Family Celebrates 146 Birthdays Hanging with “Our” Little Sister
On June 16, 1876, my great grandmother, Cinda Stufflebeam received Currier and Ives' Little Sister lithograph for her birthday.
It seems like an odd present for a 16-year-old to receive from Lizzie and Austin Eveland, her sister and brother-in-law. Was it something she asked for? Was it tucked away in her hope chest, waiting for the day it would hang in her own home? Or did it hang prominently on her bedroom wall??
Seven years later, she married Polish immigrant August Selensky. Afterward, they set up housekeeping in LaFayette Township, Bremer County, Iowa. Cinda's family have treasured the lithograph, as it has been passed down through the generations.. Whether Kate inherited Little Sister or she too received it as a 16th birthday gift is a question I should have asked. But, for forty years following Cinda's death, the lithograph hung in her daughter Kate's apartment and later in her room at Western Nursing Home in Cedar Falls. Then, on the occasion of my sixteenth birthday, Kate gifted Little Sister to me.
Currier and Ives, headquartered in New York City, had a long history. From 1835 to 1907 they produced prints from fine artists as black and white lithographs which were hand-colored. The company produced more than a million prints in the company's 72-year history. The most easily recognized prints are winter scenes, and portraits.
Although Currier and Ives sell for tens of thousands of dollars at auction, Little Sister isn't one of high value. But to me, she's irreplaceable, especially with the handwritten 3 x 5 card tacked onto the back of the frame that tells Little Sister's history with the Stufflebeam and Selensky families.
To follow my great Aunt Kate's example, on the occasion of her 16th birthday, I will gift Little Sister to our granddaughter. Until then, great grandma's lithograph will continue to hang on our bedroom wall.
What a great story, and what a treasure! I have a few small items that belonged to my parents, and that I remember being around from my earliest childhood, but nothing passed down from earlier generations. You are very lucky!
I am very lucky, León! My family certainly knew what heirlooms to keep and the wisdom to document their origins for future generations to treasure!