I have always loved this family photograph, although I cannot say for certain who these people are. They are my Grandma Clara Abbott's family, almost certainly Livingstons, and the fellow dead center in the tobaggon bears a close resemblance to my Gr-great grandfather Walter Livingston who was boss of a coal yard in Newburgh, New York in the 1890s. With those thick mechanic's mustaches it is hard to distinguish one from the other.
The expressions on these dapper downhill dare-devils are priceless - the two gentlemen on the two seater sled seem particularly droll. The assortment of late 19th century hats and outerwear suggests a Sunday outing. In fact, this may be one of the earliest examples of that stalwart Christmas tradition, the posed family photograph. Whoever they are, I hope they enjoyed the end of their run as much as they appear to have enjoyed mugging for the camera at mid-slope.
These three urchins are my Great Grandfather William Livingston (at right) and his younger brothers Frank (at left) and Clarence. The photographer's studio reproduced a winter setting for this photograph: a badly scratched tintype from the late 1880s. I actually repaired some of the damage digitally - otherwise Uncle Frank's face would have been pocked beyond recognition.
Winter's monochrome palette lends itself to the medium of early photography. There is a sweetness in the image of these little boys, solemnly bundled up in a faux winter wonderland. One hopes they will partake in the gaiety of the overdressed sledding party when they step outside the studio and that it is not blistering summer instead.