In June of 2000, after my great-grandfather’s second wife had passed away, leaving behind many of his personal effects, I came into possession of an Army Signal Corps photograph of him in full regalia (I think he used to call it the “bus driver photo.”) When I pulled the picture out of the frame, I found a number of other things in there, including a strangely affecting photo of a glossy black spaniel, together with a newspaper clipping that told of “Moppet’s” loss and the priceless wartime rations that were offered for his return.
The photograph was a beautiful studio job, even retouched in spots to touch up Moppet’s fur and add highlights to his (her?) eyes. On the back was stamped the photographer’s credentials: “GEORGIA ENGELHARD, 1211 Madison Avenue, New York, NY.” I had envisioned a posh pet-photography studio, someplace with wall-to-wall carpeting, a piano in the waiting room, and a small table holding scotch in the corner, where overstuffed society matrons went to have their lap dogs photographed by fawning, sycophantic women in severe mouse-gray suits.
Boy, was I wrong.
As you can see from the comment on my “male pantheon of Tikaro” post below, a kind reader named Rosalie let me know that: “I would hang on to the photo — Georgia Engelhard was a fairly famous person in the 20’s — Alfred Stieglitz’s niece, named for Georgia O’Keefe & a daring mountain climber. Google her for more.”
So I did, and I found out that:
“Engelhard often enjoyed a privileged place in Stieglitz’s household where she was referred to as “the Kid” or “Georgia Minor” to avoid confusion with Georgia O’Keeffe. As a child she often painted alongside O’Keeffe, and Stieglitz exhibited her drawings and watercolors at his 291 Gallery when she was only 10 years old. In her early twenties she won prizes for her equestrian skills in international competition and became an accomplished mountain climber, scaling many of the major peaks in the Rockies and the Alps.”
It turns out that Moppet’s immortalizer starred in a 1932 film titled “She Climbs to Conquer“, and is featured in a recent book entitled
Rebel Women, which I’ve just ordered from Amazon. There are also more
of her out there, all seeming to underscore the Fitzgerald-ian mythos: this is a woman that a Gatsbyan would have fallen completely (and probably unrequitedly) in love with. Was the pet photography a wartime sideline, or was my great-grandfather’s wife good enough pals with this mountain-climbing ball of fire to convince her that Moppet was a good character study?