A Beautiful Orphan With Her Doll c. 1911
Hassler took a series of photographs of the residents of the asylum sometime between 1911 and 1912. Hassler’s other photographs, many of the Bronx and its people, are housed at The New York Historical Society.
Unfortunately Hassler did not identify who this little girl is or her age. She looks to be about three-years-old. If you click on the photo to enlarge, you will see that Hassler’s photo is a masterpiece of portraiture. Hassler put his camera low to the ground to capture the moment. He framed the shot perfectly. It looks as if the picture is a modern one and his subject’s face is more twenty-first century than early twentieth century. The little girl’s expression is somewhere between one of bemusement and happiness. A photographer taking your picture was a special occurrence. It certainly helps the overall image that Hassler’s subject is tremendously photogenic and cute.
The Big Question – Who Is She?
Searching through various records to find out who the girl is, was fruitless. I was hoping someone did a feature article in one of the many periodicals of the day about the asylum and its residents – but no luck. And looking through many other photos taken at the asylum yielded no other pictures of this girl. There was one other photo that might have contained this child, but it was not clear enough to be definitive.
I looked at this photo for a long time and wondered: Who is she? What happened that she ended up here? Where was her mother? Was she ever adopted? Did she marry and have children? Did she have a happy life? Is there anybody who is alive today who would recognize this little girl as their mother or grandmother?
The only certainty is that she is now dead.
And I can only wonder…