1895: John Stoutner wins a waltz award

Sepia Saturday 390: Seventh in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

When I was a teenager, my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence taught me to dance the Charleston. I figured she learned it from her peers during the 1920s — when she sported a short “flapper” haircut and rebelliously eloped with my grandfather.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jumborois/3188893874/
Passionate Waltz by artist Ferdinand Von Reznicek (circa 1900). In 1895, my maternal grandmother’s Uncle John Stoutner won a waltz contest at a company picnic — and later ran a dance school in their Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y. home town. Image: Susan Lenox/Flickr

Yet it’s possible Liz was coached years earlier by her talented, quick-stepping Uncle John H. Stoutner.

For not only was her Uncle John a milliner who operated a ladies fashion store in Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

In his late twenties, he was also an award-winning ballroom dancer!

A coveted prize

My first hint of Uncle John’s acumen on the dance floor was the Aug. 19, 1895 newspaper article below from the Gloverville Daily Leader about the Booth & Company annual picnic.

Excerpt from The Big Booth Picnic (Daily Leader, Aug. 19, 1895).  (Click to enlarge). Uncle John Stoutner won the first gentleman’s prize in the waltzing contest. Source: Old Fulton New York Postcards

The lively story describes a sudden thunderstorm that sent everyone running for cover. Then — once the clouds parted — there was a dance contest in a pavilion so crowded the judges could barely make their way around.

Despite the crush that “considerably incommoded” the dancers, Uncle John managed to make an impression because he was awarded the “first gentleman’s prize” for waltz — a set of pearl opera glasses.

The “first lady’s prize,” a gold chain, went to Miss Nellie Dodge — but the article doesn’t say whether she was Uncle John’s dance partner.

A seasoned dance enthusiast

The waltzing competition was one of the highlights of the annual Booth & Co. picnic –along with tug-of-war contests and other sporting events that were detailed in the full article.

Alas, no photo of Uncle John. But he must have been waltzing for some time if he was good enough to come in first among all the men who swept their partners around the dance floor.

I wondered whether his German heritage influenced his choice of dance style. An article by competitive ballroom dancer Patsy Holden in American Ethnography Semimonthly had this to say about the waltz:

Beginning in the late seventeenth century and continuing into the early twentieth century, the Waltz enjoyed almost exclusive popularity in the ballrooms of both Europe and America. The Waltz, which is from the German word “walzen” and means “to revolve,” describes a graceful and romantic couple’s dance in ¾ time.

Regardless of how my grandmother’s Uncle John became a dance enthusiast, he clearly continued to cultivate his talent after winning the waltz prize. Because four years later a Daily Leader article, dated Sept. 27, 1899, announced that Professor John Stoutner had opened a dance school!

More on this new revelation in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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John H. Stoutner: Milliner, merchant and man about town

Sepia Saturday 389: Sixth in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

The last post focused on Uncle John H. Stoutner as a possible influence on my grandmother Liz (Stoutner) Laurence’s sense of style.

In the mid early 1900s, my grandmother’s uncle operated a women’s millinery and clothing store in their Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. hometown. But what led him to become a merchant? What more could I discover about his life and career?

An artistic home

Apartment of John H. Stoutner, Gloversville, N.Y., with his desk in the foreground (undated). My mom said my grandmother’s Uncle John was “aristocratic” and “artsy.” His apartment decor certainly bears this out. Scan by Molly Charboneau

In addition to the photo of his shop featured in last week’s post, I have one more picture connected with Uncle John — a large photograph of his well-appointed apartment.

I always thought it looked more like a furniture showroom, but on close inspection there seem to be no repeat items. There’s one couch, one dining table with chairs, one credenza, one desk — with lamps and accessories for each.

My mom once shared what she remembered about him. “Uncle John had a hat shop and he was very aristocratic,” she said. “He was the ‘artsy’ member of the family.” The photo of his home certainly bears this out.

