My maternal Grandmother, Elma Etta Fairman (1892-1933) loved photographs. I can tell because she left us with 2 lovely albums and some loose photos of our family. My mother told me a story about how her Uncle Dewey (Elma’s brother) had come to our house once in the 1950’s or 60’s and saw a photo album in our garage that was Elma’s. My mom was not one for taking care of or cherishing family history. He asked to borrow the album and I am so glad he did. It seems mom never asked for it back and when they were much older, in the 1980’s, mom went to see Uncle Dewey and he gave the album back to mom with a promise to take care of it.
Thank goodness, as now I have that album. There was also a smaller album that was made up of only tinted photos, mostly 5 x 7 prints. I am assuming my grandma had to pay extra for that in the 1920’s and early 1930’s as there was no color photography then. I decided to take apart that album and scan each page so that the album would be saved for our family history on line, instead of probably in some trash heap some day. My kids don’t really care about all the old photos I have so making them available on line is my way of preservation.
There are a little over 40 photos and most are lovingly mounted and labeled with white pen on the dark black pages, thank you Grandma!!! Without the identification it would be so much harder to know who the people are, we are talking photos from about 100 years ago!
If you would like to see Grandma’s album here is a link.
I scanned the photos in the order they are in the album. I think my Grandma got the album later in her life and added the pictures then, as they are not in date order at all. The same is true for the larger album she left to us which I plan to also scan as time goes on.
Do you have old photo albums? Have you scanned them to share? If not, think about it!
My Fairman family was always sort of a mystery to me. My mom’s mom was born a Fairman and although I knew of the existence of some members of the family through things my mother told me, I had only met only one Fairman while growing up, my mom’s Uncle Dewey. And it was only once or twice that I saw him. All the other Fairman family members were never in our home, never called, just pretty much not part of our lives. The past couple of years I tried to remedy that situation and I researched and reached out to the Fairman family. Most have been so very welcoming and have shared Fairman stories with me. I have met up with a few and we really enjoyed our meeting, I plan to meet with more in the near future. I blogged about some of the Fairman family here. But this blog entry is about one of the Fairman family that I found during my research that I thought was especially interesting.
It turns out that the Fairmans were some of the very first settlers of the colonies, starting with John Firmin arriving in about 1630 who settled first in Watertown, Connecticut. One of his descendants is Gideon Fairman (1774-1827) who is my 2nd cousin 6 times removed. While researching the Fairman family I came across Gideon’s portrait and I was intrigued. It turns out that he was an important artist in his day. His specialty was engraving which I had to look up as I wasn’t familiar with the term in art: Engraving, technique of making prints from metal plates into which a design has been incised with a cutting tool called a burin.
I found this write up of Gideon from 1859 and it seems to sum up well what Gideon did through his life:
The Lives of Eminent Philadelphians, Now Deceased
By Henry Simpson
Member of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Gideon Fairman—a captain, and then a colonel, in the war of 1812, of militia, and volunteers—was born at Newtown, Fairfield County, Connecticut, June 26th, 1774.
At an early age he exhibited an extraordinary mechanical ingenuity and taste for the fine arts. He placed himself as an apprentice to Isaac Crane, a mechanic in New Mitford, a few miles distant from Newtown. Shortly after he came to the town, an English engraver by the name of Brunton, to whom some specimens of Fairman’s genius had been shown, pronounced his performances astonishing, and advised his father to encourage the youth in a pursuit in which he bade so fair to distinguish himself.
After residing a short time at New Mitford with his family, he determined to leave a place where he could obtain no instruction in the art of engraving. He therefore started on foot with eighteen cents in his pocket, and walked to Hudson, on the North River. From thence he found means to reach Albany, where he bound himself apprentice to Messrs. Isaac and George Hutton, jewellers and engravers.
At the age of twenty-one he commenced business for himself, winning the good opinion of all by a natural grace of manner, joined to great intelligence and a fine person.
In 1798, he married. In 1810, he came to this city, where a company of bank-note engravers was formed under the firm-title of Murray, Draper, Fairman & Co., who commenced business in Sansom Street above Eighth Street.
