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American Gothic: 1915

American Gothic: 1915

Washington, D.C., circa 1915. "H.E.F. group." National Photo proprietor Herbert E. French with his wife, parents and daughter Dorothy. View full size.


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Let's Get Real

>> The grandparents in this photo were of the generation that bequeathed WWI. Herbert and his wife experienced the sheer madness of the '20s and '30s that eventually contributed to genocide

Boy, is this wrong-headed. The US had practically nothing to do with the genesis of WWI. That generation "bequeathed" us the auto, radio, the airplane, and so forth. And how did the US experience in the 20's and 30's contribute to the Nazi and Russian/Soviet genocides? It didn't, plain and simple. Geez! These people are what they are - unhappy for some reason, but "why" -- well, we just can't tell 94 years later.

H.E.F., Hepcat

I like to remember him in your earlier view where his jovial appearance as a bon vivant of the time was much more evident.

The reality

I'm old enough to remember ancestors like this. Their facial expressions, as in this photograph, weren't a put-on by any means. There was an insufferable evangelical ethos about these people; repressed sexuality that came out in warped ways, tremendous guilt and at times overt cruelty. And consider the times! The grandparents in this photo were of the generation that bequeathed WWI. Herbert and his wife experienced the sheer madness of the '20s and '30s that eventually contributed to genocide. Dorothy is a bit younger than both of my grandmothers, who suffered severely from depression, the deaths of children, and men prone to extreme religiosity or alcoholism (or both). The looks on these faces are real.

[I wonder what they'd have to say about you! - Dave]

Pass the Stuffing

Bet Thanksgiving dinner at the Frenches' was a hot ticket on the D.C. social scene.

Can you hear me now?

Looks like Junior inherited his ears from Mom. Impressive.

Little Women

What always strikes me in older photographs is how small some of the people are. Mama is very small and Grandmama looks like you could pick her up, chair and all.

Just in time for Halloween.

A pleasant family photo of the undead.

The Wild Bunch

Proof that temperament is hereditary.


What was it with sticking gigantic bows on little girls' heads? This is almost exactly the way my mother was decked just out a year later.

Happier, maybe?

Somebody colorize this picture. They might seem happier — except for the girl, who looks like she'd have a future in Stephen King movies regardless. (Tip: Make Grandma's dress purple.)

Make My Day

The adults simply look bored. But the expression on the little girl is priceless. I believe if she had a weapon in her hand she would use it. The photographer would probably be the first casualty.

Grim indeed

A bit of a homely lot.

Where's Dr. Freud when we need him?

Herb's wifey is about as far as she can get from him and her mother-in-law. On the other hand a good photographer would have moved them closer together and asked for a "cheese" and we'd have nothing to talk about.

The French Family

The 1910 District of Columbia census shows this family of five living together. The elder two are Evander and Sophia. Standing are Herbert and Mabel. Seven-year old Dorothy sits with Grandpa. Evander states he is a storekeeper for a government hospital; Herbert is a reporter for Bradstreet.

Sophia has had four children, two of whom are still alive in 1910. Dorothy is Herb and Mabel's only child.

[Most excellent. Thank you! - Dave]

Sly Old Guy

The elder Mr French is the only one with a sliver of joy. It's under the mustache, but you have to look for it.

Ok, now hold that smile... Perfect!

Wow, what a happy looking group.

Busman's Holiday

Herbert doesn't look like he really wants to be standing there. It sort of looks like he is about to take off running.


Was Herb's Uncle Fester the lensman?

The Stern Gang

Someone must have told these people "Whatever you do, do NOT smile." This is one somber quintet.

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