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Adrianne: 1939

"Miss Adrianne Henderson, 1939." Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.

"Miss Adrianne Henderson, 1939." Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Thanks for the story

Thanks for sharing, Phillip. I keep hoping that one of these old photos will still be alive and able to respond personally to us. But a message from a relative who knew is very good.

Adrienne M. Henderson Johnson

My Beautiful Mother. 1939 Graduate in History/English at the University of Maryland. I'm the fourth child of five.
She and my father were ranchers and very successful. Both very active in community affairs. They truly were soul mates for 58 years! Torrey was fourth generation of the very Famous Spear Brothers Cattle ranch, a portion of which still operates as the Spear O Ranch Company. Spears arrived at "New Chicago" south of present day Drummond, Montana circa 1871-1873...moved to present day Big Horn , Wyoming in 1883..........cattle company grew to 60,000 head, running from Big Horn,Wyoming to the Yellowstone River on the North and East to Broudus, Montana.

Mother and Dad met at the Spear O, Married in 1940 and the rest is history.
May GOD bless them, they were great parents!
Phillip B. Johnson

My sister's dress!

I found three sequined dresses in our attic when I was 10 and my two cousins and I took turns destroying each one by playing in them almost every day one summer. I'm sure the dresses were from the late 50s or early 60s. They were all strapless and we could put them on and turn completely around without the dress moving. As for the woman in the picture, I like natural and I think this woman looks very pretty.


So here I am cruising through the photos I haven't seen in a week, when I see that this simple portrait has drawn 35 comments. I knew, or course, that the comments would include a number of opinions on an alleged AKC background, some counter opinions and one "I'll take these real girls over silicone enhanced hussies of today." Round it out with data on her subsequent life found by our researchers and you have it. Didn't foresee the sidebars into people of color but I guess I need to assume with 35 comments there will be some branch discussion.

I loved it all and enjoy these critiques on feminine beauty. The shallowness of us judging the dead based upon a fleeting youthful appearance makes it all the more fun.

For the record I think she is normal looking and doesn't really merit opinions one way or the other.

More on Adrienne

Ah, the classic western story: city girl visits her aunt and falls in love with a cowpoke. The 1936 obit of Adrienne's grandfather, Edgar B. Henderson, lists "Ruth Spear, of Kirby Mont." as a daughter. Adrienne is the only grandchild mentioned. Adrienne's uncle, Earl Y. Henderson, served as secretary to the Senate Indian Affairs committee and secretary of the Board of Indian Commissioners, so perhaps that is where the connection with the Mountain West started. Ruth Henderson married Willis B. Spear of Sheridan Wyo. in February 1914.

Hat-tip to the Anonymous Tipster for discovering the correct spelling of Miss Henderson's name.

Washington Post, Jun 26, 1932

Chevy Chase Enlivened by Small Parties

Miss Adrienne Henderson, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Robert E. Henderson, has gone to Kirby, Mont., where she is visiting Mrs. W.B. Steer [Spear]. She will be away all summer.

Washington Post, July 14, 1940

Miss Hunter to Return to Capital after Attending Kappa Convention

Following the convention Miss Hunter and Miss Shelton spent several days with Mr. and Mrs. Torrey Johnson on their ranch in Montana. Mrs. Johnson was formerly Miss Adrienne Henderson, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Robert E. Henderson, of Chevy Chase.

Adrianne / Adrienne

I think I found her, spelled Adrienne on the records I saw. According to the Social Security Death Index she was born December 28, 1918, and died February 18, 1998. Her husband Torrey Johnson's obituary says that they married in Hyattsville, Maryland, in 1940 and had five children.

A tilt of the head

was required to mask a lazy left eye.

Another angle

After considering this portrait for a couple days, I'd like to suggest two factors that detract from Miss Henderson's appearance. Someone's already mentioned the first -- the middle part in her hair doesn't suit her face. The second is something the photographer might be blamed for. In turning her head so far to the right, it appears that her neck is very thick. Try holding your thumb over the left side of her neck (your left, gentle viewer). See if that doesn't make a difference in your reaction to her visage!

