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An Unknown Family of Style


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Sunday, January 03, 2010

An Unknown Family of Style

Back to work yesterday after the holiday break (thanks for your patience) and the first place I went was the Chelsea Flea Market on 26th street. That has always been a great place to shoot and to just wander around for an afternoon.
At every flea market at seemingly every booth are boxes and boxes of old photos. I rarely sift through them because they are such a chaotic mess (the same reason I have no patience for tie sales).

Well yesterday was so cold I was looking for any reason to stay inside that toasty garage of a flea market. Without thinking I flipped through a few photos in a shallow box bursting with photographs and after a few moments I found this top image.

I was immediately charmed. The style of the clothes, the love of family, the spontaneity of the image all work to capture everything I love about photography. I mean come on, these guys are impeccable - the 3-piece suits, the crease in the pants, the quality of the shoes, the boutonnieres! Who are these people!

I also love that you can tell these are just ordinary family photos of some important event and not some onetime sitting for a professional family photographer. Notice the the negative in the top image is reversed. No suit that nice would have had the breast pocket on the righthand side or the boutonniere there either. Yes, I was feeling very CSI during this discovery. However, box I was looking through was such a jumbled mess that I never thought i would find another image from this family but after a few more handfuls of images I found another image, and then another, and another. It was so exciting having this human story unfolding in front of my eyes. I was trying to find clues that would tie them together, like the facade of the building in the 2nd and 5th picture.

Of course you start creating your own fantasy about these people. Where are they from? Are any of them still alive? Was the style of this generation carried on to the next? Where did they shop? What did style and fashion mean to them and how did it help them fit in or alienate them from their neighbors?

The not knowing actually is more fun, it gives you so much more freedom to imagine.

I LOVE old photos so don't be surprised if this becomes a more regular feature on this blog.

Notice the squared-off bottom of his suit jacket.

Notice the supertiny tie bar on on the gentleman second from the left.

I love that these images were taken over several years. This gentleman looks several years younger here than in the top photo. It gives me hope that somewhere out there are even more photos from this family waiting to be discovered. I asked the woman I bought these from to search her other boxes of photos at home to see if she had anymore. I'll keep you posted.

Comments on "An Unknown Family of Style"


Blogger Shadan Saber said ... (8:35 AM) : 

i love b&w fotos... lovely!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:40 AM) : 

My God how beautiful and elegant they are! Please feature more, we or rather, I need a break from all the fashionistas of the world. This is true style and style cannot be bought or manufactured. You either have it or you don't. Clearly, these people had IT.

Felicia, This Time in Seoul


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:41 AM) : 

those pictures look like they're at washington university in St. Louis. yes??


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:44 AM) : 

Thank you for giving space to images of black America not regularly seen from a period where there are so many negative ones. Mad style!


Blogger K_Kruse said ... (8:45 AM) : 

Are you sure you didn't take the 2nd picture posted?! It is totally your composition and style!!!! Great pictures-thanks for sharing your treasure. Happy New Year.


Anonymous jori said ... (8:46 AM) : 

So beautiful! I wish I had pictures of my family like this :-)


Blogger La Historiadora de Moda said ... (8:49 AM) : 

Wow! What an amazing find!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:52 AM) : 

The building in the background looks very much like the buildings at City College in Manhattanville.


Blogger Studded Rose Vintage said ... (8:52 AM) : 

Gorgeous, im sure i have family pics like this hidden somewhere deep down in a box of who knows what.Now off to find them..


Blogger Speedmaster said ... (8:53 AM) : 

Great pics!


Blogger Cillian said ... (8:53 AM) : 

Great idea for a feature. People just don't seem to pay the same attention to detail any more when it comes to formal attire...



Blogger -h said ... (8:54 AM) : 

A stylish family no doubt


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:54 AM) : 

As Oscar Wilde noted, all beautiful things belong to the same era. Thanks for showing great style naturally lived.


Anonymous Indie Mom and the Reluctant Banker said ... (8:55 AM) : 

I love the pictures and I love the story!


Blogger Caroline, No. said ... (8:56 AM) : 

Brilliant photos. I love that you've brought them back to life.


Blogger hewnly said ... (8:57 AM) : 



Anonymous Claire said ... (8:59 AM) : 

Welcome back! What amazing pictures. And I'm sure that before too long people will have discovered or come up with all kinds of info about this family. I remember someone found some Edwardian photos inside a book they bought, put them up on a forum and within a week had identified the house, the family and even the living descendents!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:00 AM) : 

What beautiful photos of a beautiful family. I wonder about the back story, how these photos ended up in a box at a flea market, instead of the family photo album. Wouldn't it be great if someone saw these here and recognized a family member?


Blogger Diana Teodoro said ... (9:04 AM) : 

WOW! They look amazing! Wish I came from such stylish backround!
Please try to find more pictures of them and most importantly who they are. I know it's more romantic this way, not knowing, but please, please, I just need to know!


Blogger stylespotterfashionblogger said ... (9:05 AM) : 

They are all so smart. Love the tap dancing like shoes, and the wide leg pleat front trousers. They seem to take such pride in their images. Wouldn't it be ace if some relative of theirs stumbled across your blog!!! :)


Blogger Yamila said ... (9:06 AM) : 

Hey I missed you!!!
So ellegant pics. Amazing!
I wanna see more photos...


