Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Aw, Ma, Do I Have To?

“Boys will be boys” is a saying, I suspect, that has historical precedent. How, then, did these mothers manage to secure the kind of cooperation evidenced by portraits such as these?

Perhaps taken upon the graduation of the older of what looks like two brothers, this first pose featured from the collection of Edna Tully McCaughey was captured by South Chicago photographer von Dieck, located at “92nd Street and Ontario Avenue.” The studio location of 92nd Street is just right to suggest the possibility that this may be a Tully family relative, but owing to the unknown time frame, that could only be a guess at this point.

There was a von Dieck photography studio at 92nd street from 1892 through at least 1900, according to city directories, but online maps do not indicate any crossing of the two streets, Ontario Avenue and 92nd street. Furthermore, it appears that the listing of the two streets for this photographer may indicate two separate studios, one operated by father Theodore, one by his son, inserting a twist into this quest to determine identity by family neighborhood proximity.

I sometimes wonder if this second photograph is of a brother of the first two boys—or perhaps an earlier portrait of one of those boys at a younger age. Though the photographer is different, the location is still in the vicinity of Von Dieck’s 92nd Street studio: Jarmuth at 9130 Commercial Avenue in Chicago. However, not knowing the time frame, identity and possible relationship provide only a guess.

Moving closer to a photographer known to be used by the William and Sarah Tully family, the third portrait is done by Lindner, located on Commercial Avenue. I sometimes think the younger boy resembles little Roy Tully, although if the other child is his older brother, the date of the elder’s death predates the birth of the younger; that photograph never would have been possible.

Whoever these children all turn out being, they most certainly all breathed a sigh of relief and went back to rough-and-tumble boyhood the minute they were dismissed from their mother’s watchful eye. I can hardly say I’d be convinced otherwise, regardless of the elegant poses devised by these south Chicago photographers.


  1. In an old street atlas for Chicago, it shows Ontario Street was renamed Brandon Avenue. Unfortunately the change of street name is not dated.

    This web page tells of a church built in the neighborhood of Van Dieck.

    Looking at Google maps - 92 and Brandon is only three blocks east of Commercial Avenue.

  2. I love that second picture. Such a dapper kid!

    All three photos appear to have the same two boys in them to me.


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