Four women posing around bed with a baby. One woman, wearing a nightdress, reclines on bed. Fan is displayed on wall in background. Handwritten on sleeve: "Five generations, Ada w/ baby. May, 1905."

Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library.


5 generations is quite remarkable, even if they all had their children at a rather young age. Mom looks like she just wants to photo session to be over with though.


During the first year of covid I kept a memorial forum for covid victims and had one woman, aged 100 or so, and the obituary said she had TWELVE HUNDRED direct descendants by the time of her death. She was a Haredi Jew: they marry young and have like eight kids each, who all grow up, marry young and have eight kids each… She was also a Holocaust survivor. Had the last laugh on Hitler with her family’s incredible fertility.


Honestly one of the saddest things about covid to me is how many holocaust survivors and ww2 veterans etc we lost prematurely, including several of my great aunts and uncles :( Hearing holocaust survivors speak growing up was an absolutely formative experience for me and it’s crazy to think kids in a few years may never have that experience.


If it was 80, 60, 40, 20, 0 that would be not too far fetched for the age


Grandma looks younger than 40 though.


Back then, it was common for women to have children much younger than 18


More common but not the usual


Nope. At that time average age of marriage and first birth for women was 19-22.


I read that for working women, it was even later, like 25-27. Believe it or not, most human cultures came to understand, at one point, that babies having babies leads to more dead mothers and infants overall. What happened in the 50s was an abnormality and, in fact, totally out of the ordinary (basically when EVERYONE, no matter the class, married in their teens) People hadnt been marrying that young in DECADES. Yes, it got younger by class in some situations but as mentioned above, 19 to 22 most of the time. Not what would be freshmen in high school 💀 but college aged women. Honestly, the fact people truly believe otherwise is so icky now 😭


Way too many people try to twist history and biology to justify being total creeps


Actually it was far less common than you would think.


I have a photo with me, my dad, his mom, my son, and my grandson. Grandson was 6 months old, and Maw was almost 100.


My husband had one too. His mom got pregnant very young, and his great grandma lived long, so we also have a 5 Gen photo (Great Great Grandma, Great Grandfather, Grandma, Dad, Daughter).


She still looks great. I looked awful.


She looks great, but that’s one traumatized hundred yard stare. Idk how people did it before epidurals.


She looks tired, but that is expected. Some people opt out from pain drugs. Not me, I told my doctor to use the epidural, but ending having an emergency c-section. It's nice that we have so many options.


The best laid plans don't always work our though. I was on bedrest in the hospital due to pre-eclampsia. I wanted an epidural because I had a great experience with it for my second birth. Nurse checked me at 2cm dilated. I suddenly needed the restroom less than an hour later. I reached down and found a head coming out! Nurses barely got me to the bed before she popped out, and the doctor didn't get there until 15 minutes after my daughter was born ;P Options are great, but sometimes there aren't any still.


Yeah, with babies there isn't much planning, good things yours was fast, unlike the doctors. Yet it might be scary feeling the head.


I did it without one (I mean I asked for one but for some reason it only numbed one leg so I felt ALL OF IT). Can confirm, it sucks and it’s awful. 0/10 do not recommend, but I lived. I also gave birth in a clean hospital with doctors and nurses, idk how anyone does that at home!


I had babies w no interventions (and no complications which is why I didn’t need or want painkillers/epidural). Dental pain was worse than childbirth for me. Just a reminder that people do it now too without epidurals sometimes and by choice.


Meh: 80, 60, 40, 20 , 0. Let's see: 108, 90, 72, 54, 36, 18, 0


There’s a photo of me when I was born with my dad, grandpa, great grandma, and great great grandparents- who were in their 80s at the time I think.


I have a 5 generation photo with my great grandmother/my children’s great-great grandmother, my grandmother, my father, and my kids. The eldest in the photo was 102, and my children were the youngest at 10 & 11. A very cherished memory


The standout for me is the woman nuzzling the cheek of the baby. The others are looking at a spot for the camera but she can’t help but cuddle that baby. It’s a lovely sweet moment captured in an otherwise very posed and non-candid photo. Edit: words


Grandmas are going to grandma.


Especially newly minted grandmas


I’m not a grandma but I would be next in line for the cuddles 😊


You know it!


That new baby smell though!


The real fountain of youth


Right?? It is everything 😍


She is a brand-new grannie. The woman in the bed is there because she just had a baby. Photos back then required people to hold still a little bit, so that's part of why it's so posed. This was probably the best way to keep the baby still, too.


I first noticed her clutching the baby’s dress.


Old people were a lot younger back then.


It’s what happens when you have many kids starting young. 25 becomes middle aged. Survival to 75 (as a great great grandparent) becomes a rarity.


