The Piercing Stare


I found this tintype photograph in an antique shop in Markle, Indiana.  The writing on the sleeve identifies two women; Lois (nee Hart) Robison and Lois’ daughter-in-law, Anna.  It seems the person who wrote the names was giving a family history of sorts.  How can we know which woman is the sitter?  Since I am by no means an expert in Victorian fashion, I consulted with Ann Longmore-Etheridge, a historian and expert in early photography.  Using the details of the clothing, jewelry, and hairstyle, she dated the photo to the mid-1870s with 1878 as the latest possible date. She felt that the sitter was about 13 years of age.  Anne wasn’t born until 1887, so she could not be the sitter.  However, Lois was born in 1865 and was 13 years old in 1878.  Bingo!  Click the link below to learn about Lois’ life!

Lois Hart was born in 1865, daughter of John and Margaret (nee Hawk) Hart. Her parents married September 30, 1858, when her father was 39 and her mother was 13.  I know!  It seems that her age must be wrong.  Surely, a 13-year-old girl wasn’t married to 39-year-old man ?  I double and triple checked her birth year.  First, I checked all of the census records I had for her and her age was consistent.  Next, I located Margaret’s death certificate.  She died September 4, 1913, in Summit County, Ohio.  I can be sure I had the correct Margaret Hart, as her daughter, Rose Rockwood, was the informant.  Her birth date was listed as December 25, 1844.  I didn’t stop there.  Her parents were listed as Reuben and Marry (nee Rhoads) Hawk.  I located the family on the 1850 census.  On November 1, 1850, they were living in Springfield Township, Summit County, Ohio and Margaret was aged 5 years.  This confirms that she was either born in 1844 and since her birthday was so close that they rounded her age up to 5, or she was born in 1843.  Either scenario and we have a very young, teenage bride.  While by today’s standards, marrying a thirteen-year-old is certainly criminal, in the 1880s the legal age of consent in Ohio was just ten years old.

Lois’ father was a farmer and lived his entire life in Springfield Township, making him one of the earliest pioneers of the community.  He died there, aged 80, on March 5, 1901.  After his death, her mother, Margaret, went to live with Lois’ sister, Rose Rockwood, in Coventry, Summit County, Ohio. Margaret died in Coventry on September 7, 1913, of heart disease.

When Lois was 21 years old, she married Frank Robison on November 11, 1886, in Summit County, Ohio.  The couple had one son, Harry Luther Robison, in 1887.  Frank died in March 1904, and Lois remarried on November 29, 1905, to George B. Wait, a salesman and commercial traveler for a soap company.  Lois died at the age of 50 years, on October 3, 1916, of heart disease.

Lois’ son, Harry, married Anna I. Fricke, daughter of William H Fricke and Magdalina “Lena” nee Miller, on March 12, 1907, in Stark County, Ohio.  The couple had one son, Harold, in 1909 and in 1927 they divorced.  Harry died in 1947 and Anna in 1948.

Census records
Find A Grave
Dressed for the Photographer by Joan Severa
19th Century Card Photos Kwik Guide by Gary W. Clark
John Hart Jr. Obit – Akron Daily Democrat, Akron, Ohio, March 12, 1901
Ohio County Marriages, via
Ohio Deaths, via
Children & Youth in History




6 thoughts on “The Piercing Stare

  1. You are a very good detective. Wow, married at thirteen. Ugh, but then familial support and close communities were there to support young women. At least I hope they did! The photo is beautiful. It is rare to find such helpful information indicated on a photo of this age. Great post!


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