Jennie Fuller

Mr. Ayer with his second wife, Martha Lawson, on the porch of Ayrmont.

Sometime around 1905, Jennie Fuller acquired a 4 x 5 view camera and tripod and began taking photographs. Some were of relatives who came to visit the Fuller home on Turnpike Road in the town of Meredith, in Delaware County in upstate New York.
Other photographs were taken around the town, like this view of the hamlet of Meridale.
Still others were taken at the residence of the town’s leading citizen, Francis Wayland Ayer, the Philadelphia advertising magnate who founded Meridale Farms, the largest dairy producer in the state during its heyday before World War I.
She also photographed some of the other local residents.
About 1911, after she married, Jennie stopped taking formal portraits and began to photograph her own family and friends in a more casual and intimate style, concentrating on life around her farmhouse, especially after 1921 when her only child Mabel was born. During this time, most of her day was spent taking care of her family or working in the fields alongside her husband Earl.
The photographs in the Gallery section are mostly from this period. I found them in a few albums that Mabel, now 87, showed me when I visited her at the suggestion of her friend Willy Jurjens, with whom I am working on a collection of old photos about Meridale Farms, to be donated to our town historical society. As soon as I saw them, I knew they were special. Like all family photos, they record private moments and events, yet these speak in a different language, at once extraordinarily intimate and public. They glow with a soft inner light. They reveal private life as though it were a kind of grand spectacle, to be celebrated and cherished.

We have only a brief glimpse – a few faded and scratched snapshots are all that remain. Some of these Mrs. Fuller turned into postcards, apparently sent to friends, but there are no negatives, and no way to tell if these are all or just a part of a larger body of work. In any case, I believe they are worth preserving and have restored them in Photoshop in an effort to return them as much as possible to their original condition.

Bob Rosen

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