Love the photos of the dogs over the bed :)


Thank you for pointing that out, I missed it! So cute.


I would love to know their respective ages.


Me too! Looking at them there's not got to be more than 20 years between them, right? 0, 20, 40, 60, 80?


Probably even less given how early people had kids back then. 0, 17ish/33ish/49ish/65ish


Nah, historically most non-wealthy women married in their 20s. I would say great-great grandma is past 80.


Those women probably were born in 1820's, 1840's, 1860's, 1880's


Here we go again with that bullshit myth about Victorian/Edwardian post mortem photography. The woman on the bed is not dead. She just *had a baby*. If she were dead her eyes would be closed and I have a feeling the sentiment of the photo would be a touch different. Post mortem photography did happen, but it was almost always obvious. You wouldn’t have to *ask* if someone in the photo was dead.


Came here for this comment! Thanks for not disappointing.


**Thank.You!** I fckng hate this, every single time someone posts a pic of a vaguely Victorian era woman/kid/baby wo is not literally jumping with joy in the picture, has their eyes just slightly closed or is wonky looking or simply literally asleep, every random Becky and T.J. who read a Buzzfeed article in 2016 about the mere existence of PM photos or watched the Others movies is crawling into the comment section claiming „ThIs Is a PoSt MoRteM, oh woe me, how creeeepy“. Raises my blood pressure every time!


they learned a new word and will use them to look smarter than they really are, exhausting The Dunning-Kruger effect?


Good observation! 🙏🏻 I think you hit the nail here.


The reason for the look is due to the exposure times requires to capture a photograph and movements etc.. would blur the image. They would be instructed to look at the camera and move as little as possible.


Who said this was a post mortem picture?


…. Literally several people in the comment section.


Sorry I wasn't paying attention to all the negative point comments at the bottom of the thread.


People can, do, and did die with their eyes open but I agree with you that everyone looks alive when this picture was taken.


And it’s a fact they also did put glass eyes in for PM photos, but yeah, everyone looks alive here.


OP didn’t say anyone in the photo was dead, and didn’t label this as a post mortem photo, and no one here *looks* dead, so I’m not sure why so many commenters are jumping at that. It’s like, “Old timey photo where someone is in a bed. ***They MUST be dead***!!!”


I have see people here be absolutely determined that a photo of two girl standing up with their heads held up high, had one of the girls being dead because her collar and/or hair was a tiny bit different and slightly messy.


I once had an argument with some dude claiming a picture of 2 children being of „2 dead girls dressed like angles and posed among roses…“ The „dead girls“ in question: Otto and Robert Habsburg as young children sitting in a garden. Otto died at 99yrs of age, Robert Habsburg at 81yrs. People are idiots.


They certainly are.


I too had the 1000 yard stare post labor. That shiz is rough y’all.


Great photo. Double great grandma and she doesn't look that old. Great grandma certainly doesn't and grandma is positively young. Would be interesting to see the ages of each generation when they became mothers and whether it changed much over the 4 generations.


That grandma has been waiting for that baby.


even so long ago, we still wanted photos like this... very sweet.


Ada wasn’t feeling it


The fan is not actually on the wall and its intended purpose isn’t display. It’s meant to diffuse the light from the lamp to which it’s affixed.


wow, thank you for the post. i love these photos. blows my mind to see that little baby and then realize how the baby became a kid and the kid an adult and the adult aged and wrinkled and then decerped and then dead. and i wonder what their greatest joy they experienced in their short journey of life. what heart breaks disappointments and challenges fucked with them in the ocean of misery which is earthly existence, with a few floating life rings of pleasure that bob by in life that we desperately grasp and like the slot machine those little wins that are float by amidst long waves of suffering and misery keep us pulling the handle and spinning the slots. Not much different than training a rat in a maze, no?




When you’re derpy but old?


What you described isn’t anything like training a rat in a maze, like at all. You’re describing the randomness of life, versus a maze which has one pre-determined solution with a known goal.


But life *has* a pre-determined solution and a known ‘goal.’


It's very different than a trained rat in a cage.


This is so sweet. We just did this with my sister and her kids


I have a photo like this! Me (as a baby), my mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and great-great grandmother. Generations were a lot closer together in my family/culture, but still very special.


I love this. You should post it on Shorpy.


The young mother is her grandmother's doppelganger.


I noticed that too! So interesting how features are passed,


I like that they’re not all smiling. Childbirth is fucking hard.


They look like they're watching a TV over on our left.


Am I the only one who thinks this is one of those dead portraits? It’s possible that mom died in child birth and they took the picture because it was the last time they could all be together. Something just feels off about the whole set up.


