Monday, April 11, 2011

Looking Back and Wondering.......

I have been blessed to have inherited my family's picture albums. 

The thousands of photographs in my possession date back to before the 20th century.  This one (above) has always fascinated me.  It was taken sometime C 1895?

There sure are some characters in this picture!  I have always wondered what this colorful and motley group of folks was involved in. 

The only clues about this photo are written in my maternal grandmother's handwriting on the back:

This was a lodge drill team.

George Niggemyer (my great-grandfather) in middle.

Mother behind dad in the dark robeo hat. 

Aunt Dora (Frank Niggemyer's wife) by mother in the white blouse.

Uncle Frank in front of dad in the white or light jacket.

Grandma Sigler in dark outfit at far left holding pole.

Some background: 

My mother's family originally immigrated to the United States from Germany C 1840.  They settled in Ft Madison, Iowa.  My grandmother was born in Ft Madison in 1898.  I am guessing here, but I have to assume that this "lodge" drill team, which is composed of family members, was a German tradition which carried over to their life in the United States.  If anyone has any other ideas, please let me hear from you!

It is fascinating to see a portal of American life from over a century ago---the closeness of family, the colorful dress and headgear, and the fact that families actually did things together.

And what is it with those spears?  Ha.


  1. This is fascinating Clint I have been doing my family tree fro a few years now and last year came across many of my late father's ancestors.


  2. Your family where coming from Germany.
    This information is very interesting..

  3. Looks like some kind of dinner theater or something! I love looking at old pictures, I always wonder about the history of the people, their lives...I feel the same way about wandering cemeteries. That's neat that you can trace your family. Have you ever tried

  4. Fascinating photo, Clint. I love old family photos too. Whenever I browse a flea market and see them I sort through for interesting pics. What is up with those spears? Did you ever find out?

  5. Such interesting family you have there! I am wondering if this photo is part of the German Karnevals? There was some information about this when I Googled. I wish we had more traditions and rituals in our lives today similar to what appears to be going on in the photo. Makes life more interesting and more fun. (Fun? I notice there is not much smiling going on in the photo. :~D

  6. Kimberly---I also love rambling thru cemeteries. Check out my blog entry from Oct 16, 2010.

    Cindy---I have noticed that "smiling" in photographs was almost non-existent before the 1900s.

  7. This is amazing! How lucky you are to have these in your possession! A historical treasure.

    In photos like this I look at each person, and imagine what their story is. I could come up with a few interesting ones here:) The costumes alone speak volumes:))

  8. That is a really interesting photo. And why is it,in all of these old photos -no one is ever smiling? I have boxes of old family photo's and everyone has that same look. I just figured my family was miserable, but yours looks like they were doing something fun. Still no smile.

  9. Laura---Thanks for your comment, my friend. God bless you.

    Jane---I told Cindy that you never see anyone smiling in a photograph before around 1920 or so. I think photography was still somewhat of a unique thing before then and people didn't really know how to act when their pic was being taken. Funny though---nowadays I think there is entirely too MUCH smiling going on in photos. Ha.

  10. I love this shot! As far as the photo- the photographer was dealing with a very slow shutter speed, low light, and a completely different method of processing photos from today. People were told to get comfortable and don't move for over an hour at times. In old wedding photos a neck brace was provided to keep them still. I see some of the people starting to lean- Oy! I love the new digital cameras they're so fast! The other interesting thing to me is the costumes. They must have represented a role in the lodge drill team. Thanks for sharing this!

  11. must have been some neat reenactment of history for them! what a cast of characters you come from!

  12. Karen---I had forgotten about the long posing times of the early photos. I guess you really had to be motivated to get that pic taken!

    Texwis---You got that right. A long line of horse thieves and such. But the worst thing is that there were a whole lot of Yankees in my family tree. LOL.

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  14. well, that picture sure explains a lot!=) very interesting. thank you for sharing.

    and maybe no one "said cheese" in old photos because their teeth was kind of gross. just a guess.=)

  15. Kelli---if they had teeth at all.

  16. This is definitely an interesting group photograph. Some of the symbols remind me of the Masonic Lodge... I remember, before I became a believer in our Lord and Savior, I was a member of the Elks Lodge whose membership dressed in "symbolic" clothing. Very interesting. I just love looking at old photos of the past. God bless, Lloyd

  17. Very interesting. I like the clothes.
    Nice family-photo.
    Greetings Sabin

  18. Their outfits and headgears were intriguing (one looked like he was wearing a graduation cap). This picture is so precious, glad you have it and glad your grandmother wrote something about it. That was what they did then, write at the back of the picture.

    Stories of our ancestors are really fascinating. Like my children, their roots are Irish, English, German, Indonesian, Chinese, Indian. I think I am going to blog about this:)

  19. WOW....I love old pictures, and yours is really facinating.

    Interesting to read that your people came over from germany. Did you ever found out what part of germany they came from???

    have a beautiful day and greetings

  20. Very interesting! My mother has German roots somewhere in her family tree - her granddad I think was German but that is all I've been told. She is from Samoa which used to be a German colony at one stage.