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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, November 23, 2014
Thanksgiving Day Masquerade
Posted by Maureen



It's easy to be confused by this photo from the Library of Congress.  It's a group of children dressed in costume, but the photographer labeled it "Thanksgiving." The signage in the window advertising a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, sweet potatos and cranberry sauce (for 40 cents!) supports the caption.



So what's going on?

According to Greg Young, author of the Bowery Boys: New York City History blog and podcast, this dress-up once was part of a Thanksgiving event. He wrote about it last week in a Huffington Post column.  

There were plenty of street urchins in ragged clothes in New York City in the circa-1900 period. Young states that children dressed like impoverished youth was part satire and part of the history of "mumming." The latter term is associated with men who'd dress in costume and go door to door asking for food and money. In return they'd play music. 

Long before Macy's began its Thanksgiving parade tradition, groups of New Yorkers in costume would march down the streets. You can read more about the traditions behind this photo combining Halloween-type dress and Thanksgiving in Young's article. If your ancestors lived in New York, perhaps they passed down a story or two about going door to door on Thanksgiving.

If you want to see more images like the one above, there's a slide show on The Weather Channel site.

I love how photographs and history intersect.  This week's photo is a perfect example of that.

I'm thankful for all the readers that check out this weekly blog column! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

1900-1910 photos | Halloween | holiday | thanksgiving
Sunday, November 23, 2014 8:58:04 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Sunday, November 16, 2014
A Yard-Long Old Photo Brick Wall
Posted by Maureen

Cathy Jordan found three panoramic photographs in her father's old trunk. These oversize photos can cause eye strain and headaches as you try to find your relative in them!

Thankfully, Cathy's been able to locate her father in two of them, but the third one baffles her. It's a group portrait of students at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. Her father lived in Conway, but didn't attend Hendrix.

She photographed it in sections to make it easier for me to see it and share it with you.












There are lots of clues in this long picture.
  • She contacted the Hendrix College archives. Staff told her that the building is College Hall. They looked in college newspapers and yearbooks for more information. The school's 1918 Troubador yearbook contains a photo that shows the same 18 band members. The archivist felt that this photo was taken around 1917-1918. At that time, College Hall was called Martin Hall.

  • The clothing clues and hairstyles agree with the 1917-1918 time frame.

  • One of the mysteries is why this is an all-male group.  Women attended the school at that time.


These military style haircuts were very popular. Just about every young man in the picture has the same cut.

In 1917, Hendrix was both a secondary school and a college. In the first image, you'll notice some boys who look younger than college freshmen.

Hendrix did its part for the WWI war effort, building a Student Army Training Center during that 1917-1918 period.  At the same time, more than half the student population contracted the Spanish flu. Two died of it. 

No one knows why this picture was taken.  There were no significant events at the school. The band played for football games and other school functions, but the all-male nature of the group rules out a school-wide event.

Cathy doesn't know why her father owned the picture. He graduated from Little Rock Senior High in 1924. She has his report cards from the Arkansas Normal School, a teacher's college also located in Conway. Maybe this is a joint event between Hendrix and the Arkansas Normal School?  

Today the Arkansas Normal School is the University of Central Arkansas. I'd follow-up with the university archivist and see if they have a copy of this picture.

These yard-long pictures were very popular in the late teens and early 1920s. Identifying them is one problem but so is storing them. When I was a photo curator, we placed them in a large folder made from acid- and lignin- free cardstock in an oversize archival box. 

Do you find vintage panoramic photos as fascinating as I do? Last summer I wrote about a panoramic photograph of the Pershing Family Reunion.


Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1910s photos | panoramic photos
    Sunday, November 16, 2014 6:35:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, November 09, 2014
    Religious Clues in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    A single photo tells a story of a person, place or event, but an album often tells the tale of an entire family. Katy Krause inherited a photo album. It all started with single question.

    Katy asked her father-in-law about his family history and said, "I wish I had a picture." That statement triggered his memory, and he brought her an album full of pictures. They appear to be of his grandmother Stella's family. He was able to identify his own father, his uncles and his aunt Irene. Katy thinks that Irene put the album together.

