Happy Birthday, Mrs. Wilder!

Laura Ingalls Wilder is 144 years old today.  Her husband, Almanzo Wilder, turns 154 on Saturday, so I’m putting up a picture that includes him, too.

This is one of my very favorite Wilder photos. Laura and Manly are only around 65 and 75 here, and they are standing with their dog, Nero, in front of the little modern cottage where they lived for several years in Mansfield, Missouri. Laura was working on the first Little House books by this point. She sent this photo to a fan, and explained that even though she and Almanzo are both looking down and appear sort of ashamed, they were really just trying to make sure the dog sat still.

I love her whole look here—her dress, her bob, her shoes. And oh God, I love that dog. They brought him along on a car trip from Mansfield to South Dakota (a 2500 mile drive!) in the spring of 1931, and Laura bought him ice cream. (“He loved it,” she said in her travel diary.)

For a long time I couldn’t quite tell Laura Ingalls Wilder apart from her fictional counterpart. While I’ve always loved the Laura of the books, I’ve been less sure about Bessie. (She went by that name throughout most of her adult life.) But this photo is one of the things that helped me know her better.

Happy Birthday to Laura and Bessie and Mama Bess, to Half-Pint and Flutterbudget and Mrs. Wilder.  Thank you for everything.


  1. says

    One of the letters I found was about this photo. Laura writes that she thinks it looks as if she and Manly were ashamed of something looking down, but really they were just trying to make sure the dog stayed in the photo & the photographer didn’t warn them to look up before taking it. Laura was still irked about it when she wrote the letter.

  2. says

    Wow, great pic! Really brings home how close in time history is to us — I think of the Little House books as existing in some very distant past, and here’s a woman who grew up on the frontier, at a time when the US still fought wars against Indians, and she’s looking like a completely modern person.

  3. says

    Found your blog from Flutterbudget’s tweet on Twitter… (the whole Walnut Grove crew has been twitter stalking me ever since I said Nellie Oleson was cool) and clicked on a link to find you. Great book, I’ll put it on my reading list (in hard back… not electrical… what a sin to read anything about Half Pint on a Nook.. blech!)

    Great blog!