Sitting Pretty

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On a languid summer’s day in 1912, an Altenburg, Missouri, back yard achieved a summary moment of grace with an unidentified family’s newest possession, the Meisner Rocker Swing. That was the point of this photo, an advertisement wrapped around what in today’s unlovely word is known as “lifestyle.” And if Paul J. Lueders, the photographer, managed to reach beyond the sales pitch, so much the better. Still, Lueders carefully drew the viewer’s eye to the product name, incised on the rocker’s side in the exact center of the picture.

Lueders’s grandson, Paul Hemmann, sent in the photograph and traced its story for us: “The Meisner Brothers had my grandfather take these pictures to promote their new business. During the early 1900s they had a profitable building-supply store at Altenburg, Missouri, and in 1912 they started to manufacture several types of porch and lawn furniture that M. D. Meisner had designed and patented.

“As they explained it, ‘This swing is the embodiment of comfort for both old and young, and is a beautiful outdoor and indoor piece of furniture, the neatest and most stylish swing ever designed.‘”

Just as the Meisners planned, the rocker took off, soon requiring a larger factory and several hundred additional workers. By 1918, however, financial difficulties shadowed this idyll of industry and reward; the Meisners lost the company, and production dwindled out a few years later. Still, with the photographer’s art, one summer afternoon spent in “the most stylish swing ever” remains.

We continue to ask our readers to send unusual and unpublished old photographs to Carla Davidson at American Heritage, Forbes Building, 60 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011. Please send a copy of any irreplaceable materials, include return postage, and do not mail glass negatives. We will pay fifty dollars for each one that is run.