5/9/12

The MYSTERIOUS WOMAN from Elgin, Illinois


No information about this lovely lady with the Mona Lisa smile or the photographer, S. M. Adams, in Elgin, Illinois. She reminds me of the character Alma Garret from the tv show Deadwood. The part was played by actress Molly Parker. I briefly met Molly Parker at an event held for Deadwood. She was beautiful with delicate features; really stunning.


Click on image to see it larger.

I look at this woman and think about the life the character Alma lived. She was married to a wealthy man from New England who imagined himself capable of striking it rich in the lawless town of Deadwood. Alma did as she was told, but dealt with her life by taking laudanum.

In the book Deadwood: Stories of the Black Hills by David Milch, Molly Parker wrote the following about Alma:

“Alma comes to Deadwood and is reborn. She is very smart. She doesn’t think she’s very smart. She comes thinking that this is the end of her life, thinking that she’s married to this man that she hates, and she’s just going live out her days high. She comes to this place thinking her life is over and she is given this opportunity to reinvent herself, and she is born again.”

What became of this woman? Did she marry wealth, someone prominent in Elgin? Did she travel great distances in hopes of finding herself, or did she live her entire life within the small world of a small town? It would be very easy to write a variety of stories about her. That’s now her lot in life. She’s nothing more than an image from the past which stimulates my imagination.

To see a few other photos by the photographer, S. M. Adams, click here, here, and here. And here and here are shots he took of a home called the Bowen House. I could easily imagine this woman living in this house, a mystery behind the curtains.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your pencils. There's a gold mine just waiting to be found in her stories.

UPDATE: From reader WYJ comes the following about S. M. Adams. Thank you!
Your photographer is most likely Spencer M. Adams. He was born in Elgin, Illinois in 1852. His father, John M. Adams was also a photographer. There was a J.M. Adams and Son studio in Elgin from 1884 to 1885. There was either an S.M. Adams or Spencer M Adams studio, in Elgin, from 1885 to 1922. Don't know when he died.

11 comments:

  1. It seems I've heard of S.M. Adams before, or maybe have some of his photos as well! She is very lovely! Thanks for sharing these wonderful old time photos, the mystery is one that would be fun to try and solve!

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  2. If you find other photos by him and post them let me know. I'd love to see them.

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  3. Your photographer is most likely Spencer M. Adams. He was born in Elgin, Illinois in 1852. His father, John M. Adams was also a photographer. There was a J.M. Adams and Son studio in Elgin from 1884 to 1885. There was either an S.M. Adams or Spencer M Adams studio, in Elgin, from 1885 to 1922. Don't know when he died.

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  4. Such a beautiful woman! I was shocked as I started reading your post, I have a post tomorrow about a couple from Deadwood! I really never knew anything about Deadwood until I researched this couple and the town. Very interesting stuff. I'm going to have to go back watch that show.

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  5. I love the show Deadwood, but it won't be everyone's cup of tea. The language is strong and adult, and you need to get into the rhythm of it as if you were listening to Shakespeare. It's one of my all time favorite shows. Just be forewarned. Some people cannot get past the language which gives the show so much texture. That and Wu's pigs.

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  6. That's a lovely portrait. Too many fall unidentified like this one.

    I have two cabinet cards by J. C. Adams but he was in Fort Wayne, IN, two hundred miles away from Elgin, IL.

    There is a CDV by S. M. Adams for sale here:
    http://www.scrapsofamericanhistory.com/store/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=429

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  7. Oh yes, I saw that one. I was tempted to put it as a link, but then decided it might become a dead link too quickly.

    I wonder if Adams had two studios far apart?

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  8. Anonymous4/20/2014

    Thanks for this information. I have quite a few photos by Adams as my family is from Elgin. I'm trying to get an idea of when they were taken. Thanks!!!

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome. Should you find more, and wish to share, let me know

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    2. Anonymous9/17/2016

      We found an old bible with some pictures from sm photography from Elgin Illinois the only name we could find on it was E Lee. There are about 7 family pictures from him along with 2 photos from Edgar Moran photography from Ackley Iowa. If anybody has any information about them or where these photos came from please let me know.

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    3. Wish I could help, but I have no information. Hopefully someone will eventually come along with some information.

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