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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, July 24, 2016
Political Memorabilia in Old Time Photos
Posted by Maureen

Political memorabilia first appeared in John Adams' campaign of 1796, but that was too early for photographic political pins and advertisements. It was another 60-plus years before followers could wear pictures of their candidates. Tintypes of Abraham Lincoln's face debuted in his 1860 campaign:


Wikipedia


Check your family photos for banners, buttons and badges proclaiming your ancestors' political leanings. Philip Hill manufactured caps and capes for the presidential campaign of 1868, which featured Horatio Seymour vs. Ulysses S. Grant.


Library of Congress

Men wore the hats and capes shown above for political torchlight parades supporting particular candidates. Some hats worn in these parades even featured oil and wicks in a canister torch affixed to the front of the headgear. You can read more about them in Collecting Political Americana by Edmund B. Sullivan (Christopher Publishing House, 1991).

Women couldn't vote until the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920, but that didn't stop them from being interested in politics. Genealogist Orvill Paller found an interesting image in his family photos featuring a woman wearing a pin in the shape of a name.



It's an example of how a single detail can offer clues to a person's life.
 


Frances Althea Cuppernell's pin proclaims her support for James G. Blaine. In 1884, Blaine ran against Grover Cleveland in a tense campaign. Cleveland admitted fathering an illegitimate child and Blaine faced accusations of accepting bribes and being anti-Catholic. As we know, Cleveland won.

Trinkets sporting slogans and candidates names weren't just for men. Manufacturers produced pins, aprons and hairpins for women to help influence the votes of the men in their lives. During the Blaine campaign there was even a pocketbook emblazoned with his name.

Do you have any photos of your ancestors wearing political memorabilia? I'd love to feature them next week. You can email them to me.


Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1860s photos | 1880s photos | Abraham Lincoln | Politics
    Sunday, July 24, 2016 9:39:10 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, July 17, 2016
    The Love Family Revisted
    Posted by Maureen



    In the July/August 2016 issue of Family Tree Magazine, the Photo Detective column, "An Afternoon Outside" focused on this photo. It's from the collection of Bradley Richardson. His mother inherited the photo and knew it was from either the Love or Allan sides of her family. 

    Bradley shared his exhaustive family research (which included Excel spreadsheets of analysis) with me, as well as another photo.

    One of the clues in this picture is the house number "1204."  The 1901 and 1902 city directories for Kansas City, Mo., list William Allan at 1204 West 25th St. in those years. Allan, his wife Alta E. Love and two children lived here. By 1903, they'd moved to another area. His father lived with the family and Alta's sisters often visited. The 1905 Kansas state census enumerated the family along with Allan's father and two of Alta's siblings, Lois and Laura.

    Photo identification is a process based on genealogical research and picture details. It seemed to fit that the women standing behind the rocker were Lois and Laura, but maybe not. Take a close look at the woman in the blouse.

    Is the opening in the bottom of her shirt due to her pulling it slightly open by putting her hands behind her back, which also puffs out the front of her skirt? Or could she be pregnant?  In the early part of the 20th century, pregnant women generally avoided the camera, especially unmarried pregnant women. This woman looks young. In 1902, Laura was 16.



    Here's Bradley's other picture for comparison



    In this picture, taken circa 1910, are as follows: Front row: George Harmon Love (1845-1926); Mary Cook Love (1850-1946); Harold George Love (1877-1922). Back row from left: Lois Love (1881-?); Laura Love (1886-1913); Iva Love (1874-1954); Alta Ella Love (1872-1940); and Mamie Love (1878-1910).

    One sister is missing from the photo: Esther (1890-1958).

    Bradley and I thought maybe the young woman in back of the first picture could be Mamie or Laura. Here's a comparison of the mystery woman to Mamie and Laura. 



    Look closely at their noses, lips and eyebrows.  It appears the mystery woman has a bit of a "lazy eye."

    OR she could be Esther Love.