Making of a milliner

Uncle John was married twice — first to Jennie Fairchild in 1890 (according to the Gloversville papers) and later to Josephine L. Bye in 1897 (according to Iowa marriage records).

However, after both marriages ended in divorce, Uncle John appears to have embarked on a new, career-focused life.

By 1905 he had secured bachelor quarters in the home of lumberman Jacob Van Arnam — a move that favorably impacted his personal and professional life.

Jacob’s son Crosby became a close friend and eventual business partner — and the 1905 N.Y.S. census, excerpted below, gives Uncle John’s occupation as milliner for the first time.

1905 N.Y.S Census – John H. Stoutner in the Van Arnum home at 187 Kingsborough Ave., Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y. – Source: New York State Archives
Name Reln. Age Occupation
Van Arnam, Jacob Head 62 Lumberman
Van Arnam, Roseanna Wife 54 House Work
Van Arnam, Fitch Son 26 Lineman
Van Arnam, Crosby Son 22 Glove Cutter
Van Arnam, George Son 19 Leather Worker
Van Arnam, William Son 18 Leather Worker
Van Arnam, Hazel Dau. 11 In School
Stoutner, John H. Boarder 35 Milliner
Lavore, Edward Boarder 26 Glove Cutter

My grandmother was born in 1905 — so as she grew up, her Uncle John’s career in ladies’ fashion took off. The 1910 U.S. Census shows that John and Crosby were both milliners and employers. Crosby’s sister Hazel was a hat trimmer, possibly working in their shop.

By 1920, John and Crosby were retail merchants in the dry goods industry — and Hazel had graduated to dry goods saleslady.
Surely my grandmother’s family would have shopped at Uncle John’s store for clothing and accessories.

Man about town

Perhaps because he was a commercial buyer and seller, Uncle John’s comings and goings appeared in the Gloversville, N.Y. newspapers from time to time — summer jaunts to nearby Canajoharie, visits to Pittsburgh, buying trips to New York City.

And then there’s this: In 1895, a man named John Stoutner was awarded first prize in a waltz contest at the Booth & Co. employees’ picnic. Wait — a waltz contest? Was this my grandmother’s Uncle John?

More on this in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1915: Family fashionista John H. Stoutner

Sepia Saturday 388: Fifth in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

In the last post, I introduced my Stoutner ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. Among them was family fashionista John H. Stoutner — a ladies garment professional who had the most potential to influence the clothing style of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence.

Stoutner & Van Arnam’s Smart Shop in Gloversville, N.Y. (circa 1915). Growing up I was told that my grandmother’s Uncle John ran a “millinery shop.” Newspaper ads reveal this was a full-service women’s fashion store. Scan by Molly Charboneau

I knew little about my grandmother’s Uncle John growing up — just that he owned a “millinery shop,” according to my mother.

Born in 1870, Uncle John embarked on his career at a time when women still wore extravagant hats, so this explanation made sense.

Later I inherited a spectacular photo of his Gloversville shop (above) and sure enough, there was the profusion of ladies hats — some behind cases and others decoratively placed on the selling floor.

Stoutner & Van Arnam’s Smart Shop

Newspaper ad for The Smart Shop (1915). This ad from the March 22, 1915 issue of the Gloversville-Johnstown Morning Herald was one of many placed by Uncle John and his partner Crosby to advertise their women’s fashion store. Source: Old Fulton New York Post Cards

From the Stoutner family photo, I knew that Uncle John had a business partner, Crosby Van Arnam. I wondered whether newspaper research might tell me more — and I was pleased to discover several advertisements for their shop.

The one posted here, from the March 22, 1915 issue of the Gloversville-Johnstown Morning Herald, advertises the millinery portion of their store.

However, other Smart Shop ads on the same page featured clothing and outerwear, indicating they ran a full-service operation.

Uncle John and Crosby placed the ads to coincide with Gloversville’s Spring Style Show, giving the address of their shop as 13 West Fulton St. A Google search for a street view of this address reveals a row of charming row of storefronts right around the corner from Main Street.

