When was this photo taken? Where was this taken? Who is she? 

Lady with Necklace and Book

This is a photo that has been in my mother's house as long as I can remember. My mother did not know who this lady was.

I put the photo on this web page, several years ago, and asked my third cousin Stan Goodman, in Israel if he could help read the Russian lettering on the back. He wrote back with: "Artistic Photography G. Rudy in Ostrow, Lomza Gub." He knew (and I didn't) that the only Ostrow in Lomza Gubernia (province) is Ostrow Mazowiecka. Then I contacted Stanley Diamond (Montreal, Canada) because of his connections to Ostrow Mazowiecka. He forwarded my message to the "Ostrow Maz. Research Family." Shortly thereafter Michael Richman (Maryland) wrote: "I can't identify the lady, but I recently saw a photo printed on the same type of card, from about 1902. The photographer is listed in the Vsia Russia business directory as Josef Zelmanovich Ruda (as of 1895). At least that gives us the general time period." Michael also said that the photo he had seen had a large piece of tape of the back. Now he could see the whole back with the address of the studio, on Glowna Street and a name for the house, since there may not have been street numbers at that time. <Back of photocard>

My grandparents came from Lomza Gubernia. The town of Lomza is 27 miles from Ostrow Mazowiecka. My grandfather was born in Goworowo and his family lived there for many years. Lomza was a big town and likely to have a photographer, but Goworowo was much smaller and not far from Ostrow Maz. People did travel to larger towns to have photos taken.

Notice the wall behind the chair. <Close up> What looks like wallpaper higher up, ends in a roll. Could that be a decorated screen that has been rolled down, to resemble a wallpapered room. Might this not be a room, but a porch or the outside of a building? Is the rug on the floor really on a floor, or perhaps on the ground? If the photo was taken by a travelling photographer, he might bring the props in a wagon and set up in small towns in the region. Notice that the decorative white lace on the chair back is not well attached and has come loose in places. Has that chair been travelling?

In the close up of her head, you can see that this woman is wearing a wig. That kind of wig is quite common in that time and place. It is likely to be her own. However the clothes and jewelry might not be hers. Photographers often supplied clothing and accessories for adults and children, to help them look more prosperous and more up to date. Even the book might be a prop.

It was not unusual for travelling photographers to bring their film back to town to develop and print. They would then attach them to a card backing, which advertised their studio. Delivery might be made on the next trip to the shtetl, or on market day when someone from the shtetl travelled to the photographer's town.


My grandfather left Poland in 1895. Perhaps he brought this photo with him to America. My grandmother left Lomza 5 years later. This woman might have been from her family.

Any ideas to help identify her? Can we guess her age?
(Michael Richman says his great-great-grandfather was holding a book in the circa 1902 photo. What message does a photo of a book send in the 1890s?)

Compared to the woman in the Nesvizh photo, this lady is more modern. The furniture and decoration look late Victorian. How far behind London are the fashions of Lomza Gubernia in the 1890s?

Back of photo of lady with necklace
Back of photocard above

You can contact me at: rkimble@uoregon.edu
updated August 2005

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