At a glance you might think they are the same picture. In both he is sitting in an arm chair with his right leg crossed over his left.
The thing that caused me to take a longer look was the back of the armchair. It was above his shoulders in one of the pictures but not in the other.
Looks like the same suit—pants creased and cuffed. Same high-collared white shirt. Same tie. Maybe.
But definitely not the same chair.
The high-backed one is somewhat throne-looking with…are those itty-bitty wheels on the front legs?
The other looks like he is sitting in a finely carved egg cup.
Well, let’s see if I can figure out which one of these was taken first.
Of course, nothing was on the back but a rather generic pre-printed “POST CARD.”
The chairs struck me as particularly odd so, I leapt to the internet and Googled “vintage chairs.” Scrolling through images, I found several chairs that looked somewhat like the egg cup. It is actually a type of folding chair called a curule. Or Savonarola. Or Dante. Depends on when and where in the Holy Roman empire you’re from. Because they have been around for years, I realized that chair probably wasn’t going to be much help in dating the photo.
Regarding the chair with wheels, I was unable to find a replica of it or anything that resembled it. However, MyAntiqueFurnitureCollection.com shed some light on the wheels. Apparently, from shortly before the Civil War until the early 1920’s, parlor and dining room chairs had wheels on them. This was so furniture could be moved quickly (without scratching those lovely old hardwood floors) in order for a room to accommodate the needs of the homeowner—a parlor could be quickly transformed to a dancing area, or quilting bee to borrow their examples.
Since Frank was born in 1892 and had a full mustache in both portraits, I believe it is safe to assume he was at least of age. That places the photos, roughly, after 1908.
But what about the egg cup? That photo looks older. More worn. More faded.
Perhaps the shoes would help.
In the throne chair, Frank is wearing above the ankle boots with button closures. In the egg cup chair, he is wearing lace-up shoes. The button boots look to be worn, the leather is well creased, with no shine. The lace-up shoes are actually shining—even in the faded picture and the laces are perfect—as though the shoes just came out of the box. At 18 years of age, according to the US Census for 1910, Frank worked on his father’s farm while his father worked for the railroad. It is unlikely he would have had money at that age to purchase shiny new shoes. Also, his face in the lace-up picture is fuller.
At this point in my quest to figure out which one was first, I was seriously leaning toward the button boot being first.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website supported my hunch:
“The "high button shoe", as exemplified here, is a familiar symbol of the apparel of earlier generations. The button closure had come in and out of style since its initial adoption in the 1830s, but was particularly dominant in the early 1910s. In the 1920s the button boot persisted for dressy wear, but was increasingly considered somewhat old fashioned, and the style had died out by the 1930s.”
The picture of the 1915 button shoe to which they refer looks an awful lot like Frank’s. It even has the same number of buttons.
At the age of 28, according to the US census for 1920, Frank was married with two children. He had a job as an engine coiler working for the railroad. While I’m sure he wasn’t breaking the bank, he was earning more than a regular railroad laborer would have and the railroad paid a relatively decent wage. It is more likely that he purchased those shiny new shoes—or even perhaps borrowed them to take the portrait—sometime after he had posed for the button shoe portrait.
It is my opinion that the throne-like chair/button boot portrait was probably taken between 1910 and 1920. The egg chair/lace-up shoe portrait was probably taken between 1920 and 1930.
"Boots." The Metropolitan Museum of Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2015. <http://metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/158869?rpp=20&pg=2&ao=on&ft=1830&what=Costume&pos=33&imgno=1&tabname=label>.