    Bradley is still researching the sisters. He's making a trip in September to try to track down more details on the family and their descendants.  It's a lovely mystery.
     


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | facial resemblances | women
    Sunday, July 17, 2016 7:19:10 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, July 10, 2016
    Old Glory in an Old Photo: Details Revealed
    Posted by Maureen

    A big thank you to June Thomazin for sending me an article, "Mardi Gras Ball" from the Washington Times of February 11, 1917. The article lists the names of the women in the tableau imitating Henry Mosler's painting, The Birth of the Flag. 

    In the last article, I mentioned the seated woman's light colored shoe as being from circa 1917. Seeing the date of the article made me smile.

    As the "Star Spangled Banner" played, the women re-enacted this scene for the third annual Mardi Gras ball of the Washington Camp, No. 305, Sons of Confederate Veterans. According to the newspaper, the four women were Mrs. Andrew H. Plant, Mrs. Maud[e] Howell Smith, Mrs. George S. Covington and Mrs. Paul L. Joachim. 

    But who were these women?


     
    Only Maud Howell Smith used her own name, the rest went by their husband's names, as was common. If you've ever researched female ancestors who did the same, then you know finding their first names can be a challenge.

    Hours later after searching GenealogyBank.com, FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com as well as Google, I have answers. Whew!

    Mrs. George S. Covington was the former Janet Dorsey (1862-1941)

    Mrs. Andrew H. Plant was a problem due to a misprint. In fact, her husband's name was Alfred. Double-check those newspaper articles before accepting the details as fact. Their daughter Olive, crowned the queen of the carnival, solved that case. Mrs. Plant was the former Mary Elizabeth Bond (1863-1942), born in Connecticut.

    Mrs. Paul Joachim was the youngest of the four, born in Georgia in 1887. Her first name was Elmina.

    Maud Howell Smith (1876-1966) was a remarkable woman. She rejected using her husband Eli's name at a time when husbands defined women's lives. Her name frequently appeared in the society pages for Washington, D.C.

    In her later years, she acted in amateur theater. The Sunday Star (Washington, D.C.) of Jan. 4, 1953, interviewed her in an article, "Theater's Grand Old Lady Has a New Role." She had wanted to pursue a professional career as an actress, but her parents objected. Instead, she supported local theater groups and later lived her dream of being on the stage in amateur productions.

    She drove an ambulance during World War I. She claimed in the article to have known every President since Benjamin Harrison. In 1953, she served on the Eisenhower Inaugural Committee. 

    Her advice in the interview is timeless: "It's all very well to talk about what you've done in the past, but as a rule if you do too much of this, it means you aren't doing enough today."

    Who's Who
     


    Let's start by putting the women in order by their ages in 1917, then comparing that information to the collage/picture.

    Elmina Joachim, 30

    Maud Howell Smith, 41

    Mary Elizabeth Plant, 54

    Janet Dorsey Covington, 55

    I have no other pictures of these women for comparison yet except for Maud[e]. I'm still looking. 


    Maude Howell Smith as Columbia, 1919.

    The two women on the left of the picture (and to the left in the collage) are the oldest so they are likely Janet Covington and Mary E. Plant.

    The youngest woman (far right ) in both the collage and the picture must be Elmina Joachim. 

    The woman in the center could be Maud Howell Smith.

    The intersection of history, family history and photography all came together in this picture.  Lovely!


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1910s photos | holiday | women | World War I
    Sunday, July 10, 2016 7:05:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, July 03, 2016
    Old Glory in an Old Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    It seemed appropriate to write a column about the 4th of July and the American flag. It's a patriotic holiday with flags hanging in front of houses and bunting-wrapped porches.



    In the collections of the Library of Congress is this beautiful photograph of a tableau of four women sewing an American flag. They aren't really—it's just a pose.