Anonymous Hanna said ... (9:07 AM) : 

how exciting! what a flip of the day...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:11 AM) : 

Dear Sart,


These photographs are amazing. The gentlemen are very handsome and charming. But what about the ladies. They are also georgeous. This is a seriously stylish family.

It would be a lovely story if this family would be recognized by somebody and you would make a before and after story about them.

I like it a lot when you write long stories. I hope that beside old photographs you would do that more often.

Happy new year Sart. Glad you are back. I have been following your blog on a daily basis for years now and I can not wait for the surprises you have for us in 2010.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:12 AM) : 

Looks like Cornell to me...


Blogger God's Favorite Shoes! said ... (9:13 AM) : 

WOW!!! Who is that family? Is it mine? Is that my great grandmother?(just kidding) Were they pimps? Were they educators? Who are they! I love a stylish family! Those men were so suave!!!

A great find Sartorialist!


Blogger Annka said ... (9:16 AM) : 

At the moment I opened your page my Itunes played Moon River from good old Frank Sinatra - and this just fits beautifully to the mood of these amazeing pictures.


Anonymous J said ... (9:17 AM) : 

aww and i thought i was the only one who imagine stories about people i see on the streets! i haven't looked at old photos for ages, but when i do glimpse some (leik they have loads of them window-displayed in this ancient - yes i swear it's really outdated - photo shop in town) i get this funny vintage-ish out-of-the-world-ish feeling. anyways it's a nice feeling :p

amazing family on those photos, they look very well respected. i wonder around which year these were snapped? i wish we have more style like this these days:(


Blogger ryder said ... (9:19 AM) : 

thanks for sharing such a wonderful discovery. I love vintage photographs and really look forward to seeing this becoming a regular feature!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:21 AM) : 

I like Annka's story. Maybe a nice soundtrack for the movie you should make about the search for this fashionable family!

Sometimes I wonder what you think when you read our comments...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:24 AM) : 

That is definitely City College in the background.


Blogger Ayşe Şakarcan said ... (9:24 AM) : 

Welcome back, these pictures are great!


Blogger Asubiame said ... (9:25 AM) : 

They are gorgeous!
They feel like cuban,or Dominican Republic-ish...


Blogger Fashionstyle said ... (9:25 AM) : 

Lovely pictures !! And ...Happy new year day!!


Blogger Amy said ... (9:25 AM) : 

Agree- Wash U in St. Louis.
Welcome back!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:29 AM) : 

Fabulously Inspiring! Great Find!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:34 AM) : 

actualy looks like these photos were taken at city college in harlem.


Anonymous AnonymousJK said ... (9:35 AM) : 

Simply takes my breath away... There's really nothing else to say because these beautiful pictures speak for themselves. Great way to start off the New Year.


Blogger vanessa.shirazawa said ... (9:36 AM) : 

The building in the 2nd, 3rd & 4th photos is Shephard Hall of City College! What class!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:37 AM) : 

Happy New Year! What a perfect retrospective on starting a new decade!
You are the BEST!!!I love old photos, old movies and the style of the period of the 40's, 50's....we do not see it enough. The fur and detail on the suiting is amazing.
Bring it on!
Would love to see more of this......
The photography alone is brilliant.Thanks.......L


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:37 AM) : 

there's an art to finding smething when you're not looking for it-serendipity-greeting from croatia, ineida.


Blogger Patience said ... (9:38 AM) : 

GORGEOUS!!!!!! I bet he was a pastor!!!


Anonymous stina said ... (9:40 AM) : 

truly fantastic, completly lovely!


Blogger Barbora said ... (9:54 AM) : 

I LOVE old photographs!!!My Grandma still has some from the old days which means Czechoslovakia in 1930's and up..They used to be a well-known family but after the Second World War eveything has changed..Looking at those pictures now reminds you the good times as well as the importance of being still alive surrounded by the most important thing - family.

Visit & Follow:
"fashionably tasteful.have a bite"


Blogger amalie said ... (9:55 AM) : 

i agree , i love b&w photos like this ... !


Blogger Susan said ... (9:57 AM) : 

Thank you for posting this :)
Lovely photos and impeccable style


Blogger Llywarch said ... (9:59 AM) : 

Finds like this just don't happen enough!
I've a feeling this was meant to be. The cold weather getting you to inside the market, getting you to look in that box. I've a feeling you will find out more about this family....... well, I hope you do anyway!

Looking forward to this being a more regular thing.


Blogger Insomnia said ... (10:01 AM) : 

These images are amazing, they look so stylish and happy. A pleasure to look at!


Blogger Sabir said ... (10:03 AM) : 

These are some great photographs. This reminds me of the pictures of my family that i have seen from the 50's.



Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:07 AM) : 

more please, sir.


Anonymous all-in-the-silhouette said ... (10:11 AM) : 

Gorgeous family, gorgeous photos. Perhaps fodder for Sart Book Two?

