Sunday, February 10, 2013

February 10, 1868

February 10, 1868  --  that's the birth-date of my great-grandmother Kittie Van Slyke Fineour. She was probably born at home in the Van Slyke house along the Erie Canal in Mindenville, where her father Jonas was the lock tender. Kittie was the eldest of Jonas and Margaret's four children: Kittie, Minnie, Mary (also called Matie), and George ("Georgie"). In the 1880 census, where I found the family listed, the census taker misspelled her name as "Caty." I suppose that "Kittie" was an unusual enough name for him to make that error. 

The listing also includes Kittie's grandparents, David D. Van Slyke and Sally (Moyer) Van Slyke.

We have a couple of tintypes of Kittie as a child. In this image of Kittie as a toddler, she sits upright on the photographer's large leather chair, looking directly into the camera. She appears to be impressed by the experience, but it is difficult to fathom whether her expression is one of apprehension, defiance, or determination. Her apparel and hairdo are reminiscent of the porcelain dolls of that era (circa 1870); indeed she does look quite like a little doll.

Kittie - toddler, ca. 1869

Not much later, at two years old, Kittie looks less impressed by her visit to the photographer's studio. She is posed less formally and looks confidently into the camera. She appears to be wearing the same white bead necklace as in the earlier picture.

Kittie at age 2

We also have a number of images of her as a young woman. Below is one of my favorites. Kittie is posed in the photographer's studio, wearing a fancy pleated dress, a curly hairdo, and a dreamy expression.

Early tintype of Kittie
A tintype of her father Jonas probably from the same era shows us a distinguished-looking man with a beard, dressed in a dark three-piece suit. The serious, almost somber expression was probably the result of having to sit so still and hold the same expression long enough for the image to be produced on the metal plate. Incidentally, "tintype" is a misnomer; the plates are really iron, so the images are more accurately called ferrotypes. *

Jonas Van Slyke - tintype

In honor of Kittie's birthday, I made coconut drop cookies, or macaroons, from a recipe in Grandma Minnie's handwritten cookbook:

Here is how I modernized the recipe a bit:

Coconut Drops

- 2 egg whites
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease cookie sheet.

Whisk together egg whites, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla and almond extract until well blended and egg whites are frothy.

Fold in shredded coconut.

Using a tablespoon or a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop the mixture onto the greased baking sheet.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until light brown on top.

Cool on a wire rack and serve. Here they are, toasty, tasty, and warm  --  a sweet treat for a birthday or any day:

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* See for additional information about the history of tintypes and other early forms of photography.

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