In the year 1819, he was induced to enter into another partnership with Mr. Jacob Perkins, and he accompanied the latter to England, where he resided three years. Not long after commencing business in England, they took into partnership the celebrated engraver, Charles Heath.
Mr. Fairman died on the 18th of April, 1827. He was, to the last, a man of uncommon physical powers, beauty of person, and elegance of deportment. He and the late George Murray contributed more than any other persons to elevate the beautiful art of engraving in this country.
I was so surprised to learn he was a volunteer in the War of 1812 and rose to the rank of Colonel, which he was addressed by for the remainder of his life. He was a detailed artist, highly regarded, and was very much the entrepreneur, being in many business partnerships in his life. Following are a few of his engravings that exist today:
Gideon was also involved with some partners in bank note engraving. At that time banks printed their own paper money and for a time Gideon and partners printed quite a bit of money for bank customers. Unfortunately, this also led to criminals trying to take advantage. Here is an article I found in an Albany, New York newspaper from August 1825.
I found a follow up article on the robbery. It seems that 2 years after the robbery, after Gideon’s death, the police rounded up a gang of counterfeiters and in a trunk they found 50 of the bank note impressions that they believed came from Gideon’s robbery. I don’t know how many were stolen, but I am glad they were found. Counterfeiting was very rampant in those days and the police were always on the look out.
As far as Gidions personal life, I am having a little trouble nailing down if he was married once or twice. I know he had one son that died at 5 months old and one daughter that survived. But one article I read said he had a few children but I can’t quite find any records of more children yet. I won’t give up though.
Gideon died on the 17th of March, 1827. He was only 51 years old although by the standards of that time he was pretty old. I found a flowery obituary for him on Newspapers.com.
Lastly, here is a painting of Gideon done by Thomas Sulley in 1824, just 3 years before his death.
I love finding out more about my Fairman side of the family, they are an interesting bunch. Stay tuned for more!
Imagine you are gay in the early part of the 20th century. How difficult that must have been, but my maternal grandmother was and it doesn’t seem that she was afraid to show it. What knowledge I have is gleaned from what little my mother told me and also from pictures of my Grandmother and her partner in an album that is almost a century old and one of my most treasured possessions. At one point my mother told me that my grandma had a diary and that diary was destroyed by my mother’s uncles’s wife after grandma died in 1933. I would give a kings ransom to have that diary and know how my grandmother really felt at that time.
My grandmother was Elma Etta Fairman, born December 23, 1892 in Providence, Rhode Island and died October 8, 1933 in Los Angeles, California. She was raised in Rhode Island with 2 sisters (one an adopted 1st cousin) and 3 brothers until somewhere around 1910 the entire family picked up and moved to Los Angeles, California. Grandma would have been about 18 years old and done with school. I have found that she started working in the bookbinding business and stayed with that trade until her death. In 1913 she married Leonard Ledger (1892-1918) who she met through work and in 1916 they had my mother Louise, (1916-2004) (her actual first name was Etta but if you called her by that name you would get such a look!) When my mother was only 2, in 1918, my grandfather Leonard died of tuberculosis. From what I can piece together, at first I believe grandma Elma moved in with her mother Helen into the small family home on Morton street in Los Angeles. My great grandfather Charles Fairman (1869-1956) was in the Army at the time and from what I can tell he and great grandmother Helen Harris Fairman (1870-1921) were separated and he was trying to get a divorce. But great grandmother Helen died in 1921 and my grandmother Elma and my mother Louise had to make other arrangements to live and take care of my mother.
In about 1921, at the age of 5, my mother was put into an orphanage in Pasadena where my grandmother paid for her keep.
At around this time I think my grandmother decided to go ahead and live the life she wanted with her girlfriend Amy Irene Hoag. Amy was born in 1893 and lived until 1979. I believe Amy and Elma met through work in the bookbinding business. Amy and Elma were together from at least 1921 until Elma’s death in 1933. When I asked my mother once what happened to Amy after Elma died she said that she only saw her once and she wasn’t kind. My mother had had my brother in 1934 when she was only 18, took him to see Amy and it seems Amy didn’t approve. Times sure have changed, and for the better if you ask me!