Speaking of which, I bought your book yesterday, and love it. What a jewel. Well done!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:11 AM) : 

I think they're at Duke University.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:11 AM) : 

At last!! You do not imagine how have I missed your pictures!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:15 AM) : 

I read your blog everyday and yet have never posted.... but these photos are just brilliant, really interesting - they all look so proud and their outfits are so well put together. So interesting to post these, I look forward to seeing more. thank you : )


Blogger Iheartfashion said ... (10:17 AM) : 

What a great-looking, stylish bunch!


Anonymous The Photodiarist said ... (10:20 AM) : 

Great post. I would love it if old photos became a part of the regular season. I really love when you write as much as in this post too.

Happy New Year.


Anonymous TorontoVerve said ... (10:25 AM) : 

Thanks for sharing these great vintage photos...I love them!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:26 AM) : 

I do wish that someone who actually knows who these people are would read this post. awesome!!!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:29 AM) : 

You know. Every time I think I am over this blog; you post something like this.

I love your passion for photography and fashion. I love that you can say things about a photo that I feel and you ignite a fire in me to start photography; to find the fun in the mundane.

I like the attitude of the pictures, aside from everything you said, it seems problem free, fun, carefree and there is an element of worth of self in the pictures. All pictures of myself have a sort of self conscious vibe to it so I'll always be looking for that in pictures. This guy looks like he knows something in all his pictures. Sort of the way Mona Lisa has a secret smile. Like he knew his pictures would be discovered. Wouldn't that be fun; having pictures and then putting them in flea markets years later.

Thank you for such an inspiring post and welcome back!



Blogger Julie S. said ... (10:30 AM) : 

So lovely a touch of romance


Blogger Style Scanner said ... (10:31 AM) : 


How wonderful that these images came so close to being flotsam and are now immortalised as street style icons.

Nice reflective start to the new year!


Blogger The Red Velvet Shoe said ... (10:31 AM) : 

Who would ever part with such lovely family heirlooms? How sad. They're all beautiful...



Blogger Papillon Vintage said ... (10:31 AM) : 

There is alot of soul in these photos, and a well dressed family. I can always apriciate a bit of history.
Thank you.


Blogger  said ... (10:33 AM) : 

Happy New year Mr.


Blogger Dorothy said ... (10:34 AM) : 

Everything is perfect in this photos. The hats, the suits, the dresses, the shoes, the smiles...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:43 AM) : 

Happy New Year. Mr. Sartorialist. A well known Spanish writer, Javier Marías, says that when you are looking at the chaotic shelves of an antiquarian bookshop, it's not you who find the books you may be interested in, are the books who find you. I think the same applies to the story of these beautiful pictures. They found you...
Best from Madrid



Anonymous yellowRose said ... (10:45 AM) : 

these photos really remind me of photographs by the historic Scurlock Photographic Studio of washington DC -

The exhibition in the national museum of american history DC, features more than 100 images created by one of the premiere African American studios in the country and one of the longest-running black businesses in Washington.

check it out -


Anonymous honey bee and me said ... (10:46 AM) : 

Dear Scott,

I was happy that you took the time off.... I worry that you need more time to your self!!!!

Yes, this is when fashion was just an organic process and not a competition!!!

Cheers to you,

Melissa (Lamy, NM)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:49 AM) : 

Such a beautiful group of people! I'm old enough to remember when people of all ilk dressed like this EVERY DAY! Imagine!
But the very best aspect of these photos is the sense of friendship (perhaps family love?) and un-selfconsciousness they exude.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:51 AM) : 

Cool, thanks for sharing your great find. This family is certainly stylish.


Anonymous JW said ... (10:51 AM) : 

wonderful! who ARE these wonderful people indeed. they are so stylish and proud and beautiful, with that old-school charm that seems so hard to find these days. love it.


Blogger Into the Fashion said ... (10:54 AM) : 

Happy New Year! Paris it is very common to find not only old family pictures, but entire family albums on flea markets!
I have bought them sometimes, and it is amazing to observe the past clothing styles but also to see growing older the persons while going through the pages..

Diana of


Blogger Chanterelle said ... (11:01 AM) : 

It sure does look like City College. Whether or not CC had anything to do with the event they were memorializing these folks have such a sense of style they could easily have walked over to take advantage of such a perfect background for their pics, summer or winter.

BTW, I didn't see your book at Colette a couple of weeks ago. Must be sold out in Paris :-)


Blogger JAN said ... (11:05 AM) : 

They're give me so much Harlem Renaissance.... wait! Could it be?!


Blogger God's Favorite Shoes! said ... (11:06 AM) : 

I already commented on these pics earlier this morning...but I had to do it again. I love them!!!! This should definitely be a feature on your blog!!!!!!!!!!

I love that veiled hat...I wish we dressed up for dinner like they did in the old days!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:08 AM) : 

These photos were undoubtedly taken at The City College CUNY in Harlem on Convent Avenue.The beautiful architecture there is worth the trip uptown.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:13 AM) : 

Love these. They appear to be taken on a university campus? Anyway to defiinitvely identify the place? Just saw all the other comments about the place...

Great find.



Blogger saradowle said ... (11:13 AM) : 

What a find, I find it so fascinating, these portraits of people - what is their story?!
Happy New Year!


Blogger Denny said ... (11:13 AM) : 

Wow! Wat a good way to start 2010!

