When I received this cabinet card, I immediately thought of the Gibson Girl, the ideal woman of brains and beauty that Charles Dana Gibson created with his illustrations at the beginning of the 20th century. We are lucky – this “Gibson Girl” was real and had a name!
And once again my dear Instagram community came through for me, helping me decipher the name of this stunning woman. Her name was Lyda B. Close. Unfortunately, there is no location of a photo studio on the photo mount, so we have no obvious location. And I also didn’t know at first if Close was her married or maiden name. But I was determined to find out!
When I hit the search button on Ancestry, one Lyda B. Close stood out the most. Close had been her married name, after having married Clarence William Close on September 10, 1902, in Pittsburgh, Pa.
And then I discovered their marriage announcement in The Pittsburgh Press of 16 Sep 1902, and it includes a photo (or a drawing?!) of her, wearing what looks like the same locket. I had found the Lyda in our photo!
Lyda Isabel Bushfield was born on November 12, 1879, in Pittsburgh, Pa, to parents George Taylor Bushfield (1846-1925) and Martha P. née Horner (1856-1947). Lyda had one sister Caroline M., later McElheny (1877-1947). Their baby brother James S. had passed away at just 4 years of age in 1889. Father George was a retail grocer, and mother Martha, daughter of a Methodist Reverend, was actively engaged in the YWCA as well as in the local Methodist Church. The Reverend to marry Lyda and Clarence was Lyda’s maternal grandfather Rev. Joseph Horner.
From the looks of it, the Bushfields were well-off. They kept an in-house cook, who was 12 years old!?! I hope the servant was more of an older sister figure for the sisters, who were so lovingly called Bella and Carrie by their family in 1880. Lyda was apparently her official adult name, cause in all records later in life, she went by Lyda. In 1900, the family was living at 219 Stratford Avenue in Pittsburgh.
In 1910, Lyda, now married to Clarence William Close, had become a mum to 3 children: Martha E. (1903-1976), Frederick J. (1905-1989) and Anna “Betty” D. (1907-1985). Helping her with the children and household was Lyda’s 19-year-old in-house maid Rose Toth from Hungary.
Husband Clarence had studied interior decoration at the University of Pennsylvania and in 1900 was working as a salesman in a furniture store. His father Frederick J. Close was the founding member of the Dauler-Close Furniture Company in Pittsburgh. Clarence continued the family business after his father’s death in 1916. But in 1917, as the US entered WWI, Clarence was drafted to the US Army. Luckily, Clarence came back safe and sound, and continued working in furniture business until retirement.
By 1920, Lyda had given birth to their youngest son, Clarence Jr. And a new maid had joined the household, 23-year-old Kate Slezch from Poland.
In September 1927, Lyda’s oldest daughter Martha Elizabeth Close married Lowell Bripes Page in Pittsburgh. And the news coverage of the event was very detailed! The wedding entertained over 300 guests at the Pittsburgh Field Club which had been turned into a autumn-themed garden. And we learn that Lyda’s sense of fashion was just as impeccable (and expensive 😊) as it had been 25 years earlier, when she herself had been the dashing bride.
“Mrs. Close, mother of the bride, was attired in a Lanvin green satin model, the skirt of which was draped to the left side and caught with a rhine-stone buckle. She wore a shoulder corsage of orchids.”
Oh, how I wish a photo of her existed in that green Lanvin dress!
Lyda’s younger daughter Anna married Harry Kerr Runnette in 1929. Of course, their wedding was a local society event, too. And eventhough I couldn’t find a photo of the bride, I did find a photo of Anna right after her marriage. The looks were surely passed down to the daughter by her mother! I was lucky enough to find another photo of Anna, attending the Children’s Frolic at Pittsburgh Country Club in June 1916.
In 1930, Lyda’s son Frederick Close married Miss Lillian Roberts, and the couple made Pelham, N.Y. their home. Frederick made himself quite the career, as described in his obituary published in the New York Times of February 9, 1989:
“Mr. Close joined Alcoa (Aluminum Company of America) as an apprentice salesman shortly after graduating from Pennsylvania State University in 1929. He became a vice president in 1958, executive vice president in 1963 and chairman two years later. He retired in 1970.
He played a key role in the development of the 31-story Alcoa Building in Pittsburgh, the first aluminum skyscraper. The building paved the way for the use of aluminum in high-rise structures around the world. He also led the development of aluminum beverage cans with snap openers.”
In 1930 only the youngest son Clarence Jr. Close was living with his parents at 5839 Marlborough Avenue in Pittsburgh. Clarence Jr. graduated from Shadyside Academy and Colgate University, and in September 1937, married Barbara J. Peirce. Their wedding was another society event in Pittsburgh, with the photo of the bride spread over 1 / 6 of the newspaper page of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of September 16, 1937. Clarence Jr. and his wife Barbara lived in Fox Chapel before moving to Switzerland in the late 1950s for a few years and then returning to live in Gateway Towers.