Images of Color at the LOC

There were many persons and families of color who lived refined and "luxurious" lifestyles, as many historical photos attest. But those photos are not necessarily available from the Library of Congress online photo archive, and I'd guess that more than 90 percent of the photos on Shorpy come from the LOC collection. Out of curiosity, I just ran an image search on the LOC site using the keyword Harlem. Given the Harlem Renaissance of the teens through the 1930s, I thought that this might yield a quick proportional indication of how many historical images of prosperous persons of color might be available. The search yielded 329 image hits (including folders of news photos from such sources as Look Magazine). I looked at all 329 image links, and no more than five images could be described as illustrating the lifestyle you're searching for. Moreover, none of those few images were available in larger digitized formats, only as small thumbnails. As a member of a minority group who is not a person of color, I readily agree that such images often seem unnaturally difficult to find, but I would suggest with all respect that Shorpy is not the purveyor of prejudice here, but at most a mirror to a more general issue of online representation of minority images in academic archives all over the United States.

But there never seem to be women...

of Color; I've seen 'shanty town' photos; and the only others i've been able to find i've had to click and click and hunt and hunt...So many black people lived a very luxurious lifestyle; with money, cars, clothes, jewels; but they are never depicted here. Many of my friends and colleagues have said the same thing to me about this site--that it is prejudiced. Just a comment that i know will go unprinted as well as unaddressed and unanswered. Signed: A woman of color.

[The archives of the Library of Congress, which is where most of our pictures come from, do not contain very many photos of black people living a "luxurious lifestyle" with "money, cars, clothes, jewels." People who think there are not many people of color on Shorpy perhaps have not clicked around that much. Some examples below. - Dave]

Big Joe Turner
The Office
Law and Order
American Beauty
Southside Easter
Easter Sunday
Army Mechanic
Cincinnati Kid
Shulman's Market
The Avenger
Henry Johnson
Won't Hurt a Bit
Band of Brothers
Me: 1957
Army of the James
Harlem Newsboy
Dutch Gap
Washington Pork
John Henry
Big Sale
New York

And many, many more.

What became of this lady?

Normally, someone comes out with a city, date of death. I hope she had a great life!

[She'd be around 90 now. You out there, Adrienne? - Dave]


I think she's pretty. The losers who are calling her ugly attend Star Trek conventions and the only women they talk to are their mothers.

An experiment

I would like to take a modern day beauty, dress in her in the same vintage clothes as this photo, apply the same amount of makeup, or lack thereof, and use the same photography.

I have a feeling this would level the playing field out somewhat, and the results would be surprising.

The majority of women are not beauty queens

I think this woman represents the average woman, meaning that most women are not astoundingly beautiful (by whatever standards you use to measure that). I am amazed that people think they can judge her character merely by looking at a single snapshot. She probably felt very attractive in that portrait, which is what matters. Feeling attractive is more important than actually being attractive. She looks very confident with herself, and she should be. Just having someone take a picture of you can be a compliment.

What if this woman were around today; how do you think she would feel if she were to read some of the comments on here?

I think some people on this site are using "big words" to make themselves look intelligent, but they're just coming off as snooty. The arrogance of leaving nasty comments about this young woman is telling of the character of some visitors to this site.

Different pixels

Interesting that at home she looks pretty but at work with a different set of pixels on the monitor, she has a longer and less attractive face.

I'll add my vote

I actually think Miss Adrianne looks quite cheeky. She's got a bit of a mischievous look about her.

Mea Culpa

I am the AT who suggested this lady might benefit from going to Scotland for a makeover. At about her age I was also plain but not by the standards of the time so I am the last one who should be making remarks like that. Guess we all have gotten used to seeing only the most beautiful, most famous, most interesting or whatever on our screens. I was out of line and I promise not to do it again. Well, at least not any time soon.

Women are not cars or buildings

so whether or not it's a compliment or a catcall, the commentary is more antiquated than the images!

[To reiterate this insight: Women are not buildings. Women are not cars*. And a bonus, corollary insight: Cars are not buildings. - Dave]

*Unless your son is Jerry Van Dyke.


There are two things I really like about Shorpy. One is the photos. The other is these really great dustups. In fact, I don't know which I like best. And yes, Adrianne may have been one of the most intelligent, kind and spiritually evolved females to ever walk the planet, but aside from being dead, she is just plain well, plain.

Re: Well, yes

I'd say Dave struck a nerve or two. With the usual perversely entertaining results -- it's kind of like driving by a five-car pileup.

I think Adrianne is pretty, if a little cockeyed. Those incisors need caps. And now I'm going to ... duck!