Beautiful photos! I also love old photos. Maybe you should put them in a categorie and update it monthly

Can't wait to see more!


Blogger Rose. said ... (11:15 AM) : 

A very moving discovery...


Blogger Modern Traditionalist said ... (11:17 AM) : 

First, WELCOME BACK and Happy New Year! I can't tell you the number of times I came back to your blog hoping, wishing, praying for an update but still the same photo at the top. Sigh.

The photos are absolutely amazing. What an excellent find. Although I do feel a bit saddened - after going through similarly old photos with my mother over the holiday - that an entire family's documentation has been left for strangers to weed through in a flea market. At least they found their way into your hands!


Blogger Bob Spears said ... (11:17 AM) : 

Love the photos. The next to last one is my favorite. It reminds me of my father. He used to wear his clothes just like that. He was slender and liked to look sharp. When my teenage son gets home today I am going to show him where the waistline for a properly worn pair of pants belongs.


Blogger Melissa said ... (11:17 AM) : 

I too love old photographs. Thank you for sharing!

It's funny that you should post about that flea market. I remember going as child with my father. I dug through the same boxes and proudly picked out two small photo albums - photos of a european trip in the 40's! I have often thought of the market and I couldn't remember exactly which one had yielded my delightful discovery. I'll have to check back during my next visit home. Thank you again!


Anonymous Classic Copenhagen said ... (11:19 AM) : 

I subscribe to your posts, and this one was just like getting a letter from a good friend. The guesswork makes me happy too, and I hope you unravel more of this fantastic history.

Thank you for making my day.



Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:23 AM) : 

I recognize the location! They are at Yale! :)


Anonymous kristi said ... (11:34 AM) : 

I completely approve of your old photo idea -- I LOVE them!

In fact, I love them so much that I want to cry when I see boxes of them for sale when I go antiquing. It makes me sad because someone didn't have anyone to pass them on to, or that person didn't want them and discarded them. I always want to buy all of them so they have a home again!


Anonymous Rujuta said ... (11:40 AM) : 

ur back! ur back! lovely pictures, who doesnt like vintage? more dignity and grace than anything else. happy new year!


Anonymous Love Streams said ... (11:44 AM) : 

I have three generations of graduates from Yale in my family! I bet my ancestors knew these fashionable folks! My uncle is still there and tracked our lineage, how cool would it be to figure out this mystery:)


Blogger what dia like said ... (11:45 AM) : 

photos with a story! just beautiful.


Blogger Ivan McK said ... (11:47 AM) : 

These photos are the reason I love fashion! The wide lapels...the pants at the waist with the pleats laying perfectly...slim knots and the small tie bar thru the shirt collar. Beautiful, beautiful coats with pretty ladies and handsome just inspired my next post! Thanks as always and do post more if you find them!



Blogger Juliet said ... (12:04 PM) : 

I also love old photos and mysteries like this!

juliet xxx


Blogger Jacqueline said ... (12:09 PM) : 

They do have great style. Loved the story the photos told! xoxo


Blogger Emily Rose said ... (12:10 PM) : 

I love this!! Looking at old photos and the clothes people were wearing is so much fun. You should check out the FSA Library of Congress archives:

Such amazing photos to be unearthed there.


Blogger MissB2U said ... (12:17 PM) : 

I love this idea and the use of the b&w photos! I look forward to more of the surreal life in fashion.


Blogger Natasha Levy said ... (12:23 PM) : 

i love these, although they're all dressed up it seems as though their style came naturally to them-as you said there's no rigid-ness of a posed photo but it's just a collection of lovely photo's to remember a special time :)


Blogger DON'T SWEAT IT said ... (12:28 PM) : 

Such a delightful collection of photographs! Wish I could say I knew who they are. Love this entire post, definitely looking forward to similar ones in the future.


Blogger Alejo said ... (12:29 PM) : 

Lovely! (L)


Blogger Break said ... (12:38 PM) : 

this retro elegance is simply amazing ..


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:39 PM) : 

the place where the latter part of the photos taken seem to be at City College of New York.


Blogger hc said ... (12:42 PM) : 

That's GOOD work! Wonderful photos!Thank you, have a HAPPY 2010!


Blogger Quintel said ... (12:48 PM) : 

These photos are great. Incredible! Tasteful and inspiring. Kind of reminds me of pics I've seen of my grand and great grandparents. Thanks for such a good post!


Anonymous Isobel Saoirse said ... (12:52 PM) : 

I absolutely loved this post and would love to see more old pictures! Old pctures have a sertain magic thing to them I think, ah, how I wish I could have a wall coverd with them! Hope you find some more pictures of the family and good luck finding them!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:52 PM) : 

These pictures are truly great! These young educated students are a real testament to how my family and many famlies lived during that area.They exemplify great style.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:56 PM) : 

What a new year treat! Seeing a photo like this puts current style into a broader context. Hope you have more finds like this. And those hats!! Reminds me of photos of my mother who wore hats with such verve and energy. Thanks for recognizing something so valuable and sharing it with all of us.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:00 PM) : 

Upper class university students that came from hard working educated family that taught education, style and presence are images that always stand the test of time. Thank you for sharing!


