Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Grandmother's Victorian Scrapbook

My Dad's mother, Augusta Desjardins, was born in 1878, the year that electric street lights first made their appearance in London. She died in 1962, shortly before I turned eight years old. Since she lived in Colorado, and our family lived in Southern California, we saw her only once a year, always in the summer, when my parents would pile my siblings and me into the family station wagon and we would drive to Fort Collins where she lived. With each passing year, my memories of her grow fainter. I have no recollection of what her voice sounded like or what she smelled like but I do remember her as being a quiet and gentle woman. From stories my father and my aunt told me, I know that she use to have a large flower and vegetable garden. My father told me that during the great depression, she helped earn money for the family by growing and selling seedling plants.

As a young child, I had no knowledge of what sort of life she had before my father was born in 1919, when she was 41 years old. To me she was always an old woman. At the age of seven, seeing her in her eighties, I could not imagine what she would have been like as a child.

Even now, it's hard for me to imagine her as a young woman growing up in the late Victorian era. Sitting here in the early years of the 21st century, it's hard for me to believe that I knew someone born in the 19th century.  My grandmother had two children - my father, and my father's older sister, Alvina, who is now in her early nineties.  A little over a year ago, my Aunt Alvina called to say that she was thinking of selling her house.  She asked me if I would come to Fort Collins to visit her and to go through things in her house to see if there was anything I might like.  While there, I found a scrapbook that had belonged to my grandmother, a scrapbook that she had assembled when she was a young girl in the late 19th century.  My aunt kindly said that I could have it.  I was thrilled, not only for the images that it contained, but because for the first time, I had a glimpse into what sort of things interested my grandmother Augusta (called Gussie as a child) when she was a young girl.  On the inside of the front cover there is a certificate that states she attended school for a twelve week period during the 1889-1890 school year.  She would have been eleven or twelve years old at that time, and I assume that is the age that she put together this scrapbook.

The scrapbook is filled with beautiful examples of the type of embossed and colorful images that were sold for decorative purposes during the Victorian era.  There is also a scattering of Christmas, Valentine and Easter cards.  Since this is the first week of spring, and Easter is a week from today, I thought I would post some of the beautiful floral and easter images that my grandmother added to her scrapbook over a hundred years ago.  Please excuse the poor lighting and fuzzy quality of some of these images.  As you might notice from some of the images, the paper is extremely fragile and rather than risk damaging them by putting them on my scanner, I photographed them using a handheld digital camera.  Though some of the pages are crumbling on the edges, the images themselves are very bright and colorful, making it hard to believe that they are 120 years old.

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