Looking good a wholesale prices

The Stoutner siblings (circa 1916). From left, Andrew J., 7, Margaret C., 2 1/2,  and Elizabeth C. Stoutner, 11. My grandmother Liz, at right, was growing into a fashionable young lady. Did her Uncle John influence her style? Scan by Molly Charboneau

In the days before big-box stores, having an uncle in the fashion business meant my grandmother Liz and her siblings could be looking good at wholesale prices — and look good they did!

Here are the Stoutner siblings in a circa 1916 outdoor photo, each fashionably dressed. My grandmother Liz, at right, is nearly 11 years old and growing into a young lady.

Her outfit is hard to make out, but it appears to be a sailor-necked blouse with a tie and a matching skirt. White stockings and stylish ankle-strap shoes complete her look — and for the first time she is wearing what would become her signature collar-style necklace.

Next to her, Aunt Margaret is precious at age 2 1/2 with her long hair, little white dress, striped socks and black patent leather shoes. Rounding out the group. Uncle Andy, 7, sports an outfit that echoes my grandmother’s — with the variation of a low-slung belt and black stockings and shoes.

Did Uncle John play a part in dressing the family? Hard to know for sure. But I suspect his garment industry expertise was looked to by his relatives — and may have influenced my grandmother Liz in a stylish direction.

Up next: A bit more on family fashionista Uncle John H. Stoutner. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1908: My Stoutner ancestors in Gloversville, N.Y.

Sepia Saturday 387: Fourth in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

Seeking the roots of my maternal grandmother’s signature style, I turned to a group shot that captures three generations of my German Stoutner ancestors from Goversville, Fulton County, N.Y.

My grandmother Elizabeth Christina (Stoutner) Laurence is the youngest family member. In her little white dress and hair ribbon, Liz was probably about three when the photo was taken — which dates it to circa 1908. Surrounding her are some spiffy-looking adults.

My Stoutner ancestors in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. (circa 1908). My stylish maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence is shown here at about age three sitting on the lap of my German great-great grandfather Andrew J. Stoutner. The entire group is smartly dressed. Even the dogs are well groomed. Photo poss. by Rector Mann. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Standing, from the left: Edson Haggart and his wife Gertrude (Stoutner) Haggart;  my great-grandfather Andrew J. “Pete” Stoutner and his wife, my great-grandmother Ceila (Mimm) Stoutner; and Crosby Van Arnum, friend and business partner of John H. Stoutner, who is seated in front of him.

Seated, from the left: Mary (Stoutner) Mann; my grandmother Liz held by my great-great grandfather Andrew J. Stoutner; his wife, my great-great grandmother Christina (Aleitz) Stoutner; and their son Uncle John.

The two boys are Gertrude and Edson’s sons Clyde E. Haggart, at left, and Gilbert Haggart, standing in front. Mary’s husband, Rector Mann, was living when this photo was taken, but he does not appear in the picture — so he may be the photographer.

A tale of three families

My German immigrant great-great grandfather Andrew J. Stoutner (b. 1832) had three families over his lifetime. According to family lore, his first wife died in childbirth — but I have yet to discover her name or further details.

He remarried and, with his second wife Elizabeth D. Stouther (b. 1844), had two children — William A. Stoutner (b. 1862) and Mary E. Stoutner (b. 1864). Mary appears seated in the photo above. Sadly, Elizabeth also died in 1865, leaving Andrew a widower with two small children.

Andrew and his third  wife — my great-great grandmother Christina (Albeitz) Stoutner, also from Germany — had three surviving children together: John H. Stoutner (b. 1869), Gertrude Stoutner (b. 1871) and my great-grandfather Andrew J. “Pete” Stoutner (b. 1875). They all appear in the photo above.

Generations of style

From whom did my grandmother inherit her style? If this photo is any indication, probably from her entire extended family!

