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EYE OF THE BEHOLDER #1 OCTOBER '08: Cultural studies

Richard Tighe Harris family image, Juneau, 1885.

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Judith Moore, Chair, English Department, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Alaska Anchorage

One thing that struck me immediately is the children’s clothing—these little boys in Juneau in 1889 are wearing Fauntleroy suits. I have a photo of my father in a very similar outfit in 1904. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s popular novel Little Lord Fauntleroy appeared in book form in 1885, and her description of the angelic child in his lace-collared velvet suit (and long ringlets, not part of the look either for these children or my father, a Wisconsin farm boy) created a remarkable and long-lasting fashion. Fauntleroy suits could be acquired from mail-order catalogs, which is how I suspect they reached Juneau rather early in the craze. Of course to us they look quaint, especially in a setting of tree stumps and scattered small buildings, but the boys’ mother and aunt are also well-dressed, and their home, in the foreground, has two stories, curtains, a porch with a decorative railing, and a fence, though not one that would keep anything in or out. It may indicate a property line—further evidence that the family is prospering. They might have chosen to be posed inside their home or in the photographer’s studio, but the outdoor background places them firmly in the source of their prosperity—I suspect that was the father’s choice as he’s also a “founding father” of Juneau. The family’s position in the photo seems to include the background very deliberately.

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