    This image, called Birth of the American Flag, was taken by Harris & Ewing in an unknown year. They were well-known newspaper photographers. The Library of Congress has all but 400 of the 50,000 (!) images they took. The cataloging page lists a broad "created/published" time frame for this image of anywhere between 1905 and 1945. It's hard to know exactly when these women posed for this image if they used an older flag. Determining a tentative date comes down to the details--a shoe, beading and of course the stars on the flag.

    Counting the Stars



    If you own a flag, count the stars to obtain a time frame for it.  You can learn more about the history of our flag courtesy of this PBS documentary. A quick reference guide to when stars were added to our flag due to the addition of states is on USFlag.org. I've counted and double counted the stars in this picture, and I think it's a 48-star flag. How many do you count? 

    If that's the case, and the women are posing with a contemporary flag,  then this image could date anywhere between July 4, 1912, and Jan. 3, 1959. That gives us a starting place.

    The Shoe


    The woman kneeling to the left of the flag has exposed her shoe.  It's a calfskin shoe with a criss-cross upper and a Louis heel. Women wore shoes of this design with this heel from about 1908 to the 1930s, but I've found similar-style shoes dating from circa 1917 in Shoes: The Complete Sourcebook (Thames and Hudson, 2005) by John Peacock.

    The Beaded Dress
    While all the other women wear Colonial-style costume, the woman with the calfskin shoe wears a beaded dress with a wide collar. It's not a colonial design, it's from the 20th century.



    Dresses with diaphanous sleeves and lots of beading also could date from the WWI period. The collar is an interesting addition to this style of dress.

    I'm still looking for a few more details but it appears this picture dates from around World War I.

    There's one more interesting feature of this photo. All the women posed with their eyes closed.




    The Pose
    A sharp eyed reader, Teresa Shippey, found the source of this tableau. While I searched newspapers in a literal way for the "Birth of the American Flag," I didn't find what I was looking for.  I also did a Google Images search using the exact picture. No luck. Then again, not all images online are indexed in Google Images. Turns out I was being too specific in my searching.

    Teresa she used a general phrase "women sewing flag" in Google.  Teresa found the women based their pose on a painting by Henry Mosler titled, "The Birth of the Flag." 

    Why are they posed exactly the same way as the painting? She wondered (and I do too) if the women in the photo were models for Mosler's painting. Another possibility is that they were recreating the painting. Posing as famous paintings and sculptures was a pastime before radio and television so it's also possible that's what they are doing.

    The problem with the modeling theory is that the women in the photo seemed to have posed with a 48 star flag, not the 46 star flag used in 1911. It's hard to tell exactly the number of stars in the picture because part of the star field is folded over.  I'll continue to look for matches.

    How many stars can you count in the flag? Post your thoughts below.

    Happy 4th of July!  



    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 4th of July | patriotic | World War I
    Sunday, July 03, 2016 10:54:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Sunday, June 26, 2016
    Aerial Photographs and Ancestral Home Towns
    Posted by Maureen

    In the 19th century, daring photographers climbed into woven baskets held aloft by balloons in order to take pictures of local landscapes. While French photographer Nadar's photograph of Paris from the air in 1858 no longer exists, other such landscapes still do.

    J.W. Black of Boston photographed Boston from a balloon in 1860. That picture is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. You can read more about it in Smithsonian magazine.

    The world seemed enamored with aerial photography in the 1860s. During the Civil War, Gen. Ambrose Burnside employed a balloonist, Prof. James Allen of Providence, RI, to take reconnaissance photographs of battlefields and troop locations.

    Visual Time Traveling with the Library of Congress.
    A large number of aerial images are in the collection of the Library of Congress. Search the Prints and Photographs collection using the term, "aerial photography," then use the "Refine your search" options on the left side of the screen to narrow results by date, place or online availability. You might locate an image of an ancestral hometown taken in the time frame your ancestor lived there.


    Richmond, Virginia looking west, April 1865. Library of Congress.


    Kite Photos
    Balloons weren't the only way to photograph from the air. In 1882, a British meteorologist developed a way to attach cameras to kites. The caption of this postcard states that a kite-held camera took this scene.


