Above: The Conner Street Boys. At the far right is George Tescher and 2nd from left is his big brother, Mahlon. The boys are sitting on what appears to be a pressure/holding tank for a hot-water heat system – perhaps ready for installation, laying in the lawn up against 1195 Conner St. (at the corner of Conner and 12th Streets). Photo taken circa-1898.
In my novel, Noblesville, David Henry encounters children living very differently than he lived growing up 100 years later in early 200os Noblesville, and yet more differently from what he sees in 2014. His primary observation: in 2014 the town is virtually void of children who are walled off in day-care centers and at home in front of TVs, but in 1890s Noblesville children are free to roam the streets, take over yards, wade, swim, skate, and fish the river, and wander downtown stores at will.
Below: The Tescher kids, Mahlon, Edith, and George, pose in their back yard, 1179 Conner, circa 1896.
The life children lived in 1890s small town America is hard to conjure in our modern minds – no children staring into televisions, Nintendo DS or iPad screens, nor ferried by parents to soccer, baseball, football, or basketball practices. These children would grow up to win the first World War and their own children would win the 2nd World War. They were not deprived of valuable experiences.
Below, Boys With Horses: Mahlon Tescher rests against a barn while his horse gets a drink somewhere in Old Town Noblesville. In my research for the novel, Noblesville, I found repeated complaints in local papers about children racing horses through town, taking short cuts through yards and tearing up carefully-tended lawns, much to the frustration of property owners.
Unseen in these photos is that life for children in the 1890s could be a brutish, difficult existence. If you lived on a farm – you had a full time job. If your family was poor – likely both parents worked and you were a caretaker for siblings or found your own way to earn some money. But for the Tescher children, who lived a rare existence in the narrow middle class, life was good, in fact the ideal of what many today mistakenly think life for children in the 1890s actually was for all children.
Above: The Tescher boys build a club house in their back yard at 1159 Conner Street from salvaged shipping crates they tipped home from the train depot (I have a photo of them rolling a shipping crate down Conner St.). For locals to get their bearings: behind this scene would be 12th Street and the back of the Presbyterian Church.
Above, Strike A Pose: The obsession of child-play in this era was to pretend to be adults, and adults encouraged this. Childhood was idealized for those who had time and money for the innocence of the idea, but was a cumbersome nuisance for children of lower income who needed to grow up fast, to be economically useful. Here, from the right, George (pretending to smoke a cigar), Mahlon, and a friend offer a cocky, grown-up pose. This was a gas-boom town, so note the gas line running to the stove, lower right, and the gas line sconce on the wall above George’s head. Such was heat and lighting in 1890s Noblesville.
Below: Edith Tescher draws with chalk on the stone front walk to her parent’s home at 1159 Conner St. For locals – you are looking east on Conner from 12th St.
Above: Unknown girls blow bubbles from clay pipes in the yards I believe were between Conner and Maple Ave. in the 1100 blocks in 1890s Noblesville. I have other photos from this day and this bubble blowing fun showing their enameled metal pan filled with soap water, cradled in a tree crotch in this photo. Note to the left a hammock tied to the tree and the yard lush with plants and shrubbery. The Noblesville Victorians loved a sparse front lawn, leaving the porch like an open stage to be viewed from the street by passersby, while their backyards were crowded with plants, like this scene.
Below: Edith Tescher posing with a doll in a carriage in her front yard at 1159 Conner St. A careful local eye can see the conical tower of the Craig House in it’s original location on the south side of Conner – above the canopy of the carriage, and the face of the bell tower of the Presbyterian Church directly above and just left of Edith’s hat. There’s more going on in this photo – a boy looks on from the front porch, and another child is crouched on the ground at the edge of the porch foundation, the white Y of his suspenders visible.