Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dorothy Millette Bern Photos Discovered on Ebay? Not Quite!!

Dorothy Virginia Millett Hill-- Not Dorothy Millette Bern!
Recently there were two photos that were posted for sale on Ebay, listed simply as "Vintage 1929 MGM Film Director Paul Bern Wife DOROTHY MILLETTE Portrait Photo"--

As I have learned in my years of researching history that just because someone says so, doesn't necessarily mean it is. This is one of those times, and I will explain how I know it for certain.

Wedding Photo of Dorothy Millett Hill, 1929
You see, if you take a look at the photos, the listing had a view of the front and back of each photograph. Both state in pencil that the woman in the photograph is Dorothy Millett (not Millette). Then on a piece of tape on top of her scribbled name, the name Mrs. L.W. Hill, Jr., is typed as well. The photo bears a copyright stamp from the studio, "The Wright Studio," of St. Paul, Minnesota (1929). At some point the photos must have been acquired by the "Rogers Photo Archive" as there is a sticker placed on the back of each photograph bearing a serial number for their collection.

Again, both photographs have a sticker on the back with the name Mrs. L.W. Hill, Jr. This was of great importance in reference during my research as it made my search fairly easy.

Records in Minnesota indicate that Louis Warren Hill, Jr., married Dorothy Millett on November 26, 1929.

Back of Photo: Mrs. L.W. Hill, Jr.--
In fact, the Auburn Citizen dated on the Tuesday, November 26th reads:

"Louis W. Hill Weds. -—Hastings, Minn., Nov. 26)— Guardian Angels Church, built originally 79 years ago with the aid of Sioux Indians, was the scene for the wedding today of Louis W. Hill, Jr., of St. Paul, and Miss Dorothy Virginia Millett, of Hastings. Hill is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Hill, of St. Paul, and a grandson of the late James J. Hill, founder of the Great Northern Railway. He has been learning the railroad business working in various departments of the road. Miss Millett is the daughter of a pioneer Minnesota family."--- 

Dorothy Virginia Millett was born on December 26, 1908, in Hastings, Minnesota. By the time the Census was taken in 1920, Dorothy was listed as being 12 years old, and living with her then widowed mother, Elizabeth and her siblings, Lucille, James and Harriet. The same woman in the photograph, Dorothy Millett Hill, is found on the 1930 and 1940 Census records residing with her husband, Louis W. Hill, Jr.
Wright Studio, St. Paul, Minnesota 1929

Louis W. Hill, Jr., happens to be the son of Louis Hill and Maude Van Courtlandt Taylor. Louis Sr., was a prominent and savvy businessman in St. Paul, and President of the Great Northern Railway Company. His family papers are available at the Minnesota Historical Society.

You see, this proves that the photograph that was sold on Ebay is NOT the same Dorothy Millette that was married to Paul Bern. Not only are their ages off by many years, but their last name is misspelled and the woman in the photograph lived well on into her older years, whereas Dorothy Millette Bern died in September of 1932 and is buried at East Lawn Cemetery in Sacramento. Also, here is a link to another photo of Dorothy Millett Hill, which is on the Corbis website, where it details that Dorothy was a model and the soon to be wife of Louis W. Hill. (See additional photo here:

One point that I would like to mention though, is that all of these photographs bear a striking resemblance to a certain photograph found on page 18 of E.J. Fleming's book about Paul Bern's life and death. This leads me to wonder where he obtained his "alleged" photo of Dorothy?

The photograph that has been going around for ages, which you can see below, is the real Dorothy Millette Bern. As you can tell the facial structure of the woman in the photo below is very different from the photos above as well as the photo E.J. Fleming claims in his book is Dorothy in her younger years. You cannot change the structure of one's face, nose or where it is positioned on the face, not back then anyway.  I will go more in depth on Fleming's photograph and his theory of who he believed Dorothy was in his book, in another blog soon.
Dorothy Millette Bern (Common-law Wife of Paul Bern)

In conclusion, please always fact check before believing everything you see in books, online or even in conversations. Yes, we are human and we make mistakes at times, but the objective of providing historical information is to provide the most accurate information one can based on thorough research. Perhaps there are more photographs of the real Dorothy Millette somewhere out there in someone's attic, a basket of old photographs in an antique shop or an old thrift store. Perhaps they are not marked with a name or information and will continue to elude us, or maybe one day one will pop up out of the blue. For now, it doesn't appear to be happening quite yet.

Copyright- 2015- J'aime Rubio

Thank you to Laurie McCarron for emailing me the links to the photos!

Ebay Photos & (Copyright of Wright Studio, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1929)
U.S. Census Records, Birth and Marriage Records, Minnesota.
Louis Hill Papers, Minnesota Historical Society
Auburn Citizen, November 26, 1929 )

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