Emma (Vig) Froiland (1885-1978) was the youngest child born to Nels and Lovise Vig. This is the same Emma (Vig) Froiland who, shortly before her death, relayed family tradition about Nels and Lovise' immigration. See the Genealogy.SE question, "Immigrating from Norway ..."

Emma married at her home in Avalanche, Wisconsin to Carl M. Froiland in 1906. [Wisconsin Marriages (index) and Emma (Vig) Froiland interview (1977)]. Carl and Emma had three children, born 1907, 1914 and 1922; Carl died in 1927. Emma died at Viroqua, Wisconsin.

My memories of Emma are from the 1960s and 1970s, when she was 80-90 years of age. I remember an Emma fluent in Norwegian and always active; conservative and quite strict.

I later learned that Emma wrote both music and poetry. I have some of her poetry and recently found her name listed in the 1939 Catalog of Copyright Entries: Musical Compositions for a song, "Then I knew I loved you."

Though I remember Emma later in her life, I found the picture of a young Emma, below, in a collection of family photographs. I have scanned and shared the photograph with others but have never been able to estimate the date the photograph was taken.

  • the photograph had already been removed from its backing or enclosure, so I also don't have the benefit of knowing the studio or photographer name (which might help estimate the date)
  • the paper is heavy, but not stiff
  • there is no border around the photo, nor is the edge raised or embossed

Other than the difference in size, no alterations were made to the graphic reproduction. I'm hoping the experts here might be able to help date the photograph.

P.S. May we all live to be 93 and leave such a great photo behind.

enter image description here

  • The hat makes me guess 1900s or 1910s, but I'm by no means an expert.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 2:27
  • @πLuke It is quite a hat, isn't it. If she didn't have that muff, we'd be able to see if she was wearing a wedding ring. If you have a reference for your thought, perhaps convert your comment to an answer.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 2:34
  • Well, the age of her face would be safely between 20 and 50 (1905 and 1935). Definitely not 1920s, judging by the hat. The description here quite fittingly describes the photo. However, I don't have the experience required with photo-dating to really give it an accurate date.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 2:46
  • 1
    Didn't know if you had seen this, preview.wisconsinhistory.org/… Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 23:30
  • 1
    The hat and coat look very fine. This may give some clues to the stage of life she was in at the time of the photo. Have you found any information showing that she married 'up' or was she from a middle class family that could afford fine clothes? Considering that she married at about age 21 and the first few years of marriage can be difficult - was her husband already established in a well paying career or would it have taken a few years to afford fine clothes? This might help you to decide if it was pre-marriage, around the time of marriage, or a few years after. Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 9:51

3 Answers 3


(Mad fool that I am, I shall try....)

Working from "Family Photographs & How to Date Them" (Jayne Shrimpton, 2008), I find in the chapter on 1900-1909, a reference to "a fashionable woman's hat in the flat wide shape of the mid-decade". The photo in the book looks not unlike this, else I wouldn't dare to offer an opinion!

Her sleeves bear no trace of the 1890s "leg of mutton" round the shoulder and upper arm that gives one of the few diagnostics I can easily recognise. But that's logical anyway, based on who it is.

Caveat - this is a British book and I've no idea about the time-lag of fashion.

And yes, great photo!


One way to attack this type of problem is to copy the image (or a major portion of it) into Google Search. The tool will then return a set of visually similar images (if it cannot actually identify the one you upload).

The theory is that if you get a cluster of similar images all made about the same time showing similar fashion features, then you have probably identified a window in which you pic was taken.

In the case of Aunt Emma, this did not work BUT it did find an interesting connection.

The odd placement of the hands held high in a fur muff is VERY SIMILAR to the Portrait of Madame Mole-Raymond, 1786 made by the female Rococo artist, Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun. I find it difficult to believe that this pose is anything but an homage to Le Brun.

Was Aunt Emma a fan of 18th century portraiture and would have suggested the pose? Or did the photographer set out to copy the famous picture. If you could find an early 20th century magazine article illustrating the work of Le Brun, then I suggest you will have found the time when the picture was taken.


A suggestion would be to see if an expert might be kind enough to try to date it for you:

In Los Angeles: http://blog.fidmmuseum.org/museum/

The V&A in London: "The Museum’s collection of dress and accessories is of international importance. It covers fashionable dress from the 17th century to the present day, with the emphasis on progressive and influential designs from the major fashion centres of Europe. Enquiries about textiles and fashion: [email protected]"

There will be others.

What is strange is that I would hazard an estimate that the fashion she is wearing is about 1898 but her age makes the photo look about 1913. Go figure. Maybe she was deliberately retro. If you find out, let us all know.

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