MABEL NICHOLS HYDE
A little girl, captured by a photographer’s camera stands frozen in time. Taken about 1893 by Hughes & Co. in Omaha, Nebraska, this cabinet card of my maternal great-grandmother, Mabel NICHOLS HYDE (1888-1954) has a story to tell.
The full length portrait of Mabel NICHOLS depicts her standing atop a platform covered with a long hairy hide. She needed to be elevated so she could place her left hand on the faux rock wall. The incompatible element is the plant patterned drapery hanging behind Mabel. Did the photographer intend to add a floral dimension to the portrait?
Photographers in the late 19th century used various movable props to create indoor and outdoor settings. They might have included a painted backdrop and real or faux objects to add a three-dimensional effect. The Hughes & Co photographer grabbed a bit of whatever was at hand.
Mabel, possibly wearing her best dress, appears to have outgrown it. A removable lace collar tied around the neck adds a bit of decoration to the otherwise plain garment. Black stockings and button-up boots complete her outfit. Missing from the photograph of a girl for this time period is long hair set off with a bow. Mabel’s head has a cap of fine, straight, short hair.
Now for “the rest of the story.”
One day while playing, Mabel found a pair of scissors and decided to trim her hair. How much she snipped is unknown. When her stern father discovered she had cut her fair hair, he decided she needed to learn a lesson. He chopped off her remaining tresses and cut it to look like a boy. To further shame her, he took the time and money to commemorate the event by escorting her to a photographer’s studio owned by Benjamin E Hughes & Co at 205 N. 16th Street. I imagine John NICHOLS dragging Mabel 3 1/2 miles from his home at 1402 Jaynes Street berating her along the route. She didn’t forget.
Mabel NICHOLS saved the photograph, the only one taken of her as a child.
© 2018 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.