The photo above is of Helen’s mother, Louisa, our letter recipient, and her siblings, taken circa 1875. Louisa is in the back center, the tallest figure in the photo. These are the Hungerbuehler’s of 1520 North Franklin Street, Philadelphia.
They are: Amelia, Alma, Alberta, Louisa, Laura, Flora, and Conrad. A rhythmic litany of Victorian names: Amelia, Alma, Alberta, Louisa, Laura, Flora, and Conrad.
These are the aunts and uncles of Helen on her mother’s side. They were part of her life – enriching it, I believe. All of these names are mentioned in Helen’s letters, often in reference to receiving letters from them. So, we know Helen was supported by a rich family life.
I’ve identified Louisa and it’s obvious which person in the photo is Conrad. I cannot, at this time, identify who’s who regarding the other five sisters. But I do have a bit of information on most of the Hungerbeuhlers of 1520 North Franklin Street:
Alberta (“Aunt Bert”), was an artist and every one in our family seems to have one of her wonderful paintings, each in an ornate frame, some quite large – botanical, still life, donkey with a cart, sewing basket with a Ladies Home Journal beside it- illustrations with fine detail, muted colors. She never married and remained in the Franklin Street house. I recently came across a 1918 letter from Helen to Aunt Bert, asking her, ever so coyly, if she would tint a photo of the Arroyo.
“I am going to ask you to do me a big, big favor. Some time – some time, when you have plenty of leisure time ( – such a time never comes, did you say?) will you tint a picture for me?”
Laura married and lived nearby – also in Germantown. A Laura is often mentioned by Helen in her letters. Since she does not refer to her as “Aunt Laura,” perhaps she is a cousin, Laura – maybe the daughter of Aunt Laura. Need more genealogy!
“Tell Laura she better come out here and join the girls that have such beautiful voices.”
It seems that this Laura could sing. My guess is that a reference to “Aunt Laura” will appear.
Amelia married and I’m not sure if she also lived nearby. Helen writes in her December 29, 1917 letter that,” Aunt Amelia sent money.”
Uncle Conrad was an optometrist and never married. His medical office was on the second floor of the Franklin Street house. Helen often expresses her desire to share her experiences with him.
“I wish Uncle Conrad could hear him (Dr. Evans), too. He is brilliant.”
Alma also never married and stayed in the Franklin Street house. She may have worked as a secretary.
“Your delightful letter came Monday, Aunt Alma’s came then, too.”
Flora married and had a son named Harry. “Cousin Harry” is referred to by Helen in her letters. He is high school age when Helen leaves Philadelphia in 1914. She mentions receiving letters from Aunt Flora – often mentions cousin Harry .
“Tell Harry I haven’t forgotten that I haven’t yet written to him about Mr. Ward’s experience (with Navajo Indians in Arizona).
The Hungerbueuhlers, according to Helen’s daughter, Betty (Aunt Betty), were “very aware of things -alert.” I know from Helen’s daughter, Helena (Mimi), that “the aunts were readers.” They sent the best in children’s literature to Betty and Helena when they were in China along with fine clothing from Wanamaker’s. ( Wanamaker’s comes up often in the letters!) We also have a child’s dress that belonged to Helena, from her childhood in China, with a Strawbridge and Clothier label – no doubt from one of the aunts.
We get the picture that the Hungerbuehlers of Franklin Street are a refined and educated Philadelphia family who maintain close family ties – and ties to the Franklin Street house which remained in the family until 1965.
Helen sometimes playfully referred to those still living in the house during the period of the letters, as the “1520ites.” We know that would include at least Helen’s Grandmother, “Grossmama;” her grandfather, John Conrad, whom she sometimes affectionately referred to as “Old Man Smuckles;” Uncle Conrad, Alma and Alberta.
More about the Franklin Street house in the next post.
Then, we have to get to the Ottens, Helen’s paternal family: Uncle Henry (Harry), the Ottens Louisa did not marry, and who is a story unto himself; and cousin Charles who is frequently mentioned in the letters. As if the Hungerbuehlers were not enough family!