In this case I am going to start with the middle of the tale first (since I don't have an end in sight, and the start is more involved).
However, last week I was introduced to a fascinating lady, though one who has been dead since 1910 (and no, I am not talking about ghosts). The lady in question, though, was Leigh Day of Springfield, Il, who was a very talented early photographer. (One who may well have designed many techniques that were later claimed by male photographers). Leigh Day is more often called, "Mrs. George Day."
While in the Sangamon Valley Collection of the Lincoln Library a friend and I were shown 3 books of her work; two that had been published, and one a photo album.
These were jewels. I am not sure that there are words to describe the delicacy of Mrs. Day's work. Granted many photos were the posed style we are used seeing from that era, but in many cases she had hand colored the photos with such a skilled hand you felt like you were looking at color photos. She also set photos amongst hand drawn scenes, but scenes again drawn with a delicacy and skill that made the two blend easily.
The photo album was the crown jewel though. In her own hand she noted when some of the photos were done, and added in poetry. And scrapebookers today could learn something from her as she hide photos behind hand decorated flaps that tied into other ornamentation.
Not only were these books wonderful examples of early photography, but they are also gentle windows into the lives of she and her friends, and their children. For she had a knack for catching her subjects honestly. Plus the book had photos done by Susan Lawrence Dana of Leigh Day and her daughter.
Now to jump to the beginning of the story, and why I don't know the end.....
Back in Nov some friends came out to visit - one of whom is a history professor whose specialty is the suffragette movement of the late 19th, and early 20th, century.
One of the places I took her to was the Dana-Thomas House, which was commissioned by Susan Lawrence Day, and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. After a walk through of the house we talked about how little most knew of Susan L. Dana, who was a fascinating woman. She was one of the leaders of the Illinois suffragette movement, and deeply involved with the spiritualist movement.
My friend thought that she would make a worthy individual to research someday. So I thought looking about on the web to find more for her, and because my own curiosity was peaked. I grew up with stories of grandfather, who was a newspaper editor, attending her fashionable parties.
At that time there was little, though I had been put in touch with a couple of possible sources.
Then the topic went to the back burner - until one of the ladies emailed me to see if I had learned anything new.
I hadn't, but I stirred back to my research. And this time hit a gold mine in the form of one of the Dana-Thomas docents, which is how I ended up seeing the Day books. Leigh Day was a girlhood friend of Susan Lawrence, - a friendship that lasted till Leigh's death.
As the docent commented - there seems to be something in the air - since more people are suddenly taking an interest in Susan Lawrence Dana. And in doing so - looking more closely at her friends, who were truly special in their own rights.
4/6/2010 12:19:15 pm
One missing piece - the url to the Dana-Thomas House -
4/7/2010 02:49:32 pm
Two typos to correct - the missing piece should read, "that Leigh Day was also known as Mrs George Day," and the other should read that,"it was commissioned br Susan Lawrence Dana."
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I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.