The People of Pancho

At Play In The Archive

Keil Family Portraits

Emma Lessiack Keil, born November 24, 1886, was the elder sister of my great-grandfather, Franz Georg Leopold Lessiack. Emma was married to Bruno Max Keil, and their daughter, Wally Keil, was born in New York in late 1912. Based on the size of little Wally, I think these Sol Young studio portraits were probably taken in 1914 or 1915.

I found a very informative article about Sol Young on Brett Payne’s excellent blog, Photo-Sleuth. According to Mr. Payne, “Solomon Young was born in Kraków, Poland…on 7 April 1865. He emigrated to the United States in June 1882 (or 1883) at the age of 17, where he settled in New York and became a naturalised citizen some five years later on 1 August 1888.” By 1915, “New York city directory listings show him with seven branches in New York, and a further studio in Bridgeport (Connecticut) which had been opened two years earlier,” but, other evidence suggests that he had studios, “across New York, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Jersey City and Newark,” at that time. When he died in 1921, Sol Young ran a total of eighteen studios.

I don’t know in which branch these portraits were taken, but I am so very delighted to have the originals. They still look almost new, such was the quality of the paper in use at the time.

KeilsStudio 7

Emma Lessiack Keil, Wally Keil, and Bruno Max Keil. The portrait, taken in one of the studios of Sol Young, is undated.

KeilsStudio 4

The next two portraits of Wally slay me. Apparently, the impulse to dress our kids up in national costumes and force them to pose for embarrassing photographs is universal in my family. For example, here is my own super enthusiastic La Pollera portrait, taken at the insistence of my mother.

Also, like any good CZ girl-brat, I put up with having a Pollera portrait taken per my mother's fond wishes. Don't I look happy about it? Traditiooooon...Tradition! Traditiontiooooooooooooooon!

Later, I tormented my own children in the same manner.


I think that, inside, everyone felt sort of like Wally looks in her German garb: “Are you kidding me with this, People?”

KeilsStudio 3

KeilsStudio 1

Ah, tradition. But you know what? I’d do it all over again. Yes, I would.

Until next time, People.

16 comments on “Keil Family Portraits

  1. bernfeldfamily
    March 27, 2015

    Cute photos. I’m fascinated by traditional styles of dressing and we certainly get a huge variety of that here!


  2. Su Leslie
    March 27, 2015

    These are just so gorgeous. Little Wally really rocked the German costume!


    • Pancho
      March 27, 2015

      Isn’t she the cutest thing? The expression on her face is just priceless.


  3. gpcox
    March 27, 2015

    Each and every one a treasure!


    • Pancho
      March 27, 2015

      Thank you — I feel so lucky to have them, and to have figured out who is pictured.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Amy
    March 27, 2015

    What is La Pollera and what country does that costume represent?


  5. Mom
    March 29, 2015

    And the truth is, I’m much wiser now. My Panamanian friends would shudder at my mixing of a very beautiful La Pollera with the very informal Montuna hat. I was far less knowledgeable in the days when I begged you to pose thusly. Now, I’ve come to appreciate the massive amount of work that goes into a true La Pollera. Real ones, passed down through generations, are hand appliquéd on delicate fabric that has had threads pulled and separated to create a lacy effect. You actually should have been wearing a dozen or more beautiful white “timbleques” made of dried fish scales and pearls in your hair, which should have been swept up off your neck and pinned carefully in a bun. Still, I thank you for your hesitant willingness to pose in the Panamanian finery I assembled. The look on your face remains priceless to me.


    • Pancho
      March 29, 2015

      Melina was a much better sport, as I recall! Still wish I’d had a white one to get married in.


  6. Mom
    March 29, 2015

    And we so easily could have made that happen. Sigh.


  7. gluepot
    April 4, 2015

    Wonderful portraits, Pancho, as befitting those emanating from the Sol Young studio. I haven’t yet seen an example which doesn’t have that high standard.


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