08 September 2015

My grandparents' wedding photo


I was digitizing this old family photo yesterday to distribute to family members, when I noticed something odd.

The occasion is the 1912 wedding of my maternal grandfather, Knut Olaus Finseth, to his new bride Selma Aline Distad.  They and the others in the wedding party are standing in front of their apparently-new home in rural Minnesota.  They were both teachers, but farming would become his full-time occupation.

As I zoomed the photo to view the bride and groom (in true Norwegian fashion holding in their abundant joy behind a dour visage), I noticed a white object in Grandfather Knut's right hand.  It looks ever so much like a golf ball, but I'm sure he would have consigned golf to the same category as pool and solitaire - as tools of the Devil to distract people from their chores.  So what is it?

I would venture to guess it might be an egg.  I am not sufficiently au fait with traditional Norwegian wedding customs to know whether an egg might be incorporated into the festivities as a token of fertility.  Or maybe he just came from the henhouse...

I also don't know what the raptor-talon-shaped object is at my grandmother's waist.  Her left arm is at her side, so I presume it is some kind of floral bouquet tucked into her waistband.  Both of them were very much old-country traditionalists, so again there may be some symbolism involved.

Related:

The Finseths arrive in the United States.

Ole K. Finseth's children, Kenyon 1903

The Finseth Band Stand at St. Olaf College.

Distad, Norway.

Addendum:  
A hat tip to an anonymous reader, who found the photo
at the right (cropped from the original here), showing a woman from approximately the same time period wearing a "waist corsage."

I did find a writeup of the wedding in the Olmstead County Democrat which says that my grandmother "was attired in marquisette over messaline" and that she and the bridesmaids carried pink and white roses. 

I suspect the white flowers are just inapparent against the white dress in the wedding photo.

Of interest, the wedding report also notes that "following the plighting of vows, a seven-course dinner was served to sixty guests."  That would have been prepared on a wood-burning stove...

Now if I could only figure out about that egg in grandpa's hand.  I'll see if anyone in the family can track down an elderly Norwegian relative...

25 comments:

  1. Maybe Granny is holding the chicken's foot.
    mz from wv

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    1. Better that, than the monkey's paw. ;)

      Lurker111

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    2. It looks to have all the parts to be a chicken's foot. It'd have to of come from an impressively big chicken, though there a certainly a few that get that big.

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  2. The groom is holding an egg symbolizing fertility. The bride has a dried goose foot tucked into her waistband. The goose chooses a single mate in life so the foot symbolizes that quality.

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  3. Another possibility - my first thought was that it was simply a biggish flower with rather large sepals, shaped rather like a diamond in a prong setting, and that the petals, being pale, disappear against the white of the dress. I seem to be able to see a faint outline of the petals, but that may be my imagination. Lastly, that egg looks chicken-sized - if it's a goose foot, (and that looks like it would have to have been a huge goose), why not a goose egg? I can't find anything on the intertubes regarding Norwegian wedding traditions and poultry of any description, but will ask a few Scandinavian friends.

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  4. was that goose foot and goose egg passed down thorough the family?

    I-)

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  5. Didn't realize you were an Ole. Class of '73 here.

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    1. Here you go -

      http://tywkiwdbi.blogspot.com/2012/01/st-olaf-choir.html

      http://tywkiwdbi.blogspot.com/2012/06/um-yah-yah-history-of-st-olaf-rouser.html

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    2. Lots of us up here in Cook County, especially the Muus family. Thanks for the links.

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  6. I would say it's certainly an egg, a common symbol of fertility...but I HIGHLY doubt that's any sort of bird foot tucked into her dress, and would assume it was flowers (there are some sort of white (baby's breath?) flowers, and I assume the "goose foot" is foliage.
    "old country traditional" wedding dress is far far away from a white dress and black morning suit..

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  7. http://www.wachdorfconnect.com/Myers/Lettie%20with%20the%20waist%20corsage%20balanced.jpg
    waist corsages...they're a thing.

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    1. I am the one who found this link (still struggling with commenting working), and I read the newspaper description and note that none of the ladies are carrying any flowers (although I suspect Grandma has her glove in her right hand, perhaps) The notion that Grandad might be carrying a fancy cane is plausible, but the narrowing of the shape means the angle of the cane is hard to imagine..can you see anything on the original if you dither about with the contrast settings?

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    2. Hi Dawn - I have the original mounted photograph that I scanned for the embedded digital image. I've gone over the photo with the highest magnification I have (a pocket microscope) but garnered no additional information beyond that faintly ovoid white shape. I will look to see if I can find any additional wedding photos, but in those days I don't think money was expended on a lot of photos other than perhaps just the one of the wedding party.

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    3. Yes, I expect that the ovoid shape is all there is. It's an odd way to hold a cane, if that is what it is..but not an odd way to hold an egg.

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  8. I think it is the silver, ivory, or porcelain head of a decorative walking cane. The shaft is dark and probably behind or in front of his right leg. I think I see the diagonal of the shaft by his right ankle.

    http://www.gilai.com/product_366/German-Cane-with-Silver-Pear-shaped-Handle-and-Malacca-Shaft.

    Held something like this:
    http://www.victorian-era.org/victorian-clothing.html

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  9. I think it would just be a neat story if they had chickens and he saw the egg and picked it up right before the picture was taken.

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    1. Oh, they for sure had chickens. Good thing he didn't walk past a cow...

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    2. :-) i think it IS an egg. the next picture would be where he throws the egg at the photographer. :-)

      I-)

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  10. I think it is a cane either tucked in front of his shoulder or under his arm. It could also be a smoking pipe.

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    1. I don't think it's a cane. His fingers are much too relaxed -- more the gentle way you'd hold an egg than the firmer way you'd grip a cane.

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  11. I couldn't find anything specific to Norwegian culture, but this was interesting:
    http://weddingtraditions.about.com/od/GuestsAttendants/a/Eggcellent-Wedding-Tradition.htm

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  12. I am absolutely SURE that their free range chickens may occasionally lay one out of a nest box - it happens - and your G'pa just picked it up before the shot was taken to make sure no one stepped on it. Don't ask me why I am so sure - I just am. ;)

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    1. I think it's a reasonable explanation. My mom (born six years after this photo) used to tell me that one of her childhood chores was to occasionally take a basket around behind the barn to find any stray eggs.

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  13. I think it´s an egg or a stone he found on the ground right before posing for the picture. And Ithink what we see around her waist are flowers. Such a lovely dress!!

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