My mother lived in the orphanage from about the age of 5 to 12. She would come home some weekends and take trips with her mom Elma and Amy, they went to Catalina, the beach, Exposition park and to visit Amy’s family. There are many pictures in my beloved photo album of my grandmother Elma with Amy and Louise but none with Elma’s family so I don’t believe they approved.
On her deathbed, in 2004, my mother said to me “Judy, you know my mother was……..” and I said “yes, mom, I know she was gay and that is ok, she was a brave woman.” and mom smiled and nodded her head.
I was reading a blog post today that was about family members resembling each other, on a lovely blog I just discovered https://talesofafamily.blog/ I belong to many Facebook genealogy groups and people are always posting pictures asking us to confirm what they think are uncanny resemblances – which for the most part I have trouble seeing. I believe we see what we want to see most of the time and those pictures prove it to me. Not to be a Debbie downer, but it just ain’t there people!
But it reminded me of my sister, Barb. My sister and I don’t look much alike, my sister and brother did. But that makes sense since they both had the same mother and father. I learned that I have the same mother, but different father and that totally explained why I didn’t resemble either one! In our zillions of pictures inherited from our parents are many of our Grandma May. Grandma was dad’s (who will always be my dad because he loved and raised me) mother. A feisty woman, Swedish immigrant, matron of a boarding house for many years, who had a hard life but lived to a nice old age of 88. When I knew her she was married to her second husband, Grandpa Charlie, who treated her as a queen for 13+ years until she passed away in 1963. I didn’t know her well, she died when I was 10 and had suffered from debilitating strokes in the few years prior to her death. There was one great picture of grandma in her 70’s that my sister put up on her wall many years ago. The whole family used to laugh and tell my sister that we didn’t need to wonder what she would look like when she was older, she was that picture! My middle son once was standing near the photo and I asked him if he knew who the lady in the picture was – without much hesitation he said “Auntie Barbie!” and he was pretty surprised when I told him it was our grandmother, not his aunt/my sister.
Photo taken at funeral of Leonard Ledger August 1918
Nowadays it seems sort of tacky to take pictures at a funeral – not that it isn’t done – but I have noticed that in the past it was a much more common thing to do. I suppose it was a time when families were together and dressed up and seemed like a good time to have a family picture. I am lucky enough to have my grandmother’s photo album. Thank goodness my mom’s uncle rescued it from our garage and returned it years later or it may have gone the way of most things in our house – tossed out. This picture was taken at the funeral of my grandfather Leonard Ledger (Oct. 15, 1892-Aug. 3, 1918) At what was called Hollywood Cemetery but is now Hollywood Forever. There are lots of famous people buried there, movie stars mostly. There are large crypts and fancy headstones but grandpa is in an unmarked grave near the wall behind Paramount Studios. I went to look for him in the 1990’s and the office had to pull out a very old map to show where he was. Why he does not have a headstone is a real mystery. He had family, In this picture is just one member of his family, his sister in law Grace Ledger, the rest are my grandmother’s Fairman family. But he had 5 brothers and one sister, but no one put a headstone.
My grandmother was Elma Etta Fairman (Dec. 23, 1892 – Oct. 8, 1933) and she is sitting in the middle of the picture in the dark ankle high dress. At this point in 1918 Elma had been married to Leonard for 5 years and they had a daughter, my mother. According to my mom, her mom Elma didn’t say too much about Leonard except that he wasn’t a very nice person. He supposedly pushed her down a flight of stairs when she was pregnant with another child. He had grown up in Louisiana and he would cross the street if a black man was walking on his side, a sign of those times but still sad. Leonard died of Tuberculosis. I believe his father had also died of the disease and perhaps one of his sisters.
Since he died way before I was born he has always just been a young man in some old pictures. Here he is with my mother on Mt. Hollywood (where the Hollywood sign is now) in 1918.
