Nettie and her unusual dress

By: usermattw

Apr 04 2016

Category: Women


Click here to view it larger.


What it is:

Photo (2 x 2.75 inches) mounted to a cardboard frame/backing (3.5 x 4.75 inches; I have cropped most of the backing from the scan).


What I know about it:

Written on the back in pen is Nettie Hidinger.



Perhaps this is a perfectly common dress style, but I don’t recall seeing anything similar among my photos.  It’s so distinctive that I wondered if it were some sort of uniform.  Holding the small print in my hand, it even looks like she’s modeling the panels from an unfinished dress, trimmed with safety pins, though the enlargement shows that they are buttons.  The high collar and the hair stopping at her ears combine to make a bold frame for her face, what to our modern eyes might at first seem unflattering, though they don’t diminish her face’s loveliness.

11 comments on “Nettie and her unusual dress”

  1. Hello Matt,
    according to “A genealogical history of the Spence family of western Pennsylvania”, Nettie Irene HIDINGER was born 11 Jan 1890 and married 6 Oct 1906 to Benjamin Harrison SPENCE. The photo seems to have been taken just before her wedding at the age of 16! So the dress could have been chosen by her parents (i.e. her mother) and the photograph destined for her groom. In such cases, some mothers develop a somewhat precipitated taste.

    • Hello! I had Googled her name and came across that person as a possible match, but I felt I couldn’t be sure it was her. In any case, I’m amused by your idea that it was an overeager mother who dressed her. 🙂

  2. Nettie’s g-grandfather Jacob HEIDINGER, a carter of Iggelsbach, Pfälzerwald (Palatinate, Germany) emigrated with his family (including her then 8 years old grandfather Adam HEIDINGER) to the US in 1853. In the 1853 edition of “Königlich Bayerisches Intelligenzblatt” he annonced his intention to emigrate. Adam married Magdalena RHODES and changed his name to HIDINGER which is in English pronounced like the German HEIDINGER.

  3. I think there is a coincidence in addition to the homonymy:
    Netty looks very young but is dressed like an adult lady. This seems to fit to the 16 years old bride.

  4. That was my grandmother. I’ve never seen that picture before. Thank you!

    • Oh my goodness! In all the years I’ve had this blog, I think you’re the first person to say they know the subject of one of these pictures. (I’ve had people claim a connection to the photographers, but not the subjects.) How nice to hear from you! I’m glad you like the image. 🙂

  5. I knew that my grandmother’s family had emigrated from Germany, but never knew much about her life other than that she had married my grandfather Benjamin Spence. I never met him, he was passed away before I was born. This is the first picture of her as a young girl that I’ve ever seen. She lived to be in her 90s! I definitely inherited her chin as did other members of my family. I always called it the Spence chin, but now I realize it was the Hidinger chin. Lol. And yes, what an unusual dress! Thank you!

    • Thanks for the extra information! I’m sorry the picture isn’t in better condition (slightly faded and silvered), but I tried to do the best scan I could. I take it you knew her? How fascinating to see young pictures of people we only knew when they were older, isn’t it?

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