Design New England

Around New England: Remembering Blanche and Harrison

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Blanche B. and Harrison D. Littlefield stare out at us, from across almost 90 years.

By William Morgan

All we know about Blanche B. and Harrison D. Littlefield is contained on a postcard, found in a second-hand store in Concord, Massachusetts. In contrast to today’s thoroughly documented lives, this couple did not have instant messaging, iPhones, or FaceBook to inform their friends and relatives about their daily experiences.

A bit of research revealed the couple were Mainers (How could a man named Harrison Littlefield be from anywhere else?), but this one photograph can tell us much more. Their early 19th-century cottage has a small chimney, suggesting that an indoor fireplace had later been replaced by a more efficient stove at some point. Although covered with vines, the capitals of the porch columns on their modest home show the flourish of a carpenter’s jig saw.

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The house-proud couple was captured in a forever moment on a sunny day in August 1926, and their names written on the back of the card in ink. Some years later, someone penciled the dates of their marriage (October 13, 1908) and their deaths (November 19, 1930 for Harrison, and April 11, 1933 for his bride).

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Thanks to this chronicler — perhaps a daughter or a caring relative — we know a little more about this duet beyond her fancy 1920s dress-up clothes and his Sunday-best suit and mariner’s cap.

Because of the later documentation we can extrapolate that Blanche was 36 when she got married to the much older Harrison, who was 68 on his wedding day. Despite his advanced age for a newly wed, he and Mrs. Littlefield logged in 22 years of matrimony. But there is much we should like to know. Was he married before? Did they have children? And why are they standing so far apart in this portrait? Was it to show off the flag, or is there some deeper meaning?

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John Tyler had just assumed the presidency in 1841 when Harrison Littlefield was born, and Blanche left the world a month after Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933.
One postcard, relegated to the dollar bin at an antique shop, is barely record enough for two lives. Yet, through whatever circuitous route it took, their picture serendipitously surfaced, so that we can acknowledge the Littlefields.

Great design is always at your fingertips! Read Design New England’s November/December 2015 issue online!

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