The Otto Hellwig house in Melsungen
c. late 1860's


Click here or on the picture to see a full-resolution image

(JPEG, 1.1 MB)


Click here to see the back, containing a message

in German (JPEG, 717 KB)


Since we believe Otto was born about 1800 and died about 1872 this picture was probably taken around the late 1860’s.  It cannot have been taken much earlier since it is an albumen print, and albumen prints do not date from earlier than the early 1860’s.  Even if it is a copy of an earlier daguerrotype (which seems unlikely) the original picture would not date from before the early 1850's.  Here is a transcription and translation of the message on the back (by me, Conrad Terrill, Jan. 2012):

Transcription:  “Dieses Haus ist unser Stamm haus in Melsungen (od.[oder?] Hebenshausen) bei Kassel in Hessen.  Auf der Treppe ein Onkel von uns (ich glaube Heinrich[)] — Links neben der Treppe steht unser Grossvater.  Dieses Bild ist wohl 100 jahre alt, wie unsere Väter noch Kinder waren.  Ich habe fur Dich eine Kopie machen lassen.

Translation:  “This house is our (home base)? in Melsungen ((or)? Hebenshausen) near Kassel in Hesse.  On the stairs an uncle of ours (I think Henry[)] – To the left of the stairs stands our grandfather.  This picture is probably 100 years old, as our fathers were still children.  I can make a copy for you.

We think the picture was sent (see item 4 of Charlotte Ritter's notes for explanation) around 1924 by a son of Otto's son George, to Otto J. Hellwig, a son of Otto's son Justus.  If this is the case then the picture was certainly not 100 years old, but perhaps 60.  The fathers of  the sender and the recipient were about 30 years old in the mid-1860's, so they were not the children in the picture.  By “Stamm haus” (home base) we think the writer meant that that was where the scattered descendant families gathered for special occasions, such as Christmas.  We don’t yet understand “Melsungen (od.[er] Hebenshausen),” since Hebenshausen was a separate place, about 25 miles northeast of Melsungen.

The house, with a store on its first floor, was built by Otto Hellwig himself.  The picture was taken from the end of the bridge over the river Fulda (the construction of which bridge Otto had supervised).

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