    The album includes several photos of Stella. Here are two:



    Stella, her mother and an unidentified woman, 1916.




    Stella and her children, 1922.

    Then there's this mystery image:



    Is this Stella in front? It's a First Communion photo. The little girl's dress and the white arm bows worn by the boys identify the occasion. The oldest boy holds a small bible and rosary beads.  The cross hangs down.

    The back is a postcard format. The stamp box identifies the symbol for Cyko (a producer of photo paper). 



    According to Playle, this particular design dates from 1907 into the 1920s.  You can use this site to match up the stamp boxes on your photo postcard images, too.

    So who's in the mystery photo? Is it Stella or Irene with two brothers? The children in that family were born as follows: Stella (1900), Jane (1902), Theodore (1906), Irene (1908) and Henry (1919). 

    Those knicker-style pants for boys were in style from the WWI era through the 1920s. The WWI-era styles featured a belted coat. These suits don't have that feature.

    If Stella made her First Communion at age 7, then this isn't her. The dress style is wrong for the first decade of the 20th century. But if that's Irene making her First Communion in our mystery photo, then the ages of the boys are wrong to be her brothers.

    Those children also could be other relatives—or Stella's offspring. In the photo shown above, she had a girl and two boys of the same age range as the children in the mystery picture. The mystery children bear a resemblance to the tots in the picture with their mother. I think they're Stella's children.

    A photo like this is a genealogical document. It's picture proof of a family event. I wonder if there is a church record that supports the evidence in the picture? A record of the children's First Communion could support the tentative identification.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1920s photos | children | First Communion
    Sunday, November 09, 2014 7:15:29 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, November 02, 2014
    Old Family Photos: Mystery Child, Part 2
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I shared Jacqueline Curry's 1910s mystery photo of a woman and a young child. The family identification didn't hold up.

    Several people commented that the tot could be a boy. I'm waiting for a bit more family information from Jacqueline to help answer that question, but it certainly is possible. In the early 20th century, little boys wore dresses until about the age of 5. 

    Jacqueline's great-great-grandmother Harriet, born in 1862 in Sussex, England, would be about the right age to be the mother. In this photo, she's facing away from the camera so that it's difficult to see her face. 





    From Jacqueline's family tree, here are two candidates for the woman and child in our mystery photo:
    • Harriet Day, born 1862
    • Her daughter Elsie, born in 1902. (Another daughter, Dorothy, born in 1891, is definitely not in the photo.)

    Here are a other photos of these folks for comparison:

     

    A lovely day at the beach in the 1930s for Harriet and her granddaughter Jeanne. Jeanne is Elsie's daughter, born in 1931.




    Elsie and her future husband Thomas at the time of their engagement.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1900-1910 photos | children | facial resemblances | women
    Sunday, November 02, 2014 3:52:48 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, October 26, 2014
    Old Family Photos: Mystery Child From Across the Pond
    Posted by Maureen

    This week's mystery comes from a woman in the UK.  I love the way the web connects us all.

    Jacqueline Curry found this photo in her grandmother's photo album:



    Look at the curls on that child! The woman is trying to get the child's attention and elicit a smile by tugging on the skirt.



    You guessed it—no one knows who's in this picture. Jacqueline thinks the child bears a resemblance to her grandmother. However, her grandmother thinks it could be a sister of her grandmother, Jacqueline's great-great-grandmother. 

    Here's the problem. Jacqueline's great-great-grandmother Harriet was born in 1862 in Sussex, England. Her only sisters were Ann (b. 1864) and Rhoda Matilda (b. 1871).  That's not even close to a birth date for the child.  This is a 20th-century photo.

    It's possible that the older woman with the child could be one of those women born in the 19th century. Based on the clothing clues in the woman's dress, I'd place this picture to circa 1910.