Blogger shap said ... (1:06 PM) : 

if you're really interested in old photos and style, check our bushwick's vortex. a plethora of images to sift through and find some treasures. i don't work there, so i can't speak on specifics, just a neighborhood local who loves stopping in from time to time, and adores even more, your blog, s. schuman, as a fellow indiana->nyc transplant.


Blogger lintmag said ... (1:11 PM) : 

Happy New Year! I especially love the photo of the man with sleeves rolled up. I have a ton of old photos from my relatives looking very stylish - what changed that so many people got so casual?


Blogger anthony said ... (1:12 PM) : 

Treasure trove. Welcome back!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:22 PM) : 

Very stylish. They don't look like family. They look like college students. I'm also hoping someone recognizes them and writes to you.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:22 PM) : 

Lovely in all ways!!!


Blogger diane said ... (1:23 PM) : 

WOW! (jaw dropping)
If these were in a book I'd buy it.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:23 PM) : 

I look at these photos and immediately think of Wallace Thurman's novel "Infants of the Spring." Although these pictures are set at least a decade later, I can see a Zora, a Langston, a Countee, a Wallace, and an Aaron.


Blogger The Writer said ... (1:26 PM) : 

wow, a breathtaking discovery.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:27 PM) : 

These are glorious photographs. A tremendous amount of pride flows from those smiles, the postures, the clothing, their eyes. Incredibly moving. Just stunning. Please continue to post them if you find more.

These people must have descendants who are alive. If so, I hope they have similar photos for themselves, or that they somehow come across these!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:27 PM) : 

not only are the photos great due to B+W, fashion, etc., we are also looking at I'm assuming an African American family that was upper middle class, or even upper class, which was not very common during this time period, the history of the people/family is probably more fascinating than the tailored clothes.


Blogger heather said ... (1:30 PM) : 

I am agreeing with the folks who say this is City College in New York. I live about a block away, and there is no doubt.

These are such amazing photos, thank you for sharing them!


Blogger San said ... (1:37 PM) : 

Glad you're back. Happy New Year! Everytime I opened my fox I went to your blog and finally you have posted again!

The photos and family are absolutely amazing. What a fantastic find. I hope we can find out who they were, though I love to imagine stories, I think this was a very special bunch. I'd love to know more about them.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:39 PM) : 

Please do make this a regular feature. I love the vintage photos.


Anonymous Elvira said ... (1:41 PM) : 

Amazing styles and photographs!


Blogger Ashley said ... (1:46 PM) : 

Fabulous photos and fabulous clothes. Thanks for sharing!


Blogger MJA said ... (1:55 PM) : 

nowadays you can be considered "dressed up" by wearing $300 faded jeans. so sad.

it makes me wonder if 60 years from now our snapshots will have the same charm as todays vintage photos ("todays vintage", is that an oxymoron? ha). then again, there won't be boxes of old photos at swap meets by then. all our photos are digital.

man, that just made me think: will there be "vintage blogs" someday. i mean, there's bound to be someone still running the same website for 20, 30...40 years (there are already sites that have been around almost 20 years). is that inconceivable? will there be such a thing as "internet archeology", where people "dig up" sites from decades prior? of course that information has to still be stored on a server somewhere. i don't know, just thinking out loud.


Anonymous D.Erica said ... (1:57 PM) : 

hey.. the backdrop to most of these photos is the city college of new york in west harlem


Blogger green lantern said ... (1:58 PM) : 

Your cool factor just shot through the roof with this posting! I cannot contain myself. Thank you.


Blogger Trude said ... (2:03 PM) : 

I love looking through old photos for the same reason! So much fun to imagine who they were. Luckily, when it comes to my grandparents, I know their story. :) Love their style in the 50s:


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:04 PM) : 

They are lovely representatives of a very rare form of humanoids: The Well-Dressed American (WDA). Their species now considered critically threatened, the WDA once ranged over the entire continent of the U.S., and flew to many other continents to graze, reproduce, and show their finery w/o having an excessive attitude about it. The WDA was replaced over time by the Slacker, the Tourist, and the Middle American, whose dress is characterized by exuberant colours and washed out cotton clothing. (A subset can be found online on sites like People of Wal-Mart.) The WDA still exists in some narrow ecological niches, including as lobbyists and politicians (State and Federal only, with some local exceptions located mainly along the coasts in winter), Wall Street bankers, and big-city lawyer's offices. NYC is often considered a target-rich location for WDAs, but the casual observer often mistakes fashionistas for WDAs.


Blogger Couture Millinery Atelier. said ... (2:19 PM) : 

Beautiful selection of pictures!:-) I love the hats and hat pieces ladies are wearing: they look so elegant, so well put together!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:24 PM) : 

I so appreciate the images of black americans! these are absolutely wonderful pictures! they show the eloquence & style of this family and this period. i long for the days when we craved more than just t-shirt & jeans...


Blogger Mi. said ... (2:27 PM) : 

Beautiful!!!!!! it's really very interesting, if someone is still alive... what they do...or what they did... it's kind surprising, why such family photos are on the market, and not in the family album...Anyway, they are gorgeous !!!


Blogger Erika said ... (2:36 PM) : 

There is something quite wonderful about discovering photos in a box at a flea, and realize there are more then a few that are related.

