Berger Baby Bennie Bayer, July 1902

Carte de visite portrait identified as "Bennie Bayer, age 5 weeks, July 1902"

Carte de visite portrait identified as “Bennie Bayer, age 5 weeks, July 1902”

Awhile ago, in a post about Berger’s Catholic church, I wrote briefly about Berger, Missouri photographer Richard Louis Gatzemeyer (1866-1945), son of German immigrant farmer August Gatzemeyer.

Berger was and is a hamlet that began as a railroad station about halfway between Hermann and New Haven. Its current population is about 221. The village recently voted to tax itself to pay for the first sewer system in its history. So it’s surprising that such a village should have its own photography studio.

Not surprisingly, photography was not Gatzemeyer’s only means of support. It may have been more of an avocation. The 1900 census lists Gatzemeyer’s occupation as a “photographer” on Rosalie Street, in Berger, but with a wife and four–by 1910 five–children to support, it must have been extremely difficult to make ends meet in such a small town. By 1910, Gatzemeyer gave his occupation as manager of a general store, and in 1920, farmer.

By 1930, he and most of his family had left Missouri–some to settle in Los Angeles, others in Idaho. Richard Gatzemeyer died in Los Angeles, and is buried in Hermann City Cemetery, Hermann Missouri.

Benjamin E. Bayer was the son of Buffalo, New York native Henry Earnest Bayer (1866-), who in 1910 was farming in Salisbury, Chariton County, Missouri, about 140 miles north of Berger. But Bayer had apprenticed as a plumber back in Buffalo, and he returned to that trade in Malvern, Hot Spring Co., Arkansas.

Benjamin followed his father into the plumbing business. He died in Port Arthur, Texas in 1983. He and his wife, Orean Frazier Bayer, are buried in Greenlawn Memorial Park, Groves, Jefferson Co., Texas.

Gatzemeyer took this portrait, identified on the back as “Bennie Bayer” on July 13, 1902. As I mentioned in a previous post, photographers devised various ways of keeping mothers out of the frame. Here you can clearly see a supporting arm to the right.

Now, 140 miles is a long way to go to have a portrait taken. So who or what brought the Bayers to Berger in July 1902?

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Published in: on June 17, 2013 at 12:16 am  Leave a Comment  

A Mumbrauer Baby: Rufus Rudolph Kessler on a Rug

Cabinet card photograph of Rufus Rudolph Kessler, aged 5 months, by R. C. Mumbrauer

Cabinet card photograph of Rufus Rudolph Kessler, aged 5 months, by R. C. Mumbrauer

This cabinet card portrait of Rufus Rudolph Kessler, aged five months, is just the sort of photograph mothers love to show their sons’ girlfriends. How it ended up all alone on an internet auction site is a mystery, but I rescued it and present our hero for your review.

Rufus Kessler was born on 12 June 1894 in Hermann, Missouri to teacher Bertha Durer (1864-1949) and stock dealer and veterinarian Rudolph Kessler (1851-1929). His paternal grandparents, Elisabeth  (1820-1885) and Sylvester Kessler (1822-1901) were part of that great 19th century immigrant movement from Germany to Missouri . They farmed in Roark Township, Gasconade County.

If young Rufus were five months old at the time of the photo, the date would be around November 1894.

Rufus did not hang around Hermann very long. He got work as a stenographer in Kansas City, Missouri, then served in the Navy on the U.S.S. Louisiana and the U.S.S. Peary from 1919 to 1926.

After he left the Navy, he worked as a clerk on the U.S. Government Army Corps of Engineers Missouri River Fleet, based in Charette Township, Warren County, Missouri. As far as I can tell, he remained single.

Kessler died in 1946, and is buried in Hermann City Cemetery, Hermann, Missouri, as are his parents; his grandmother Elisabeth Kessler is buried at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Warren County, and Sylvester Kessler, are buried in the cemetery of St. George Roman Catholic Church, Hermann.

Babies were notoriously difficult to photograph because of their inability to keep still. There is an entire literature on photographing babies, and galleries often advertised it as a specialty. In 1894,¬† James H. Smith and Co., Chicago, even advertised a “baby-holder” as an attachment to its posing chair.

One typical technique involved having the baby’s mother hold the child in place from behind a curtain.

“The first good feature here is to prevent the child from falling; the second is to get the mother out of the way in a diplomatic manner by having her behind the curtain and not out in front ‘retarding action’ on the part of the operator and finding fault with every exposure he makes on the grounds that the baby is not smiling or laughing” (Felix Raymer, “Photographing the Babies,” Wilson’s Photographic Magazine, v. L, no. 674, February 1913, pp. 77-78).

Mumbrauer seems to have solved the problem by posing the infant in a prone position, instead of artificially sitting up. But how did Mumbrauer get little Rufus to gaze so solemnly into the camera?

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View a collection of baby photos featuring “invisible mothers.”

Update: Recently I was contacted by a Kessler descendant who lost this and other Kessler family photos some years ago. I am thrilled to be able to return the precious original to her.

Published in: on June 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm  Leave a Comment