Reapers’ Portraits: March 1908


Charles Aldrich was an interesting young man. He looked upon photography as a way to record history, and he was constantly experimenting with various methods and cameras. Portraits were how he earned his living, and he was curious as to the unnamed images which crowded fully one entire wall of the studio’s back room.

In January of 1908, I showed him the ledger and explained the significance of it, pointing out those reapers I remembered, and the events to which they belonged. At first, Charles didn’t believe me. Then, on a whim, he decided to check the veracity of my stories and the dates in the ledger. By March, he was a firm believer.

Each new customer who entered, he told me, gave his heart a jolt. He was waiting for the first reaper. Excitedly, I might add. The historian in him was fairly chomping at the bit.

I was in the studio, helping to clarify details regarding one of the reapers when a small boy entered the shop. When Charles saw the child was without an adult, he was about to dismiss him out of hand when Charles saw something in the boy’s eyes.

I saw it too.

Charles stood up, offered a short bow, and asked if the reaper wanted his portrait taken. The reaper nodded and stated that was exactly what he had come to Cross for.

When they finished, Charles took up his pencil and asked if he might add the reaper’s information to the ledger.

“Yes. I’m going to Cleveland, Ohio,” the reaper stated. “March the fourth.”

After Charles finished putting the information in, the reaper smiled at us both, winked, and whispered, “I’m going to school.”

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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