And to all those who said, "back then they sure had style" well there is no reason we all cannot start collectively putting ourselves together with a little more attention to detail, crispness, creatively. A good new Years resolution I say...

Question: Did any of the photos have a date on the back? It looks like the 40s to me, based on the suit sillouettes, the ladies dress and coat styles, and the hat styles. Would love to know if any exact dates exist. I am a costume designer so the archeological clothing digs are my favorite!

Lovely of you to share, so thank you.


Blogger blukats said ... (2:44 PM) : 

Definitely a dapper set!

Thank you for posting these, they were nice to look through. And good luck in finding more!


Blogger The Calvin Show said ... (2:45 PM) : 

I feel like B&W makes everything just look super classy but these pictures would emit class even in color. Love the second to last image.


Anonymous robin said ... (2:47 PM) : 

wow. I'm very moved by these images. what style, elegance and charm.
thanks for sharing them.


Anonymous Georgia Rae said ... (2:48 PM) : 

These really made me smile. Such timeless elegance that you rarely see anymore. This is why I find you inspiring as someone in fashion, you celebrate the most beautiful normality.


Blogger Shelley Noble said ... (2:48 PM) : 

Impressive personal style and a gorgeous family indeed.


Blogger Steve Schnier said ... (2:49 PM) : 

Beautiful pictures.

I always find it sad when family pictures are discarded. What happened to these people? Weren't there any relatives who wanted to keep these pictures?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:55 PM) : 

What a fantastic set of pictures! Who in their right mind would sell these on?! These people are so stylish and depict the era that they are from.

I have some pics of my grandparents from the 1930's and 1940's and they look amazing - I think the law in those days was that you had to look fabulous, glamourous and elegant!


Blogger unurthed said ... (3:13 PM) : 

I did not have time to read all of the 96 comments that came before mine, but I would imagine, with all your followers, and with the degrees of separation closing, that someone, somehow, might make a connection! I love their style, elegance, love and your appreciation as well.


Anonymous Andrew McCormick said ... (3:26 PM) : 

These are gold. Pure gold. Great find!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:35 PM) : 

And there is a sense of place in these photos as well. Are we in West Philadelphia? Just a hunch about the buildings in the background, is it the old Quad at the University of Pennsylvania -- South of Spruce Street between 36 and 38th? Or another Ivy League locale...


Blogger suzof7 said ... (3:38 PM) : 

These are just fantastic - thank you for sharing, and finding them!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:40 PM) : 

Those coats the ladies are wearing are stunning. Wish they made coats like that now. I have looked for two years for a new coat and I just keeping wearing my old one.


Blogger Haley said ... (3:47 PM) : 

Wow, what a mystery! So much fun to reconstruct a story.

Haley Wulfman


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:50 PM) : 

I love these photos and the spirit of family with style that they evoke. I am a CUNY student and I KNOW that's City College. I know that campus like the back of my hand!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:53 PM) : 

I seriously did suffer from withdrawal effects - thanks for posting again.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:56 PM) : 

Too many posts to sift through so if this has been suggested before I'll apologize but it might be a cool idea if, say, one day a week you ran a classic photo you have come across. You could then space them out so you wouldn't have to worry about searching for one.


Blogger Camillea said ... (3:57 PM) : 

Thanks for the inspiration!!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:00 PM) : 

Not Yale or Duke or St. Louis or wherever. Anonymous at 11.08 AM is correct that it's City College in Harlem, New York, with Convent Avenue the street in the background. It's a beautiful little courtyard, and unmistakable to those who know it.
Although like most public-funded institutions, it's gone downhill since the '80s, City used to be basically the free Harvard of America, famously the alma mater of Colin Powell and other greats.
So maybe these photos are someone's Harlem Renaissance college years, the energy and care of the clothes reflecting the aspiration and egalitarian spirit of the school.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:02 PM) : 

I thought that the device securing the gentleman's tie in the second photo is actually a tie pin, not a tie bar.


Blogger Tanya N said ... (4:03 PM) : 

amazing, once again. they look like they could've been shot by a scott schuman from a different decade.

you inspired me to start my own blog...

and please make old photos a staple! i love them.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:05 PM) : 

PS: The building in the background is called Shephard Hall, it used to be City College's School of Architecture, among other things. You can see the beautiful interiors in Spike Lee's film The 25th Hour.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:08 PM) : 

glad to see this new feature. i've been collecting vernacular photographs for years and they are always a source of style inspiration.


Blogger The Dauphin said ... (4:08 PM) : 

I have been following your blog since you started. and never i have i ever been so proud to be black as when you posted these a mazing photos. Thank you so much for being you, for your amzing eye, and your love of fashion and culture!


Anonymous luciana said ... (4:13 PM) : 

A true labor of love...Thanks and happy new year.


Blogger Pictures on Page said ... (4:19 PM) : 

These are great. I found hundreds of photos like these at my grandmothers house. Some of them family members, other unidentified. Everyone had impeccable style. I guess that's where I get it from!


