Norway photographer Minnie F. Libby might have thought to prepare an extra chair when Otto Schnuer and his family wandered into her Cottage Street studio to pose for this occupational portrait in 1912, but then again "Miss Libby," as the renowned local photographer was known, probably felt that this family, more than any other in the area, might bring their own chairs. Schnuer, the moustached gent at far right, was known throughout western Maine for the rattan chairs and other furniture he built, proclaiming in an 1899 advertisement: "I can design a chair for you so that no one else in the world will have one like it. The hammer, shears, and roll of wicker that he holds were essential elements in the chairs, couches, and lounges he had fashioned in the two decades since he emigrated from Germany. (Judging by the ornately hemmed cloth, at far right, that the wicker rests upon, Schnuer and his relatives had added upholstering skills to their list of offerings by the time this photograph was made.) After completing stints at Benjamin Keen's chair factory in nearby Turner and at the venerable C.B. Cummings factory in Norway, Schnuer opened his own furniture shop just across the street from what would become Minnie Libby's Cottage Studio when she went into business for herself a few years later. Schnuer's stepson, Emil Herms, at top left, had joined him in the furniture business and holds a caning awl and other implements of his trade. The gent at center is likely Schnuer's son-in-law, Howard D. Adkins, his heavy pliers and the cotton wicking that protrudes from his breast-pocket revealing his occupation as a machinist, though the tack hammer in his hands indicates that he, too, probably helped with the family's business. The women seated in the front row are likely, from left, Schnuer's daughters Friede, Alice (no doubt placed in front of Adkins because the two were married just the previous year), and his stepdaughter Clara. The photographer or the family has deliberately chosen to portray these women as part of the family business: each clutches a tack hammer, one of the tools that we are made to believe they use each day.
Even as this proud family stood for their portrait they have not forgotten to place at front and center the one item that unites them. Barely visible against the women's wide skirts, at bottom center, rests an overturned object that is more closely linked to this family's fortunes than any other - a wood and wicker chair. For this Maine family, it seems, the bonds of kinship are as strong as the fine pieces of furniture that they create.