    Aerial photography never went out of style. Airplanes replaced balloons and kites, and now there are drones. Visit any gadget store and you're apt to see drones capable of taking videos. Search online for "drone film of [fill in the blank]" to see if there's virtual aerial tour of an ancestral hometown.

    You can read more about the history of aerial photography on Wikipedia.


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1860s photos | 1880s photos | 1910s photos | aerial photos | Airplanes | Civil War
    Sunday, June 26, 2016 10:13:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, June 19, 2016
    College Girls in an Old Mystery Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Did your grandmother, great-grandmother or great-great-grandmother go to college? The proof may be in an old photo album.



    In the early part of the 20th century, young women filled black paper albums and scrapbooks with pictures of their family, friends and college activities. You might have one of those albums tucked away in an old trunk. If you don't know where your female ancestor went to school, study those images for clues. 

    I recently found a series of five photographs of young women at an unidentified school. At least five clues immediately stand out in one of the pictures. These details could add up to identify the school, and then maybe the women.



    1. The fluted column.
    This is a distinctive feature. Columns come in various designs, but the size and shape of this one stands out. It signifies a large building. The wall visible behind the column is brick. Right away those two clues come together: It's a large brick building with fluted columns, likely one on either side of the doorway.

    2. Engraved stairs.
    "Class of 1910" engraved into the riser of the top stair provides a starting time frame for the photo. The clothing clues suggested it was taken circa World War 1, but this clue, combined with the column, adds a more specific piece to the puzzle. 

    3. A plaque.
    These two women sat on the stairs of an important building on campus, one with a commemorative plaque. Unfortunately no amount of tinkering with the image could make it readable. 

    4. Clothing clues
    It's possible the girl on the left is wearing a uniform of some sort. This signifies a school with a dress code perhaps. Her attire and that of the woman next to her place this image in the circa-World War 1 period.

    5. Activity
    The girls are making something.

     
    It looks like luminaria. The woman on the right holds a candle. The two bags on the stair have bases that could be filled with sand and an opening for a candle. These are generally made for special occasion. Neither woman is dressed for cold weather so these could be for a graduation, an induction ceremony, a fall festival or some special school event.

    Brick+column+engraving+plaque =a very recognizable building standing as of likely 1910. The problem is...WHERE?

    Where was it taken?
    Posting on social media as a crowdsourcing experiment didn't help, so it's back to research. A timeline of women's colleges in the United States on Wikipedia works as a checklist. I'm using the process of elimination to try to figure out where these women and the other women were photographed.

    It's a three-step process.
    • Use Google Images to look for pictures of each of the colleges listed on Wikepedia to see if there are any buildings with fluted columns built circa 1910. 
    • If there are buildings with columns on the campus, then the next step is to look at digital collections in the school archives on their website.
    • Send an email to their archivist asking if they recognize the building.
    This research takes time.

    So far I've heard back from the following colleges: Wellesley College, Hollins University and Barnard. No matches. 

    So...if you recognize those distinctive features or know of someone who might, please share this.


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1910s photos | school photos | women
    Sunday, June 19, 2016 9:36:53 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Sunday, June 12, 2016
    Daguerreotype, Ambrotype and Tintype: Telling Them Apart
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week's post discussed Jay Kruizenga's ancestor James Pennington's dreamy blue eyes and trendy 1850s fashion.



    When an individual visited a photo studio in the late 1850s, he could choose the style of portrait—shiny reflective daguerreotype, glass ambrotype, metal tintype or a paper card photo. 

    This is a key part of identifying a photo from the mid-19th century. If an image was taken before 1854, then it's a daguerreotype, but if it was taken after that point, then it could be one of the others. 

    Daguerreotypes, introduced in 1839, have a distinctive appearance. Because they're reflective, you have to tilt them at a 45-degree angle in order to view the image. Otherwise, the silver-coated copper plate is often so shiny you just see yourself in the plate.

