Sepia Saturday 577. Third in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.
By 1896, when my Italian great grandfather Peter D. Laurence (née Pietro di Lorenzo) emigrated to the U.S., studio photography had become well established in and around his new Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. hometown.
Having a likeness or portrait made was no longer exclusively for the rich. Now, the average working person could sit for a portrait at a local photographer’s studio for a reasonable fee — to either keep for themselves or to give or send to loved ones.
A photo of Peter and his pals
So imagine the enthusiasm of Peter and his friends for the new medium and their desire to have a portrait taken together — perhaps on a group outing, since photographer George Kibbe’s studio was located out-of-town in nearby Amsterdam, Montgomery Co., N.Y.
It’s hard to choose what I like best about this picture of Peter and his pals. Is it the white pocket handkerchiefs draped stylishly from their jacket pockets? Or the cigars that three of the four men are holding? Or the symmetry of the men on either side holding their hats, while Peter and his seated friend have their legs crossed in mirror image?
One thing I love is that the photographer seems to have told everyone to look to one side — yet my great-grandfather apparently ignored the instructions and looked straight into the camera lens.
Who were Peter’s pals?
This photo was probably taken around 1899, when Peter also posed for solo portraits before he married. In this photo, he wears a pinkie ring on his left hand, but no wedding band — and none of these men were his in-laws, who appear in later photos. Then who were the other fellows in this photo? And how did Peter know them?
For a high school assignment in the late 1970s, my sister Amy wrote a biographical sketch about our great-grandfather Peter — based on an oral history interview with our mom Peg (Laurence) Charboneau — which includes information about his immigration and early years in the U.S.
…unless he met a friend here, he didn’t know anyone. The reason he came was very common, he came for better job opportunities. No one knows where he arrived in the United States, perhaps Ellis Island, but he first settled down and started work in Gloversville, New York. His first job was as a dye master, coloring skins in a skin mill….He worked in the mill for about five years.
Clues in the 1900 U.S. census
Could these men have been friends from Peter’s work at the skin mill? Let’s take a look at the 1900 U.S. population census of Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. — the first one in which Peter appears, four years after his arrival in the U.S.“United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MSXT-THQ : accessed 3 July 2021), Peter D Lorendes in household of Petsie … Continue reading
|Peter D. Laurence in the 1900 US Census, 5 Washburn St., Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. — Source: FamilySearchFamilySearch requires free login to view records.|
|Petsie Pierce||25||Italy||1896||4 yrs.||Head (with wife & child)||Leather dresser|
|James Ets||24||Italy||1893||7 yrs.||Boarder||Leather dresser|
|Peter D Lorendes||27||Italy||1896||4 yrs.||Boarder||Leather dresser|
|Patrick Berry||28||Italy||1896||4 yrs.||Boarder||Leather dresser|
As summarized in the table above, in 1900 Peter was living at 5 Washburn St. in Gloversville, N.Y. in the home of Petsie Pierce and family. Apparently my great-grandfather wasn’t the only one victimized by a pronunciation problem — because all the adults in the household, although born in Italy, were enumerated with anglicized surnames.
Friends from back home or the U.S.?
However, what stands out for me is that all four men were in their early twenties, were from Italy, worked as leather dressers — and three of the four, including Peter, had immigrated in 1896.
Did Peter know them from back home or from the boat? Meet them in the U.S.? Get to know them through work or from boarding together? There’s no way to know for sure — nor to decide that they are the three posing with Peter in this photo. But it certainly is a tantalizing prospect.
Up next: Peter Laurence/di Lorenzo and his brother Antonio. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.
© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.
- 1900-1911: When did Pietro di Lorenzo become Peter Laurence?
- 1899: Introducing my Italian great-grandfather Peter D. Laurence (di Lorenzo)
- Circa 1904: My long-lost great-granduncle Antonio di Lorenzo
- Aunt Rose Curcio: An 1890’s daughter
|↑1||“United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MSXT-THQ : accessed 3 July 2021), Peter D Lorendes in household of Petsie Pierce, Gloversville city Ward 6, Fulton, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 17, sheet 4A, family 80, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,037.|
|↑2||FamilySearch requires free login to view records.|