Ida F. Drew School  for Girls Album 1892-1893 - Title Header and Image Map

The collection and organization of personal mementoes, such as signatures, poems, trade cards, invitations, and photographs for inclusion in personal albums and scrapbooks was a popular pastime for many 19th-century young women. With the invention of box cameras such as the Kodak at the end of the century, many young women could not only gather and arrange photographic mementoes, but photograph the images themselves. This album compiled by Ida F. Drew while a student at the Ogontz School for Girls represents this pastime pursued by so many women of her era.

Main Building (former mansion of Jay Cooke), Ogontz Album, detail from p. 23.

Drew, a Chicago native studied at Ogontz, a boarding and day school in Elkins Park, Pa. between 1889 and 1893. The institution, founded as the Chestnut Street Seminary in Philadelphia in 1850, relocated to financier Jay Cooke's estate, Ogontz (built circa 1866), in 1883. The students, comprised of young women ages 13-18 from wealthy families throughout the United States, received a liberal arts education that included humanities, science, and physical education classes as well as military drills that are visually represented in several of the photographs in the album.

Ogontz Album, p. 26.

The album compiled by Drew contains over 200 photographs documenting her social life at and away from school during 1892-1893. The majority of the views show her classmates, friends, and presumably her family during informal and recreational gatherings, often playfully posing for the camera. Candid views taken around the campus predominately show the same young women posed in smalls groups or as individuals near the main building. The high social and economic status of the students is evident by the young women’s attire, including capes, furs, muffs, and hats with netting.

Ogontz students, Ogontz Album, detail from p. 9

Snapshots during Drew’s time away from the school were also photographed. These photographs mainly show candid scenes during vacations, including Old Comfort Point, Virginia and Mackinack Island, Michigan, of young men and women cavorting, sailing, swimming, and riding in carriages.

Ogontz Album, p. 23

The album also contains a number of photographs by professional Philadelphia photographer H. Parker Rolfe who photographed formal views of the campus to be sold to the students as mementos of their days at Ogontz. These formal views show the school’s exterior and interiors as well as playfully posed group portraits of Drew and her classmates. The campus images document the ornately decorated dorm rooms inhabited by the young women as well as the finely-furnished parlors, elegant dining hall, lush plant conservatory, theater, and corridors frequented by the female students.

Ogontz Album, p. 9.

One view shows a corridor decorated with Native American artifacts. These decorations probably reflect the origin of the name of the estate, later the school, after the Cooke family house, “Ogontz,” in Ohio, named for Native American Chief Ogontz.

Corridor with Native American artifacts, Ogontz Album, detail from p. 21.

The professionally photographed group portraits show Drew’s class posed at the main gate of the campus, the porch of the main building, on a tennis court, and at other bucolic sites on the campus.

Ogontz Album, p. 31.

Group portrait at main gate, Ogontz Album, detail p. 31.

Rolfe’s photographs also document students at work in well-equipped classrooms studying science, geography, astronomy, history, and art.

Science class, Ogontz Album, detail p. 13.

In addition, the album also includes photographs of an unidentified lake resort; young ladies using hand-held box cameras; a blind African-American panhandler; and portraits of family pets, including horses.

Ogontz Album, p. 21.

Ogontz Album, p. 40. Hand-held cameras provided more women with the opportunity to engage in photography and compile albums of snapshots of their own work in the late 19th century.

Erika Piola, Visual Materials Cataloger

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