    When working with a photo from an album ask these questions:
    • Where is this photo in the album?  Since there's usually an order to the photos in a album (such as chronological or by family), placement could help solve the mystery.
    • Who else is in the album?  Is it Jacqueline's grandmother's family or another branch of the clan?
    • Who owned the album before her grandmother?

    There's a photographer's imprint on the image in the lower right hand corner.



    It looks like Bates and Son, 187 Maple Rd, Penge. Penge is a suburb in South East London in the borough of Bromley. Bates and Son operated a studio there from about 1902 to at least 1913. I'm still tracking down information on them. Stay tuned!


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1900-1910 photos | children | photo albums | women
    Sunday, October 26, 2014 3:38:33 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Sunday, October 19, 2014
    The Ring Brothers: Triplets in the 1850s
    Posted by Maureen

    Multiple births aren't uncommon today, but they were rarer in the 19th century. Four years ago I wrote about Judy Linnebach's photo of an unidentified set of triplets. This week, it's the adorable Ring brothers.


    Image copyright: David Levy. Not to be used without permission

    Meet Charles, Eleazer and Millard Ring! David Levy bought this lovely daguerreotype. A daguerreotype is an image on a highly reflective, silver-coated copper plate, a photographic method introduced to the United States in 1839. This image dates from the early 1850s.  

    A quick search of the 1860 census found the three 11-year-olds living with their mother, a sibling, and possibly their grandmother in Lubec, Washington County, Maine. Beside their names, the enumerator wrote "of one birth."



    A source for the Linnebach article, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George Milby Gould and Walter Lytle Pyle (published in 1904 and available on Google Books) states that most multiple births in the 19th century were to women in the age range of 30 to 34, and heredity was a factor.

    Their mother Margaret gave birth to her daughter Lucy at age 23, and then two years later in 1849, to the boys. The Rings weren't the only multiple birth in town: Just a page earlier in the census, Job and Almira Goodwin had a set of fraternal twins, Otis and Emily.

    Charles, Eleazer and Millard were obviously doted upon by their mother. The identical tunics and broad-brimmed, decorated hats in this photo attest to that. Because of the fancy hats, David initially believed he'd bought an image of three girls.

    Little boys in this period typically wore caps or broad-brimmed hats with wide hat bands. In this case, what looks like flowers could be a cluster of feathers—not an unusual hat decoration for a set of very well-dressed boys. The photo studio enhanced their buttons with gold paint.

    Lubec, the easternmost town in the United States, sits on the border of Maine and New Brunswick. In the 1850s, it was an economically stable community of farmers and fishermen. According to Wikipedia, in 1859, the town had a tannery, a gristmill and nine sawmills. While I didn't see a photographer listed in the 1860 census for the town, it's possible that this thriving town had a daguerreotypist in 1850s.

    Thank you to David for pointing out that another daguerreotype of the Ring triplets is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA. You can view it here.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1850s photos | children | daguerreotype | unusual photos
    Sunday, October 19, 2014 4:26:55 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, October 12, 2014
    Boyish Charm in an Old, Unidentified Family Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Can a photograph help connect two families?  Erin Garcia received this picture from a distant cousin. She thinks they're related through her great-great-grandmother Martha Ann (Robertson) Potterfield Murphy (born about 1835). 

    Garcia hopes that these three boys are the children from Martha's second marriage to Nicholas J. Murphy. Unfortunately for Erin, the answer is no.



    Their combed hair and clean overalls indicate that these three urchins have been cleaned up for this portrait.

    Only the oldest child has shoes; the younger ones go barefoot. It's not unusual to see shoeless children in photographs taken in rural areas. Likely their parents didn't have the financial means to purchase shoes for all three. They hold identical hats, though.

    These tykes were likely born in the 1890s. The gray cardstock mat suggests an early 1900s time frame for the image. Erin should look for brothers born within a couple of years of each other, but not in the 1860s or early 1870s, as the Murphy boys would've been. 

    The lack of a photographer's name makes it difficult to narrow down a location. That's a detail that could help her identify them.


