Every good story starts with mystery.
And every mystery starts with a story.
Two days ago, I just felt like I had to look at a small “picture” in my office. I’ve looked at it my whole life, though not always in my own home or office. It had been in my godmother’s home – she said my grandmother gave it to her and told her to give it to me.
It’s a small thing, and old thing – simple black frame, bright red felt (almost like a matting) behind a vivid “postcard” featuring a Victorian era girl, herself dressed in vivid red…holding a chicken. Yes, holding a chicken. Which, by itself could be a mystery unto itself: “Why is she holding a chicken while wearing such pretty clothes?” or “Did little Victorian girls run around holding chickens as pets like Paris Hilton used to carry a little dog?”
Yet, that wasn’t the mystery. The postcard said: “Compliments of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company” and on the bottom: “see back”. So, my coworker and I opened up the back of the frame. On the back of the frame was paper pasted to it that listed much information about the insurance company in the year 1893, but it was already separated from the back, so we lifted that to remove the card board backing.
This revealed that between the card board and the red felt was another “picture”, completely unrelated to the card on the other side of the felt. This picture had the number 235 written on the back. And, this image, hidden behind the bright red felt and the vibrant smiling chicken girl, is one of the creepiest images I have ever seen. Black and white, it is a depiction of “Little Nell and her Grandfather” the characters from the famous Dicken’s novel: “ The Old Curiosity Shop”. Immediately, I became obsessed with why this image was “hidden” behind the other one, and researched the image – to basically no avail. Can’t find the artist’s name or virtually any information on the image.
Having exhausted myself with those internet searches, I turned my attention to the original image – the chicken girl – for research. The artist was the commercial illustrator, Maud Humphrey Bogart, born in 1868 in Rochester, NY, an hour from where my family lived. She was also the mother to Humphrey Bogart. That, in and of itself was pretty exciting. On the back of the card were written the capital letters “GB”. And there is printing, like a stamp, over the Metropolitan Insurance info that says : “JOS. MOSS” ( A date I cannot read but I think is Sep) and an address: “127 Main Street, 1st Floor, Dansville, NY.” I cannot find any information about that company.
I’ve been thinking… It’d just be fun to make up a story to go along with this tiny mystery – Why a picture was under a picture (likely no special reason)? Who is GB? Who is the artist of “Nell and her Grandfather”? Who is JOS MOSS? Are either of these images valuable? Why the number 235 on the back of the “Little Nell” image?
I may just go ahead and make up a story to go with these things. For now, I want to put the images out there and see if anyone can shed any light on my little mystery. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org with with any information you might have to help me shed light on things - I will credit you with any info and post it.