Leonard Ledger and daughter Etta Louise
He had curly hair (my mom and I inherited that!) a broad flat nose (mom got that too) and he is almost always smiling in pictures. I always have felt so sorry for him because he died so young. My mother was put in an orphanage after he died, while her mother worked. It affected her and her mental health for the rest of her life. My mother’s mother Elma carried on as best she could. I don’t know why family didn’t help my grandma with mom, I believe her mother did but she died in 1921. My grandmother was living a different lifestyle in Los Angeles at the time. She was gay. She had a roommate named Amy and by looking at their pictures together they were very much in love. Things my mom told me confirmed what I had always suspected. I could care less, you go grandma! But mom was always embarrassed – I get it – again, the times they lived in.
So Leonard dying was sad, but it allowed Grandma to live the life she wanted until she died in 1933 at the age of 41. Elma also did not have a headstone until the 1980’s when my mom purchased one for it. But Leonard still rests, unnamed in that fancy cemetery. I have thought that one day I would honor him with one, just so he isn’t completely forgotten.
I haven’t written in a very long time, since October 2016. I have felt very out of sorts since this whole finding out my bio father was not the man I thought he was. It has been great getting to know my bio family – I love them all. I recently got to meet brother #3. He is from our dad’s first marriage during WWII, he is a sweetie pie. He and his wife drove their motor home down from Oregon and stayed a few days. It was great getting to know him and his wife. Here they are with me. I have been embraced wholeheartedly by all 3 brothers and it warms my heart so much.
I have been to Southern California to see my younger half brothers about 4 times since I discovered them in 2016. Our visits are always great! But I struggle with my relationship with my sister that I grew up with, it has been very strained – So it has been a difficult couple of years. I know she isn’t happy about my search for the truth, but it is what it is. I am trying to come to a peaceful place in my mind, to be comfortable with my discovery and to just move on. On that note, I have been working on my family genealogy quite a bit. I use Ancestry.com – I just love the DNA matching, the ease of finding records and it’s all around ease of use. I have found quite a few extended family members through them, and good old Facebook! I got to spend a couple of days with my 2nd cousin and his wife, on my mother’s Fairman side, this past fall during their 50th anniversary weekend. Meeting family always makes me feel so good. I made them up a family tree on poster board with pictures, so that their family could see how we were all related. They loved it. Those small things that I can do to connect with people make me happy and I hope to keep the family history bug going through my interactions with the generations.
I am going to start blogging about the pictures and families in my vast bunch of very old pictures that I inherited from various family members. I recently read a fantastic blog by Charles Moore Telling their story and it reminded me of the pictures I have and how I really want to save them on-line to share the stories of the people who came before us. Not everyone is identified in every picture I have but I do know the majority of them and I want to share their stories. Stay tuned.
Last year I was looking through some old pictures. I am very lucky in that most of the pictures my grandmother Elma left are in an album and many of the names are written below the pictures so I have at least a clue as to who is in the picture. Only problem is that grandma died in 1933 and any pictures she didn’t place in the album have no identification on them. My mom saved lots of pictures but wasn’t the best at writing on the older ones and sometimes I come across names that I don’t recognize. Since mom did not stay in contact with her mother’s side of the family much – in fact hardly at all because I never met ANY of them while I was growing up – I am pretty clueless as to what happened to them all.
So I come across this adorable picture of a little boy on a horse. His last name is Fairman so I know he is somehow related but how? My curiosity got me all stirred up and thanks to Ancestry.com and Facebook and some detective work on my part, I discovered the long lost children of my mom’s Uncle Fred!
This is a whole branch of the family I always wondered about. Mom had only told me that she had an Uncle Fred -she didn’t know what happened to him but she knew that he had a lot of children – that’s it….I asked her once, don’t you wonder where they are…I don’t think she answered me.. mom was funny about family, she seemed to not want to think about her childhood or stay in touch with either side, but that is another story for another blog post someday.
I was lucky enough to be able to meet with Uncle Fred’s surviving children last January – we had a wonderful lunch and I felt so loved and accepted….They are such sweet people and I look forward to meeting up with them again next time I am down in Southern CA.