By Madonna Dries Christensen
Here at Yesterday’s Magazette we welcome feedback on articles. No story has generated as much interest as Cupid’s Magic, published in 2008.
We’ve had 44 comments, mostly inquiries about the monetary value of the photos. I respond that I’m not qualified to appraise antiques; the only information I have is available on any search engine. As we’re all aware, information on the Internet might be true, half-true, or complete fiction. But from one man’s comments I have additional information about two of the photos. First let’s revisit the earlier article.
Cupid is said to be responsible for enticing folks to fall in love, but for more than a century people have been enamored with the little girl who depicted Cupid in these vintage photographs. M. B. Parkinson photographed Cupid Awake and Cupid Asleep. He worked in the New York City area during the latter part of the 1800s and early 1900s. His beguiling model, Josephine Anderson, was the daughter of a friend, a single mother who worked and sometimes left her child in Parkinson’s care. Josephine died in the 1970s.
Parkinson copyrighted his prints in 1897. They were distributed by Taber-Prang Art Company of Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1908, The Ohio Art Company began selling metal frames in which the Cupid prints were displayed, some of them hand tinted. The Cupids were immensely popular, exhibited in homes across the country. In 1938, Ohio Art Company bought the copyright from Taber-Prang after their bankruptcy. Originally sold for a nickel or dime, the Cupid photos now command high prices. Let the buyer beware; there are as many reproductions on the market as originals.
Other vintage Parkinson prints are in circulation and nearly all of them have a child as the subject, including other Cupid prints. Cupid At Rest and Cupid Interested were copyrighted in 1906 by M. DeWitt. Cupid Waiting and Cupid Watching were copyrighted in 1911 by Hughes and Lyday Company. There’s also a print called Encore in which Cupid is holding a violin, and another called What Will You Have? Not so common are the Black Cupid prints issued by Schlesinger Brothers and by National Art and Frame Company.
Now, the new information. Josephine Anderson was not the only model for the Cupid photos. In a note to the magazine, Bob Salerno explained that his grandmother was the girl in Cupid At Rest and Cupid Interested. Her name was Gertrude Scooler (later Nolan). Bob says that DeWitt illegally marketed the private photos, but because his great-grandparents did not have the money for legal action they could do nothing to stop the sale and distribution. Bob and his mother believe that Gertrude posed for only two photos; they are unaware of any others. Bob has originals of each of the poses, with the best find being one he came across in a Billings, Montana, antique store.
Bob says, “When one considers my grandmother grew up in New York, moved with us to Florida in 1968, and then I locate the photo in Billings, with my mother, Gertrude’s daughter, in tow, well, it’s quite the extraordinary find. Even beyond finding a needle in a haystack.”
Perhaps it was Cupid’s serendipitous magic; little Gertrude pulling the string on the bow and sending an arrow that glanced off Bob and turned him in the direction of the antique store.
Vol. 38 No. 1 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Spring- 2011