I can never resist a demonstration that the subjects of photos sometimes undermine the efforts of even the most professional photographers. The original caption for this photograph emphasizes charity, but the expressions on the two young boys’ faces suggest that they were feeling anything but charitable towards the photographer.
The photo is one of thousands produced by Harris & Ewing, Inc., a Washington, D.C. firm that documented local people, events, and architecture, during the period 1905-1945. Clues in the pages of the Washington Evening Star suggest that the “fete” mentioned in the caption was a fund-raising event held at Friendship, the country estate of John R. McLean. The Leiter children were probably the sons of Joseph and Juliette Leiter, members of a wealthy Chicago family who had relocated to Washington, D.C. a few years before the photograph was taken.
- Have a look at earlier Picture This blog posts about the challenges of photographing children: Anything to Get the Shot: Giving Baby a Hand and Anything to Get the Shot: Giving Baby Another Hand.
- Learn more about the Harris & Ewing Collection and catch the ambience of the charity events at the Friendship estate that the firm covered in 1913 and 1915. An earlier blog post highlights some other great finds in the collection: A Scanning Initiative: Harris & Ewing Collection.
- Read about John R. McLean and his estate, Friendship, and about the Leiter family (who had recently completed an around-the-world yacht tour) in the pages of the Evening Star for the years 1914-1916. (This is one of many newspapers available online through Chronicling America.) What details do you pick up about the neighborhood and “society” activities?