Blogger Lauren E. Warner said ... (4:25 PM) : 

I also am moved by the people in the photos and what their stories may be. Notice the body language in the top photo - the men are near perfect mirror images of one another. It is said that people mimic one another in body language when they are in sync, interested emotionally or romantically. I would have loved to have known these lovely people.


Blogger Jeanine Payer Studio said ... (4:25 PM) : 

Bravo! Fabulous first post of the new year!!!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:34 PM) : 

I often see an elderly gentleman on the 210 bus in Los Angeles who dresses this smartly. He always wears a dapper suit, tie, spit-polished shoes and a hat, which he politely takes off while on the bus. He looks FANTASTIC and he has inspired me to put more effort into my wardrobe.


Anonymous Filuzi said ... (4:36 PM) : 

I am glad that you unearthed these pictures. Now they have a chance to become history- a chance they deserve very much.


Blogger said ... (4:43 PM) : 

These images are lovely, and unexpectedly moving, because as I looked at them I thought about the context in which they were taken. They are so clearly about aspiration and dressing to fulfill a dream of the promised land. Now, with the very stylish Barack Obama in the White House, that dream has finally come true.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:53 PM) : 

Wow, that was great. Good detective work.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:54 PM) : 

I think this fabulous man have been a professor at city college, and that these are his children (in the first picture)and top students (in the third). I wish that people still dressed like this...
Thanks, Mr. Sartorialist, for such lovely pictures.


Blogger Helen Gilson said ... (4:55 PM) : 

I imagine them as a Jazz group playing the speak easy!


Anonymous Rousspétée said ... (4:58 PM) : 

How very nice !
I always feel somehow melancholic when I see family pictures that are being sold to strangers ... *snif*
Bonne année !


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:11 PM) : 

I love these photos! What elegant style and as one person said above, it's not fashonista style, it's real style that can't be bought. I love it! What a beautiful family of color, thank you for this! More more more!


Blogger Mary said ... (5:14 PM) : 

These photos are amazing!
They look like such a happy, stylish and charming family - and I can't help but be curious about their story too. :)


Anonymous db said ... (5:32 PM) : 

i love these photos so much that i am compelled to comment for the first time. thank you for posting them. the buildings do look like city college to me. this mystery definitely deserves a trip to the nypl's schomburg center for african-american studies in harlem. i've also seen similar pictures at the studio museum. let me know if you need help with the research!! i look forward to more posts like this -- i've seen great stylish photos at flea markets in buenos aires and in london and i'm sure you have too. lastly, if you're not already familiar with it, i think you'll like


Anonymous Ellie said ... (5:36 PM) : 

I wonder why these photos ended up at a fleamarket? They are wonderful. These folks had style like crazy! Thanks for sharing


Blogger Ariana said ... (5:47 PM) : 

exquisite! welcome back... we've missed you.


Anonymous June Prune said ... (5:55 PM) : 

The background is definitely typical of an American university. I'm almost sure it's Cornell (West Campus) because I studied there, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was another College ! Many of them look the same, and that's what I looove !
This was my contribution as a former French exchange student ;-)


Blogger Marcus Martins said ... (5:57 PM) : 

First, WELCOME BACK and Happy New Year..
Great pics!
So lovely


Blogger Tea with Edith said ... (5:58 PM) : 

I would like to see this as a regular feature on your blog. It´s very inspiring with how today´s stylish people dress but as you said, one can makes up their own stories about the old photos.


Blogger Dina's Days said ... (6:00 PM) : 

This has got to be my favorite post ever on this blog! My boyfriend and I found a 95 year old photo of his great grandmother and it took my breath away.


Blogger Cassandra said ... (6:00 PM) : 

I agree that the second photo is very much your style of photography. What a wonderful serendipity.

The top one seems like a wedding? The others perhaps a graduation ceremony?


Anonymous n.m. said ... (6:17 PM) : 

Years ago in a picture frame shop i worked in, we used a series of old b&w pics from an unknown family, my boss bought at a flea mkt to sell the frames, one of them had this man smiling in his army uniform, then in his best suit, then in his garden, and with a girl..I hadn't thought about this for years.......makes you wonder!!!


Anonymous GQBloke said ... (6:17 PM) : 

These pictures definitely made my return to work brighter. I love the ease and exactness of their style.


Anonymous Anabelle said ... (6:24 PM) : 

Omg these fabulous people are standing in front of my school, CCNY in Harlem.


Blogger katiecrackernuts said ... (6:29 PM) : 

I am a fan of old photos and am so blessed to have pics of my grandparents, who were quite daper dressers. My nan made her own frocks too. Beautiful.


Blogger April said ... (6:50 PM) : 

From the second picture, I would definitely say City College of New York.


Blogger Matthew said ... (6:52 PM) : 

FYI, the "tie bar" on the man second from left is actually a collar pin, a device that holds the two end of a collar together, and by being secured under the tie, helps lift the tie knot and angle, helping give an attractive flow. Outside of that, sart's comments are spot on. Thank you for this find.


Blogger E and O said ... (7:12 PM) : 

Thank you for sharing this collection of images and the accompanying story. I particularly like that you pointed out the little sartorial details I might have otherwise missed.These are indeed fascinating, on a number of levels.

I agree with the Anonymous comment from 1:27pm re: this African American family's upper class and educated background being uncommon during this time period, which itself prompts even more interest than the clothing. There is so much story here.