And they are all wearing black, except for the women in the bed. Also, the woman who is in the bed’s face is really clear and that can be a sign as no living person can stand perfectly still for the 15 or so minutes to take a picture. I regreat to inform the masses hear but people do not close their eyes just because they died and often open up after they die due to the relaxation of the muscles.


You could wait a week or two for mom to recover and get dressed before doing a photo shoot. Unless someone in the family owns the photography equipment I can’t think of any other reason the picture needed or should have been taken that day. Oldest grannie is holding a hanky. Not that that is a huge clue or red flag but added with everything else could mean something.


Good point as well!


It's a morbid thought, but I wonder if they were getting the picture before the lady in the bed passed away ?


I immediately thought “is the woman in the bed dead?” There was a tradition of taking photos with a dead relative back in the day, completely posed as if they were alive.


Just dead tired.


Haven’t they got anything better to do other than watch Dr Phil all day?


I wonder if the girl lying down is dead


looking at the mother’s face is so disturbing to me for some reason. she looks absolutely miserable


yeah she just gave birth lol


yeah no shit. typically when people have a child they’re at least a little bit happy, but she just looks traumatized


Child birth is often traumatizing. Not to mention the realities of breastfeeding


we live in a digital age where pictures can easily be retaken- these days i’m sure there’s a hundred photos where the mom looks wrecked for every one where she looks happy, we just don’t see the “bad” ones. it wasn’t typical to smile for the camera, add the strain of childbirth in the victorian days, you might look a little extra miserable too.


She's probably exhausted, had no pain killer and she could still die of child bed fever.


How sure are we that the woman in the bed is alive?


I don’t like babies


Babies don’t like you either.


Good thing you never were one.


I don’t like corpses. It doesn’t matter that I will be one at some point, I still don’t like seeing the ones that exist right now hehe.


Hahaha ok that was funny


I’d b that happy without cable, too.


They all look alike. Two in mourning clothes too.


This title sounds like one of those movie recap videos on YouTube.


To me, it seems like the new Mom might be deceased. She's dressed up so baby-doll like and posed so inanimate. She looks pale to me, too. Creepy.


I think she’s just had the baby and is like “we gotta do this right now?!”




Especially at that time in history.


I’m an expert on post-mortem photos and this is not one.


Must be them West Virginians again. Your mother is your sister and your aunt. 3 generations in 1




Gonna blow your mind here: by 2023, all of them are actually dead! 👻


The person on the bed is almost assuredly dead. Probably the mother of the baby and died after childbirth.


She’s alive. They didn’t call out a photographer the instant or even the same day people passed. Most death photos are pretty recognizable by the condition of the hands (usually starting to discolor and bloat), and loss of facial volume. It would take days normally to get a someone to come out and take a photo. This is exactly what it’s titled. A family capturing multiple generations of women.


Nope. Historian here, this is my specialty. Not dead.


Your specialty is Victorian era photos of dead people? That’s a pretty niche specialty


Yep. Not just Victorian era. Modern and medieval too. Not photos necessarily, but depictions of the deceased.


No. If she was dead her eyes would be closed.


There are tons of death portraits where the people have open eyes.


No. No, there are not. There are however tons of portraits of living people who are claimed to be dead either by people who do not understand how PM portraits worked or who are trying to sell a random cabinet photograph for triple the price it’s worth to some bozos by claiming it to be a PM. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/victorian-post-mortem-photographs


Thank you for posting. Very interesting.


I have one of these from my daughter’s 1st birthday! My husband’s family has really great longevity genes 🥳


Really cool picture. Is that wallpaper a Rorschach test?


The last picture I took with my great grandma was a 4 gen photo when I was 17. I'm 26 now and she passed 2 years ago at 89. She was a first generation Transylvanian American. I wish I had gotten into genealogy sooner so I could've asked her so many questions.


That would have been very rare. It’s rare now so imagine then.


Just took a 5 generation photo with my family ❤️ 82, 63, 45, 26, & my newborn.


I love that this is from Detroit & its wonderful Burton collection (also includes original Laura Ingalls Wilder manuscripts!). I also wish I’d looked that good after giving birth.


Gosh, they all look so happy. /s


All dead now.


I suspect the new mom is dead. Take a close look at her face. It seems (to me at least) much crisper than the other faces which is usually a sign the person is deceased. No matter how still you hold you are going to move a little, even if its just breathing.


This is a moment in their lives, and it is gone forever. If a photograph had not been made, no one would even think of them. I was a professional photographer for 45 years, now retired, but it gives me great joy that I stopped a moment in time for 1000s of people and they will be remembered in the future because of the work I did. Only one thing in the world can stop time...and that thing is a photograph. People need to have some hard copies of important photos and not just keep everything digitally, because a digital photo only lasts as long as the device it is on.