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. 

Currier and Ives Little Sister
Currier and Ives Little Sister

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??

James Austin & Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Stufflebeam Eveland
James Austin & Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Stufflebeam Eveland

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.

August, Kate, Cinda, and Floyd Selensky
August, Kate, Cinda, and Floyd Selensky, circa 1900

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.

History of Little Sister, written by Kate Selensky
History of Little Sister, written by Kate Selensky

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 family heirloom do you treasure most?

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2 Comments

  1. León on January 24, 2022 at 5:09 PM

    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!

    • Cindy Foster on January 27, 2022 at 5:50 PM

      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!

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