Mabel NICHOLS circa 1893, Omaha, NE, Hughes & Co Photographers. Cabinet card in possession of author.

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.

Mabel NICHOLS, back of cabinet card, note written by her daughter–in-law, Anna Jane BEATON HYDE.



Genealogy Sketch

Name: Mabel Elvina NICHOLS “Nana” b. 1888 – d. 1954
Parents:  John Mathews NICHOLS b. 1857 -d. 1929 and
Mary NELSON b. 1856 – d. 1931
Spouse: Dr. John Fay HYDE “Doc” b. 1885 – d. 1950
Children: 1. John Frederick HYDE b. 1911 – d. 1980   m. Anna Jane BEATON b. 1907 – d. 1998

2. Joan HYDE b. and died 26 Sep 1921
Relationship to Kendra: 2x great-grandmother

  1. Mabel Elvina NICHOLS HYDE
  2. John Frederick HYDE Jr.
  4. Kendra HOPP SCHMIDT

© 2018 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.


About treeklimber

An interest in history and travel lends itself to a passion for genealogy. The more I research, the more I realize there is to discover. It is a never-ending puzzle.
This entry was posted in Biographies, My Family Ancestry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Karen Kenagy says:

    Enjoyed reading the story on Mabel Hyde. Her father John Mathews Nichols seems to have had a temper. Poor little Mabel.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tonya Ferguson says:

    I love the way you told the story of this little girl who cut her own hair. I can’t help but feel sorry for her. I’m sure there are children across our country who have done the same and their parents have captured it in a photo, not to punish, but to have a good laugh. We have come a long way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • treeklimber says:

      Thanks for reading Tonya. Yes, I feel sorry for her harsh childhood. Fortunately, parenting has changed. Fortunate as well that Mabel had many more positive changes in her life.


  3. Even before reading the story I thought she looked like a very sad little girl. No wonder she didn’t smile. Wonderful post, Kendra.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Luanne says:

    Poor Mabel. I think the most heart-rending part is that it’s the only photo she had of herself as a child. People had a very harsh idea of what parenting was back then.

    Liked by 1 person

    • treeklimber says:

      Parenting definitely was viewed differently then. Although it is very sad, there wouldn’t be a photo of Mabel if the situation hadn’t existed. There are no photos of her siblings and only one of her parent’s marriage. Many working class families didn’t have photos taken.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Amy says:

    What a terrible thing for a parent to do—and she is adorable even with her hair cut off!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Annie says:

    There are parents now who do this sort of thing. Now we call it emotional abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

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  9. Val says:

    Poor child, no wonder she looks so miserable.
    By the way, the curtain was probably to hide part of the set. I’ve noticed that odd curtains are often used in the strangest places in these photographic studios!

    Liked by 1 person

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