    One thing is certain. These three adorable boys are nervous in front of the camera.  You can tell from their serious expression. 

    I'd ask her distant cousin to look through his photographs of 20th-century relatives to see if he has other images of these three at an older age. The little boy on the right has a downturned mouth that might help pinpoint him in other images.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1900-1910 photos | children
    Sunday, October 12, 2014 8:34:31 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, October 05, 2014
    Mind-Bending Mystery Photo Revisted
    Posted by Maureen

    Over a year ago I wrote about this headache-causing mystery photo owned by a husband and wife, Art and Pam Crawford, who claimed the couple pictured as relatives. The problem was that Art and Pam each identified this couple as different people. Are they members of the Jones family or are they Crawfords?

    crawford2.jpg

    You can read about in the two installment story, Mind Bending Mystery and
    Mind Bending Mystery part 2.

    In the second post, I dug further into the story and the picture, eliminating Thomas Jefferson Jones and Mary Jane Williams as possibilities.

    Now another Crawford family member has come forward to claim the pair. Agnes Crawford is pretty certain that this photo depicts Nathaniel Crawford and Lois Viola Henley. Nathaniel died in 1937. 

    Agnes has a snapshot of the couple:



    This picture has been in her family for years.  I'm hoping for more information. Both Art and Agnes say Nathaniel and Lois are their grandparents.

    This is a good example of how photos spread through family connections. Photos trickle down in families based on which family members remain close. I'm hoping to introduce Art to his cousin.  Maybe she has more family photos!

    Another mystery remains: How did Pam's family come to have a copy and think that this couple were members of their clan?


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1930s photos | unusual photos
    Sunday, October 05, 2014 5:00:55 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Sunday, September 28, 2014
    One More Photo of Ancestors Goofing Around
    Posted by Maureen

    A big thank you to Carol Jacobs Norwood! She sent me this 1937 photo of her father at age 16, clowning for the camera in a playpen, wearing a baby bonnet and holding a baby bottle.



    Carol thinks this picture was taken at her father's home in Gardenville, Bucks County, Pa.

    My question to Carol is whose playpen was it? Did her dad have a baby sibling or was a baby visiting? Or perhaps the family was cleaning out the attic?

    Ever wonder if people ever smiled in photos? Go to the Library of Congress online Prints and Photographs catalog and search using the word smiling.  It's actually a picture subject heading.  

    Got a funny picture you'd like to share?  Please submit it and I'll share it here.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1930s photos | snapshots | unusual photos
    Sunday, September 28, 2014 9:59:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, September 22, 2014
    Photos of Our Ancestors Goofing Around
    Posted by Maureen

    Amateur cameras made it possible for our ancestors to relax in front of the lens. Goofy pictures abound in photo albums after 1900. Take this one, for instance:



    Laura Kettner sent in this picture of two women with their backs to the camera. They've put their coats on backward for this image. Why? We have no idea but this isn't the first photographic costume joke I've seen. There seemed to be a trend of goofing around in snapshots in the early years of the 20th century. 

    At a recent conference someone showed me two pictures. The first was a group picture of family members. In the second, the men were in the women's clothing and the women were wearing the men's clothing.

    At another event, a picture showed men and women wearing each others hats.

    Laura's aunt identifies the woman on the right as her great-grandmother Mabel Rheaume (born 1891). She has the same hair as Mabel in other images. On the left could be her future sister-in-law Audrey Kettner. Unfortunately, no one has an image of them facing front taken at the same time.

    The clothing dates the image to early in the second decade of the 20th century, between 1910 and 1917.  You can find short and long coats of this style in Sears Catalogs (searchable on Ancestry.com).

    In that time frame, Mabel was engaged to a man who died in 1917. She later married Joseph Earl Kettner (born 1899). If the woman on the left is Kettner's sister, then Mabel knew her long before she married him.

    Do you have a humorous photo in your family collection?  Email it to me. I'll feature it here.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1910s photos | candid photos | women | World War I
    Monday, September 22, 2014 4:33:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]