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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, 26 June 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, 26 June 2016 22:13:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 17 May 2015
    The Wright Brothers and Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen



    In the early part of the 20th century, three members of the Wright family were among the most famous individuals in the country (if not the world).  Orville and Wilbur's patented flying machine demonstrations on both sides of the Atlantic brought thousands of people to fields to watch them fly.

    Their schoolteacher sister Katherine flew more than any woman of her generation. The three of them stand together in this 1910 photo from the  Library of Congress. If you want to see the Wrights' original patent drawings, they're avilable online through the Google patents search. Their aerial demonstrations mesmerized the public and made our ancestors believe in the future. 

    David McCullough's new book, The Wright Brothers, presents the brothers as ordinary men with extraordinary focus, determination and passion. Many men of their generation tried to perfect manned flight, but Orville and Wilbur Wright were first to actually do it.

    Their exploits even influenced a fashion trend. When Mrs. Hart O. Berg accompanied Wilbur Wright on a flight in 1908, she tied her scarf around her dress at the ankles to keep it in place.  It's possible that the French fashion designer Paul Poiret saw Mrs. Berg and Katherine Wright tie down their skirts. He created a short-lived style known as the Hobble skirt.



    It was difficult to walk in these narrow skirts. This postcard calls it a speed-limit skirt because women could take only baby steps. If you see a photo of an ancestor wearing a skirt of this design, you'll have a narrow time frame for an image of 1910 to 1913.

    Our ancestors had fashion icons that influenced everyday dress. Both Orville and Wilbur Wright dressed neatly for their flights. Wilbur always wore a high-necked collar with a tie, a jacket and a cap. While full-crowned caps were available before the Wrights took flight, they increased in popularity throughout the second decade of the century and beyond. The style of the brim and crown changed in later decades.

    Watch for these fashion trends in your family photos from the circa 1910 period. If your ancestor passed on stories of seeing the Wright brothers in flight, please let me know.


    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 | Airplanes | unusual clothing | women | Wright Brothers
    Sunday, 17 May 2015 14:53:55 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]