A Grand, if not Royal, Wedding Portrait by
(354 Stories)

Prompted By Vintage Photos

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March 5, 1895. That is the caption in my photo album. These are my grandparents, Samuel Sarason and “Lizzie” (Fruma Leah) Prensky (changed to Prentis by her younger brother Meyer in 1925) on their wedding day in St. Louis, MO, as referenced on the bottom of the photo.

I love everything about this photo. I love the photographer’s fancy marque at the bottom. How beautiful they both were (you can’t tell, but Sam had red hair and blue eyes…LOVE the bushy mustache). How beautifully they were dressed. I don’t know if the clothes were borrowed, rented, owned, hand-me-downs, but don’t they look spectacular? They don’t smile and look so stiff, perhaps a bit frightened of what lay ahead. That was the style for photographs in that era and I cherish this one, so old now, not even 20th century.

She was SO beautiful. He met her in his sister’s boarding house, returning there after being on the road, selling his wares across Arkansas and Mississippi. He loved her instantly. He was much older; she was just 19, he was 28 at the time of the marriage, already a prosperous man. He had been in this country 12 years. She went to night school to learn to read and write English well. The Prenskys were intellectuals.

I never knew them, as they were deceased long before I was born. I was named for her. When I was being dramatic in my teens, I worried that I might have her chemical imbalance, for she was bipolar, but they didn’t know that when this photo was taken. They were happy and in love. This was the beginning, before they had 8 children and it all fell apart.


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: grandparents, 1895, antique clothing
Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Terrific story, Betsy. You really captured with a personal family moment and an era. That said, would be most interested to hear from you in some later story how ” it all fell apart” — though I assume that Lizzie’s bi-polarity played a role in that.

    Also, though this is an early post on the topic, I am betting that this will be the oldest photograph to be submitted. I think for most people, “vintage” means simply “before I was born.”

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Yes, John. It was my grandmother’s bi-polar condition that led to complications in the family structure (and to her having 8 children…the last two, including my father, were to “cure” her!).

  2. Suzy says:

    Wonderful photo, Betsy! I love their wedding clothes, and their beautiful, serious faces, and the fireplace with the mantel clock, and the chair on which he rests his hand. . . . Every detail so perfect. You are lucky to have it!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, Suzy. I have a framed version on the wall of my study, but it has faded. This one was in my father’s photo album, so now is mine and is intact. I agree, all the details are so special. As I thought about it this morning (I wrote the piece days ago), I realized Queen Victoria was still alive when this photo was taken!

  3. When framed by such personal narrative, these photos DO come alive. One is tempted to write volumes in a storm of semiotic analysis, que no? On a more mundane note, the date suggests quite an age gap between your grandparents and parents. My father’s parents didn’t have kids until they were in their late thirties, giving the same sense of distance from a time long ago.l

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Yes, I could have written more, but tried to just talk about the photo. My dad was the youngest of the eight children, but the two of them did start having children right away. My dad didn’t marry until he was 32 and was 39 when I was born, so that’s a huge gap between between Lizzie and me! She died in 1937 (Sam in 1934, I have his will…my cousins know I am the family historian and really love having all this stuff).

  4. John Zussman says:

    An exquisite account of a beautiful picture. We know, in retrospect, what your grandparents didn’t—which makes the story all the more poignant. I like the way you allude to future problems at the end while preserving the beauty and happiness of this moment frozen in time.

  5. Wendy Ng says:

    Wonderful picture capturing a wedding moment in time. I’ve been “off” of Retrospect for awhile, but have been talking to people about the stories so decided to come back and read yours. Thank you!

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