    Ambrotypes, patented in 1854, are on glass. Backed with a dark substance (such as varnish or paper) they look positive, but when the backing starts to deteriorate, you can often see through the glass. This gives the image a ghostly appearance.

    Tintypes, patented in 1856, are actually on iron, not tin. Unlike a daguerreotype, tintypes are not reflective. While you can find them in cases (like the previous two image types), most tintypes found in collections aren't in any type of protective sleeve or case.

    Card photographs (introduced in the United States about 1859) are on cardstock and instantly recognizable.

    So James posed about 1857, which means his portrait could be a daguerreotype, ambrotype or tintype. Jay's cousin sent him the pictures digitally. When she photographed the images, she propped them on a dark surface to decrease the reflection. Plus, the image has a type of deterioration known as a halo, usually found on daguerreotypes.
     
    I'm leaning toward it being a daguerreotype, but sometimes a digital image can be deceiving. We're waiting for verification of the appearance of the original.

    Photo Milestone
    After reading Jay's family history website, it's pretty clear when James posed for this image. He married his wife Esther Inwood in 1857. Both James and his bride are dressed for the occasion. 

    Mysteries usually come in twos. The picture of James came with another. The woman is Esther, an ID based on other photos of her. The mystery is the identity of the girl.




    Esther's attire also suggests the photo was taken circa 1857 for her wedding. The wide collar and dress design are appropriate for the time period. You can even see the outline of her corset.

    So who's the girl?  The couple didn't have children at this point. I wonder if she could be a flower girl? 

    Esther's brother had a daughter Sarah, but in 1857, she'd only be 4, and this girl is older. She could be the daughter of one of the witnesses at the wedding.

    If you'd like to see a wonderful example of how to present your family history on the web, take a few minutes to look at Jay's site on James Pennington.  You'll find everything from narrative to documents and DNA. 



    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1850s photos | cased images | daguerreotype | wedding
    Sunday, June 12, 2016 8:27:46 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, June 06, 2016
    Old Blue Eyes in a Family Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    This man's pale blue eyes stand out in this portrait.



    Jay Kruizenga submitted the photo with an inquiry about a date for the picture. He's hopeful it was taken circa 1857, making James Pennington (1828-1903) a potential ID for this man. Pennington would be 29 years old in 1857.

    This is a typical mid-19th century portrait. It doesn't show the background; the focus is on the sitter and what he's wearing.

    Nineteenth-century fashion trends originated in Paris and spread from there. In the United States, our ancestors wore Americanized French fashion. Here's a fashion plate from an 1857 issue of Journal des Merchants Tailleurs:


     
    A well-dressed man wore a jacket, vest and tie, just like the men in this illustration and the man in the photo.

    A few fashion details visible in Kruizenga's photo help date the portrait:
    • He wears his hair combed back with oil.
    • His necktie is a wide silk stock, wrapped under his collar and tied. By 1857, another type of tie also was available—a wide, horizontal looking bow tie.
    • In the 1850s, patterned vests were common. A little bit of patterned fabric shows in this closeup. 
    • Often, one of the key details in a man's outfit is the width and shape of the jacket lapels. In this case, his lapels are quite wide.  
    Next week, I'll examine the types of photos available in the 1850s. It could help confirm the photo's time frame.


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1850s photos | men
    Monday, June 06, 2016 5:00:41 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 30, 2016
    Walt Whitman and Your Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen



    Walt Whitman, 1854, Library of Congress.


    What could a famous man have in common with your picture collection? It turns out, plenty! Whitman (1819-1892), an American poet, journalist and essayist, had picture problems you'll find familiar.

    In 1888, surrounded by images taken of Whitman during his life, his friend Horace Traubel asked for details about a particular one. Whitman couldn't recall when, where or who took the picture and remarked,
    "I have been photographed to confusion."

    According to the Whitman Archive, Whitman sat for thousands of pictures in his lifetime. He was likely the most photographed man in America. On that day in 1888, Whitman couldn't identify many of the facts of those pictures in his studio. They were too numerous for him to say when they were taken.

