grinch paid a visit just before this photo was taken.

Ornaments with faces.

The kid is holding a Santa ornament, reminds me of the Pine Cone with a face in tterrace's photo.

Another similarity, an ornament with a reflection of an arched opening.


Forget about Merry; are they even Happy?

[You know what Tolstoy said about happy families. - Dave]

Is it just me

but no one seems happy!

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