Dynamite Glass Necklace

Vintage glass necklace is hand-strung and a wonderful floral design that goes all the way around. Most likely Czech and about $45 in antique shops.

Mirror image

I have a much younger friend, and former classmate in grad school, who is the absolute mirror image of Miss Henderson. It was kind of a shock when I first saw this photo.

If you straighten and lengthen Miss Henderson's hair, well, she has a beautiful and impossibly smart counterpart (Jessica) who is living well and happily in 2009.

Well, yes...

Indeed, Dave, but there is a difference between "This person is not attractive in my eyes" and "She is a pig/dog/cow/horse/man in drag." And the tone of the negative comments about women on this site is far, far more often the latter.

These are not opinions, they are conclusions, as though the notion of "Beauty" were all wrapped up, now and forevermore, in a single narrow little box (perhaps labeled "Cameron Diaz.")

The failure of imagination is -- almost -- as irritating as the presumption that the first obligation of a female, in any context whatever, is to look pretty. Sure, it's "part of life," but so are lots of other things, and one need not be pleased with every one of them, or even find them all acceptable as they stand.

(I obviously don't expect this one to appear on the site, since, as I already said, it's your show, and I don't mean to annoy others with my particular hobby horse. Just the thoughts of someone who is otherwise a great Shorpy fan.)

Beauty is Skin Deep

And who can judge her?

She might have been a great wife, mother and friend.
She might have been a bitter old cat lady.

You just never know. I do know that we almost share a first name and that I wore a sequined dress to my junior prom (1995). Also that she would look like a whole new woman with a better suited hairstyle.

And even if she were....

"She really isn't unattractive."

And even if she were, by whoever and whenever's standards, there's still no need to be nasty.

I adore Shorpy, and I'm here nearly every day, but the comments about women here are about as consistently unpleasant as you are likely to find on any respectable mainstream website.

Evidently the mods don't have a problem with it, and it's their show and thus their call. I often just don't look at the comments on pics featuring women -- among other considerations, I can pretty much predict everything the nasty folks are going to say at this point. And there is so much else here to enjoy.

[We make subjective judgments regarding appearance all the time -- about cars, people, buildings. Some people are judged to be beautiful, others less so. It's a part of life. I'd say there are probably more compliments than catcalls when it comes to the ladies on Shorpy. But it's those negative judgments that do tend to get people worked up. - Dave]

Catcalls from the Audience

I'm always startled by the mercilessness shown many of the women in these photos, young or old, especially if their makeup or costumes don't match current notions of beauty. This is a studio portrait of a relaxed, confident and reasonably pretty young woman wearing the mainstream hair and makeup choices of the late 1930s. In a very pleasant way, she knows she looks good, and that's attractive in any year. But even if she had been a Vogue cover model of 1939, the fashion police around here would be ready to bang the big gong and hoot her off the stage for her comical frumpishness.


Doug - they sure do make dresses with sequins, still. I've owned several beautiful ones in my time and I still see them.

No Need to be Nasty

She really isn't unattractive.

Anonymous Tipster

My, this place gets catty doesn't it? I'm sure Miss Henderson turned more than a few heads in admiration. She looks to have a good shape, unlike the many anorexics or porkers out there today.

Yankee Sister

Hmmm. I never knew Yogi Berra had a twin.

I Love You, Adrianne

Nevermind the catty comments from folks who lack the stones to put their names on their opinions, Adrianne. I find you charmingly attractive. Spare me from the collagen-injected nip-tuck plasticized and silicone-padded freaks that pass for beauties these days.

A sign of the times.

Miss Henderson looks to me to have been a very pleasant looking young lady with a bright future in front of her.

I don't understand the "beauty/grooming" comments below but they seem out of place. And, I'd think by now we'd have all learned to enjoy Susan Boyle's voice (check out her version of "Cry Me a River" on YouTube) and not worry about her eyebrows and whether they were plucked or not.

No subject

She seems a sensible young woman, devoid of much personality.

What can you say..

She was an attractive lady who I'm sure became a wonderful wife and mother who was (maybe is) much loved by her family. Portrait pics are hard to comment on.


Do they still make dresses with sequins?

I recall in the 1950's that sequins adorned fancy dresses, hats, and purses.

Nice Necklace

Clearly not known for her beauty. Perhaps a trip to Scotland for a makeover is in order.

Gilding the lily -- not

Sometimes nice threads and good grooming just aren't enough.

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