    His problem is one common to many of us today. We take pictures all the time, following in the footsteps of ancestral photographers who aimed to capture family in studio portraits and snapshots. 

    Not everyone went to the studio just for family milestones. Whitman recognized the power of photography to freeze life moments allowing us to look back on the past. In some cases, you may have pictures that document a person from birth to death. There were individuals who, like Whitman, enjoyed being photographed, and much-loved children that parents took to the studio for pictures.

    Unlike Whitman, we have tools to help us figure out when pictures were taken. Try these tips:
    • Estimate the age of a person in a photograph. You'll be able to group images by childhood and the teen years without too many problems.
    • Create a picture timeline of their life. A new tool on the market is Twile.com. You upload the photos, attach them to a person and a significant detail and within minutes you have a timeline of facts and images on which relatives can comment.

    • Not sure when a picture was taken or why? Research the photographer using phone books and city directories, ask family if they remember, and study the details in the background. My downloadable article called Hidden in Plain Sight will help you spot new clues. 
    Who's the Walt Whitman in your family collection—i.e. the most-photographed family member?  

    I'd love to see him or her! Send a picture of your "most photographed" ancestor to this blog following the instructions in our "How to Submit" guidelines



    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1850s photos | men | Walt Whitman
    Monday, May 30, 2016 4:44:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, May 23, 2016
    Memorial Day Tribute in 1918
    Posted by Maureen



    A quick search for Memorial Day photos on the Library of Congress website turned up this image. According to the cataloging record, the original was a glass negative, and on the envelope was a note suggesting this was taken by the National Photo Company on Memorial Day 1918.  It's a posed press photo of what seems to be a significant event.

    The letters on the women's sashes caught my attention. Downloading a high-resolution version of the photo from the Library of Congress website revealed the letters L, U, S, I, T:



    My mind immediately thought about the significance of the day and year of this image.
    • Memorial Day, a holiday that honors service men and women who died in the Armed Forces. Today it's the last Monday in May.  Originally called Decoration Day, after the Civil War this day was set aside to decorate graves with flowers. In 1918, Memorial Day was May 30, a Thursday.
    • In 1918, the world was battling in the First World War.
    • What event helped to turn the tide of American opinion against Germany, eventually pushing the United States into the war? The sinking of the RMS Lusitania, May 7, 1915. The women's sashes likely spell the ship's name.

    Searching for keywords relating to Memorial Day and Luisitania with the year 1918 on subscription newspaper website GenealogyBank gave me the answer. Bingo! This mostly unidentified photo now has a story.

    On May 7, 1915, a German U-boat torpedoed and sunk the RMS Luisitania, an ocean liner returning to Europe with close to 2,000 passengers and crew on board. Bestselling author Erik Larson featured the tragedy and the events surrounding the sinking in his 2015 book, Dead Wake. Here's a panoramic photo of the ship at anchor in New York harbor in September 1907 for its maiden voyage. It shows the scale of this vessel compared to everything else on the waterfront that day. You'll find more images of the ship on Wikipedia.



    Some of the women in the first photo sit within a large wreath.  It was one of two of the wreaths made for the Memorial Day ceremony. The story appeared in papers across country including the Riverside Daily Press (Riverside, Calif.), May 30, 1918:
    Down on the peaceful Potomac two gigantic rose wreaths were set adrift, markers for the graves of the Lusitania dead. Daughters of the American Revolution launched the first: the crew of a British warrior the second.
    In the photo appear both the members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the crew of the British warrior. They posed for the picture before they set the wreaths in the water.

    Identifying the details and the story behind this picture required studying the clues: sashes and the history of the period.  The answer was in the news.

    How did your ancestors celebrate Memorial Day? Read local historical newspapers to learn more about the special events in which they participated. Using the details mentioned in those articles, go through your family photos looking for matches.
     


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1910s photos | Luisitania | women | World War I
    Monday, May 23, 2016 4:55:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]