Circa 1915: Tony and Joe, the Laurence Teens

Sepia Saturday 597. Nineteenth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

At one time, the teen years weren’t recognized in U.S. popular culture as a special time of life. That changed after WWII, according to Derek Thompson in his Saturday Evening Post article titled “A Brief History of Teenagers.”

“The teenager emerged in the middle of the 20th century thanks to the confluence of three trends in education, economics, and technology. High schools gave young people a place to build a separate culture outside the watchful eye of family. Rapid growth gave them income, either earned or taken from their parents. Cars (and, later, another mobile technology) gave them independence.

This sociological development occurred after my maternal grandfather Tony Laurence (b. 1902) and his brother Joe (b. 1903) were adults. Yet their adolescent photos shown below, from circa 1915, seem to reveal the type of teenage changes we recognize today.

Circa 1915: My maternal grandfather Antonio W. “Tony” Laurence at about age 13. He posed for this photo at Forbes Studio in Gloversville, N.Y. Scan by Molly Charboneau

More mature expressions

In his baby and toddler photos, my grandfather Tony looked playful and sported an infectious grin. In this teen picture, however, he looks more serious and worldly in a stiff-collared shirt, suit jacket and tie.

The same is true of his younger brother, my mom’s Uncle Joe. Although he was a “tween” in 1915 — about the time these photos were taken — he also looks more staid and serious than in his youth. Every hair is in place and he also wears a suit, shirt and tie.

Circa 1915: My maternal grandfather ‘s younger brother Joseph Bernard Laurence at about age 12. He posed for this photo at Forbes Studio in Gloversville, N.Y. Scan by Molly Charboneau

The Forbes Studio

Tony and Joe posed for their photos at Forbes Studio of Gloversville, N.Y. — a different studio than the one their parents took them to as children. So I went online see what I could find about this photographer, and discovered an interesting ad.

Gloversville Morning Herald, Oct. 12, 1915. Source:

Forbes Studio apparently joined other Gloversville businesses in the raffle of a “Pony outfit” — which I am guessing may have been a Halloween costume, since the ad appeared in October 1915.

Forbes Studio placed other ads in the Gloversville newspapers over several decades encouraging parents to bring their children in for portraits at the start of each new school year.

Headed for adulthood

Whatever the impetus, I am glad my great-grandparents Peter and Mary (Curcio) Laurence/di Lorenzo took my grandfather and Uncle Joe to have these photos taken at a transitional point in their young lives.

In 1915, my Laurence/di Lorenzo ancestors were still living at 128 E. Fulton Street — in the crowded Curcio household of Mary’s parents (and my great-great grandparents) Antonio and Antoinette (Del Negro ) Curcio. My grandfather Tony and his brother Joe were both still in school.

Yet how handsome and mature they looked as they headed toward adulthood. And how grateful I am for these portraits — the only adolescent images of Tony and Joe that I have found in the family photo collection.

Up next, my grandfather Tony in a mystery photo. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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18 thoughts on “Circa 1915: Tony and Joe, the Laurence Teens”

  1. I just love how you look up all of the background social history of everything and post it for us to follow; it really adds to you wonderful stories! I love how you pay attention to the smallest details; they help make the story!

  2. Another fine set of photographs that display a lot of character in the brothers. Both look older than their real ages. That idea of the modern teenager is one I’ve thought about a lot. Most communities in early 20th century America had bands for boys and often girls, but not together and not in schools. I don’t think high schools started marching bands until the late 1920s and 30s. And probably not until there was a school athletic program to play music for. The advances in public education in those decades were responsible for a lot of changes in American culture and society.

    1. Fascinating information about the school bands. Advances in education and an end to child labor no doubt contributed to a new leisure time in the teens to pursue extracurricular activities.

  3. Tony & Joe do look quite ‘adult’ in their portraits as young teens. Today I suspect they would have looked more relaxed. Part of the reason for that would be the way professional photographs were taken in the early 1900s. The other reason would certainly be the change in what kind of life a teenager in the mid 1900s expected to be living. 🙂

    1. Interesting observations. Photographers did discourage smiling at the time due to the need to hold still for awhile during the photo, but the fact that many young people went to work early — often in their teens — no doubt contributed to a more serious outlook.

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