Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sentimental Sunday - Women with Hats - Catharine & Bessie Rice

These pictures were in a small lot I bought and although at first I thought these two beautiful young women might be actresses, after some research I discovered them to be sisters born a year apart.  Their appearance is very close with Bessie having very angular features and Catharine's more rounded.  Bessie Ellison Rice was born January 1880 in Wilmington, New Castle, Delaware to Edward Luff Rice, Jr. and Mary Ellison Rice.    Catharine was born in Dec 1878 so these girls were born thirteen months apart to a very young mother.  Edward and Mary were married on 23 Feb 1878, Edward was an architect and fifteen years older than Mary.  In the 1880 census of Wilmington, Mary, age 19 was living with parents, James M. and Jane Ellison along with her brother and sister and her two children, Catharine P. Rice age 1 and Bessie E. Rice age 5 months.  I found her husband Edward, age 34 living in Denver, Arapaho, Colorado working as an architect.  Both listed their marital status as married.  One has to wonder why they were separated and living so far apart, perhaps Edward was getting his start as an architect.

Bessie Ellison Rice April 1898
The back of this picture & one of Catharine's are dedicated to Mr. J. William Goodman, Jr. - I could not find out who he was.  There may be an interesting story here.

Catharine P. Rice 1898
In 1900 Edward and Mary are living together in Wilmington, Delaware with Catharine age 21, Bessie age 20, mother-in-law, Sarah J. Ellison, her companion Ida Bacon, two nephews Edward A. Ryon and E. Francis Ellison and one servant Rachel Kenton.  There were two Edward Luff Rices in Wilmington in this time period, my subject was born on 5 Dec 1848 and the other one born 16 Sep 1846.  I suspect they were cousins with the same grandfather.  My subject was the son of Edward Luff Rice Sr and Mary Ann (Robinson) Rice according to his application for membership into the Sons of the American Revolution in 1921.
Catharine P. Rice 1897

Catharine & Bessie Rice 1901

In the 1910 Wilmington census Catharine age 27 and Bessie age 26 are both still living with their parents Edward and Mary.  After that I could not find a trace of either of them again. I found their parents in the 1920 and 1930 censuses, Edward still listed as an architect even at age 81.  A death certificate was filed for Edward listing his death date as 28 Jan 1933.  The informant was Elsie Patterson - I'm not sure who this was but Patterson appears to be Catharine's middle name so probably a close relative.  All in all this was an interesting story and a fun project, and I really wish I knew what happened to Catharine and Bessie.

**Photographer information:  The photographer was Harry E. Bucher, born 16 Feb 1864 in Delaware to Emile Bucher and Lucy C. (Jaquet) Bucher both born either in Germany (as listed on Harry's death certificate) or France as listed on the censuses.  Harry was still living with his parents in 1900 at age 36 and working as a photographer.  According to numerous Wilmington City directories, he had a studio at 720 Market Street.  In the 1882 - 1885 city directory his father was also listed as either owning or working at a saloon.  On 14 Dec 1901 Harry married Emily J. Burns daughter of Robert A. and Anna Burns.  I did not find him in the 1910 or 1920 census, but in 1930 I found him divorced, living with his sister Louisa G. Mills and occupation listed as retired photographer.  According to a Delaware State Certificate of Death he died 10 Mar 1932 in Wilmington, the informant was Louise Mills (sister).


  1. Beautiful hat and beautiful pictures. The addition of last photo where they are portrayed sideways makes it special.

    1. Yes, I thought the last photo was beautiful and showed the how close the sisters were.

  2. Yes I agree with Rob. The last one is strikingly handsome. A beautiful pair and all the better for names and dates. I enjoyed the bit on Mr. Bucher, as the photographers often provide a good story too. His parents are likely from Alsace/Lorraine which was that contested area of France/Germany captured by the Germans and not returned until 1918.

    1. Thank you, the info on Alsace/Lorraine was very interesting and certainly makes sense. I wondered why there were two totally different takes on their origin.

  3. What beautiful photos. Bessie Ellison Rice in her gorgeous hat is just stunning.


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