The second to last photo:
he has a wonderful grace there that reminds me of Gene Kelly, in both the style details and the posture.

I love your own photographic sensibilities (of course), but I'll definitely welcome an "old photos" feature should you decide to make it regular. :)


Blogger Jen said ... (7:28 PM) : 

I love these photos - its like looking at my family photos - my parents were young in the 30's & '40's too. Not only was dressing up de rigeur in that era, it seems that the 1940's ushered in the time of
casual photography - lots more regular folks had cameras to document their lives (I have some studio photos from the teens & 20's, but lots of casual photos from the 1940's). Although cameras were becoming standard, posing for a picture was still regarded as something special and almost everyone looks delighted to be doing so.
Maybe these photos can be id'ed through CCNY's library or archives? They seem to be of a group of students - the one fellow seems a shade older than the others, but maybe not. I don't think this is Cornell - the buildings looks similar to West campus dorms or Balch Hall, but not instantly identifiable. If it were Cornell, Yale or Duke, however, identifying them would be easy as there were not a lot of African American students at the time - would that be true of CCNY also?


Anonymous penn alumna said ... (7:37 PM) : 

The buildings are the right height, right kinds of trees and lampposts. This also makes immediate sense of the dress. Too warm for Duke, rather eastern for St. Louis, no? Definitely urban.

Anonymous said...

And there is a sense of place in these photos as well. Are we in West Philadelphia? Just a hunch about the buildings in the background, is it the old Quad at the University of Pennsylvania -- South of Spruce Street between 36 and 38th?

3:35 PM


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:42 PM) : 

i would wear that dress everyday! lovely!


Blogger Thuy said ... (7:55 PM) : 

Such sophistication and elegance you don't see much of today. I love the old photographs!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:41 PM) : 

..............fierce!!!!! love love love...........


Blogger Joy Mars said ... (8:44 PM) : 

Graceful, hopeful way to start the new decade!


Anonymous Vintageally said ... (8:49 PM) : 

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
What a happy new year's present! These people exude a natural pride and grace--truly comfortable in such beautiful style. It's a good reminder that fashion at it's best should not look forced!


Anonymous austingirl said ... (8:51 PM) : 

welcome back!
i LOVE these vintage photos scott.
thank you so much for sharing. my
favorite thing about the way these
lovely, elegant people look is how
comfortable you can tell they are.
they weren't dressed "up", they
just were.
happy 2010 to you and yours!


Blogger Style Artisan said ... (8:54 PM) : 

These images make me nostalgic for a time when people took great care with their appearance, no matter the occasion.

Now, sadly, people feel that it is OK to even go to church in gym clothes.

Thank you for sharing these.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:59 PM) : 

It seems the vote is hands down City College in Harlem - although I was originally convinced it was the Princeton campus!

Love your blog, thank you for sharing your inspiration with us. And a very lovely 2010!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:01 PM) : 

It seems hands down the vote is City College in Harlem (I will have to get uptown to visit) - but I was originally convinced this was the Princeton campus!

Love the blog, thank you for sharing your inspiration with us. And a very lovely 2010!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:03 PM) : 

I thought City College as well. It is a nice looking building. Great first post for the New Year. Happy New Year Sartorialist!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:16 PM) : 




Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:22 PM) : 

These people look like they could have been friends with my deceased relatives.

When I see certain young black people dressed in a messy hip hop style it's upsetting because I've seen how stylish black people can dress, even ones without a lot of money. They don't look cartoonish, they look classy.

Thanks for the photos.


Blogger Meredith said ... (9:32 PM) : 

The latter 3 photos (and likely the first couple as well) were definitely taken at UPenn in Philly. That brick building is the Quad--in one picture, they're standing inside the Upper Quad in front of the main gate, and in another, the woman sitting by herself in front of the railing is in front of the McClelland Hall balcony. I bet the ARCH (multicultural resource center) at Penn would have some more info on these stylish people.


Anonymous ghostranchguy said ... (9:34 PM) : 

gorgeous pictures... the glorious days when cell phones didn't dominate humanity and people could be absolutely present amongst each other


Blogger Joshua Wolfe said ... (10:05 PM) : 

It is always amazing to see not only how much clothing conveys ones dignity but ones joy.


Blogger CW said ... (10:42 PM) : 

I'll check through some photo archives to see whether I can ID the mustached man who is in most of the photos. If he can be ID'd, you have a valuable set of photos.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:07 PM) : 

The man at the far right in the third picture looks very much like a young Percy Sutton.

The wide lapel double-breasted jacket would suggest early-1940s.


Blogger louise and nivaldo de lima said ... (11:34 PM) : 

Such beautiful photos. I have some shoes exactly like the guy's wearing in the photo second from the bottom. They were originally handmade in Jamaica. I found them in Portobello and they were small enough to fit a girl. They're very cool.


Blogger Caitlin and James said ... (11:42 PM) : 

I'm a history teacher and my mom just gave me some old family photos where some distant cousins from the 1920s. They are dressed as flappers and have the bobbed hair. It's great. That's why I love being a history teacher, we not only teach about dates and people, but style and attitude too, at least I try to in my classes.


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