Pieces of Our Past
July 25, 2014
Artifact: Addison Seminary Photo Album
Size: 8.25 x 10.25 x 2.75 inches
Date: circa 1903–1906
Significance: The subjects of the photographs contained in this interesting and unique album seem to be related to Addison Teacher’s Seminary (now known as Concordia University Chicago, located in River Forest, Illinois) in the early 1900s. The university, which was founded in 1864 and is the oldest university in the LCMS’s Concordia system, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
About the Photo Album: Not only are the photographs contained in the album interesting, but the album itself is fascinating. The color cover is of a hard material and the image upon it is in relief. The spine and back cover are made of purple velvet. Inside, the thick pages have slots for portrait photographs and are adorned with an intricate motif in the upper corners. There are four class photographs dated 1903–1906 in the center of the album. The majority of the remaining photographs are portraits, presumably of students at the teacher’s seminary. (One portrait was identified as L. H. Kolb as it matched his photograph in the 1906 class grouping.)
At the back are a few non-portrait photographs. One (pictured below right) shows a group of students in what appears to be a gymnasium. The wall in the background contains numerous wooden dumbbells and Indian clubs, which were used for strength training exercises. Two of the young men also appear to be sitting on a pommel horse. All of these items would have been common in a gym in the early twentieth century. Additionally, each of the men is shown holding a broom. Since there are no labels identifying any of the photographs in the album, our staff has come up with two possible reasons for the brooms. Perhaps the men were the students whose duty was keeping the gymnasium clean. Or perhaps they were part of a curling group at the seminary.
Many of the objects, documents and photographs that are in the CHI collection have little or no background information (known as provenance in the museum field). If the information was not given to the Institute at the time the donation occurred, then the CHI staff must try to gain more information as part of the management of the collections. At times our searches are fruitful and it is possible to learn more about an object, or in the case of a photograph, to place or date it, but sometimes it is not possible. We welcome any additional information that our readers can supply.
The Fall 2014 issue of the Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly will feature articles on the history of Concordia University Chicago in honor of its 150th anniversary. The issue will be available for purchase in October.