Archives for posts with tag: vintage


Some Christmas gifts are always in style, always exciting. Riding toys of any sort but especially bicycles or tricycles inspire joy in 1926 or 2016. Richmond In Sight’s collection of my great-grandfather’s photographs prove that. The Harris Stilson Collection includes a few Christmas pictures that could just as easily be now. This tricycle parade was the day after Christmas, 1927 on Carytown’s Grayland Avenue with a neighbor’s mother & grandmother admiring the procession.


That photograph of my father, Howard Lynch, his sister, Norma Kathleen, neighbor Minnie Arnold and an unknown child is as relevant as the picture that follows below. That’s my triplet grandchildren on a popular “trike” variation: no pedals so kids balance themselves and learn to ride a bicycle easier. At least that’s the theory. First, they need to learn to sit on the seat. There’s a reason parents are young…they need stamina!15731824_10154893722050909_7168745008375094271_o

Some folks are never too old for bikes. Harry Stilson tests his grandson’s new bike in this picture and I can almost hear my father pleading for his bike back.


Chia pets, pet rocks, and Cindy Lauper attire pass from favor but some toys are timeless. Dolls, trucks, and little structures endure as favorites. I bought my kids Fisher-Price garages, airports, and houses but these are really, really cool, too. Howard and his friend, Ralph Carr, proudly display their gifts and I wish at least one of those had survived for me to treasure decades later.


Harry looks delighted to be with his grandchildren as they show off their belongings. My aunt Margaret was born with only one full arm but she rode this tricycle and later bicycles and looks thrilled to be doing it.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.


Margaret loved dolls. I have a few of her dolls, still but sadly, her Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll and her Madame Alexander Dionne quintuplet dolls disappeared over the years.  I do, however, have the china tea set that Margaret is using here. Somehow it survived decades in her basement in an open box. The question is: will it survive the grandchildren?


This child below is NOT happy. Don’t know who she is but she’s the sister of a little boy  in other pictures and I’m guessing they are along Harry’s West Clay Line streetcar route in Jackson Ward. I am always hopeful that someone will see one of Harry’s images and recognize a relative. It’s happened before and is always my Christmas wish.


This last image was captured from a Stilson film and is too timely to leave out. The Byrd Theatre opened December 24, 1928 and we believe this may be the first movie matinee. The kids are all wearing Lindy hats, leather aviator caps imitating Charles Lindbergh because he had recently visited Richmond. Howard and Norma certainly wore theirs with pride. There seems to be a history of movie events at Christmas, huh? Perhaps none as significant as the opening of the historic Byrd Theatre but I know lots of families whose holiday traditions include movies, at home like us with The Muppets Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (both the “real people” and the “tartoon” version, as my granddaughter calls it) or at the theater. Traditions are priceless and whatever form they take, they are to be cherished.   022-byrd-kids

As you pick up wrapping paper and try to figure out where to store the presents your children received, remember this: some of those toys will be forgotten tomorrow but a few  will be treasured for generations. I know…the triplets love toys from the past.



Christmas decorating has changed dramatically in the last few years. Think of how much more there is…more kinds of lights, decorations, computer-generated house lighting displays, lasers, all of that. If you’re a Christmas junkie like I am, it’s great but it’s also neat to see how people celebrated Christmas in the early 1900s and, thanks to my great-grandfather’s photographs, we can do that. One indication of how the season was observed is the number of pictures of the Stilson/Lynch family at Christmas that survived: a handful. It wasn’t as long or involved a holiday as is celebrated today. Some photos of unknown families are included in the collection and could have been friends, family, or customers. We’ll probably never know although I’ve learned not to say “never” in the Great Harry Stilson Adventure. When I do, the next day someone contacts me to identify the place or person I was sure would remain a mystery. Like these folks:


I’ve shown these pictures before but they’re still worth a look. When I shared them before, I asked if you recognized anyone. Your aunt Maude, perhaps? That’s how we identify stuff…Richmond In Sight’s detectives include all of Richmond and beyond. You’re part of the Great Adventure, whether you expect to be or not.

What I love about Harry Stilson’s photographs are the connections: to not only the Richmond of today but to our family. It’s cool to see buildings and places from a century ago and know we pass them (or visit them) today. It’s also really cool to examine a Christmas tree my family decorated and know that some of those same ornaments hang from the branches of my tree. I’ve been questioned about the wisdom of exposing these fragile antiques to harm but they survived thus far and I like the continuity. So here’s the present-day version. If you look at Harry’s photographs, you might spot some of the same ornaments on his family Christmas tree.

The plan is to share a few more holiday images in the next few days. As you may have noticed if you follow this blog, sometimes my best plans go awry. Real estate business, triplet grandbabies, presentations, book writing, and more can interfere with my intentions but stay tuned. I’ll try to do better. I really do need to get on Santa’s “nice” list. Time’s running out…

If you follow this blog and Richmond In Sight, you know that our mission is to share photographs taken by my great-grandfather in Richmond between 1909-1934. Harris Stilson was a streetcar motorman, or driver, who carried his camera everywhere. I usually show you photographs of Richmond and its people but today I thought I’d invite you into the house Harry returned to at the end of his streetcar route.

038 HHS coming home.jpg


That house was 3021 Chaffin Street, now Grayland Avenue, in what we call Carytown. He also owned the house next door where his daughter and her family lived. That was convenient for visiting but you can visit, too. Come on in and sit a spell at the Stilson home.

Vera, HHS in lr

Harry’s sister Vera moved in after her husband died. This living room scene (above) shows her tatting on the table, a table in my bedroom now. The painting over the piano was created by my grandmother. I still have it. In another view, you can see Harry’s streetcar cap on the mantle.

living room

Lots of household items in Harry’s photographs have survived and are still being used in my home.  One example: my father is banging a spoon on a tin container  in this hand-tinted picture.

HDL, Spoon, chair  tin pail

Harry’s camera was sight in so many pictures. This view of the hall shows a bookcase with his camera sitting on top of what might be a Victrola but not the one I have. Mine is huge and contains the Stilson family 78 record collection. This child-sized secretary was built by my great-grandmother for her son to match a larger one in the house. Mary Stilson was a carpenter and teacher so this photograph reflects hobbies each loved: Mary’s carpentry and Harry’s photography.  Harry’s camera and movie camera are clearly visible on top of the small secretary.

Stairs, camera  086 secretary,old

That same hall was where the Christmas tree stood. I’d love to have the display under it which must have been lost over time but I do have some of the ornaments on the tree.

Christmas tree   Stilson Christmas ornaments

I’d hate to see what the kitchen looked like before the “remodeling” that Harry described this photo as displaying but the eating nook was cool. Notice that the seats fold into the wall. Salt shaker, teapot, dog nutcracker n the window, all accounted for in the Snow household nearly a century later.

Kitchen  057 grayland kitchen

Dining area

We think Harry developed his photographs in the bathroom, glimpsed from his study in one photograph. I’m not sure if it was upstairs or not but his typewriter (got it) was used for hundreds of letters (got them). When he wasn’t developing pictures, he was catching his grandchildren in the bath.

HHS at desk  HHS desk


Next time we’ll visit the gardens, yard, and a bit of Harry’s neighborhood. I hope you’ll check back for that. You can also go to for more about the Stilson collection and our projects and books based on Harry Stilson’s images.