Uncle John and his partner Crosby, who co-owned The Smart Shop, were women’s clothing professionals. They appear nattily attired at the right of this photo — and everyone else looks pretty good, too.

My great-grandfather Pete Stoutner, a strapping railway employee and Liz’s dad, shows a bit of flare with his white shirt and vest. Next to him, my great-grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner, Liz’s mom, looks lovely in a Gibson Girl blouse and au courant updo.

Couture consciousness

The wall behind them may be the side of my great-great grandparents’ house at 4 Wells Street — constructed with bricks manufactured at my great-great grandfather Andrew Stoutner’s Gloversville brick works.

I suspect this three-generation photo of my German immigrant ancestors, their children, and grandchildren was carefully posed to send a message of success to relatives back home.

From oldest to youngest, everyone seems well turned out — even my grandmother’s cousins Clyde and Gilbert are snappily dressed. So is it any wonder that my grandmother developed couture consciousness — learning an early lesson from her elders about putting her best fashion foot forward?

Up next: More on Uncle John H. Stoutner, the family clothier. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1915: The stylish Stoutner siblings

Sepia Saturday 386: Third in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

By the time my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence was 9 years old, she had two younger siblings — Andrew J. Stoutner, born in 1909, and Margaret Catherine Stoutner, born in 1914.

The Stoutner siblings in 1915. From left, my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence,9; Margaret Catherine Stoutner, 1; and Andrew J. Stoutner, 5. Scan by Molly Charboneau

They appear together in this studio photograph, which was probably taken for Aunt Margaret’s first birthday in January 1915.

This picture provides the clearest evidence yet of a family influence on how the Stoutner children dressed.

Lovely in linen

At the left, my grandmother wears what appears to be a linen or cotton-linen dress — long-waisted, short sleeved, with contrasting piping at the neckline and yoke.

White stockings and a white, high-necked blouse, with vertical stitching at the yoke and lower sleeves, echo the piping detail. High-buttoned black boots, a pendant necklace and two satin bows containing a looser hair style complete my grandmother Liz’s fashionable portrait.

Stylish siblings

Next to my grandmother, one-year-old Aunt Margaret wears a frothy, white dress with lacy cuffs and collar and vertical yoke stitching.

Although similar to my grandmother’s dress at age one, Aunt Margaret’s dress features two contrasting flower details, perhaps in a shade of pink, at each side of the yoke . Her fair hair is combed in a simpler style and she wears no jewelry. White stockings and little button boots finish her look.

Beside her, Uncle Andy completes the group — his hair dark like my grandmother’s and trimmed in a handsome cut. He appears to be all in white, from a sailor-collared shirt and knee-length bloused pants with button detail to stockings above his polished black boots. At the neckline is a contrasting satin bow, perhaps in a shade of blue.

The Stoutner family in 1915

I wondered what the Stoutner family looked like in 1915 when the children’s photo was taken. The New York State census for that year (in which they were enumerated as “Staughther”) provides a snapshot, as excerpted below.

1915 New York State Census – Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. – ED 1, Ward 3 Census date: 1 June 1915 – The Andrew Stoutner Family living at 4 Wells Street – Source: NYS Archives/Ancestry.com
Name Relationship Age Occupation
Andrew Stoutner Head 40 Machinist
Celia Stoutner Wife 37 Housework
Elizabeth Stoutner Daughter 9 School
Andrew Stoutner Son 5 School
Margaret Stoutner Daughter 1 No occupation

Families have high hopes for the next generation and my German-American great-grandparents Celia (Mimm) and Andrew J. “Pete” Stoutner were no different.

As children of immigrants, Pete and Celia were probably strivers who sought to give their children every advantage — starting with dressing for success. My grandmother Liz learned this fashion lesson early and stuck by it all her life.

But who else played a role? Did Pete’s brother John — a garment industry professional — help out with this? What about the rest of the extended Stoutner family? Were they also snappy dressers who passed on their flair for style?

More on this in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf (and road trip) at a time