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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, March 17, 2014
Cars in Family Photos
Posted by Maureen

In 20th century family photos, it's pretty common to see folks posed with their automobiles. It's a variation on the late 19th century scene with the family posed with their horse.  

Not everyone owned a car. Photo studios jumped on this as a marketing opportunity. Individuals could go to have their picture taken and pose in a fake car (or even on a plane).

wiseman.jpg

Elizabeth Wiseman thinks her grandfather is behind the steering wheel in this studio shot of four men in a fake automobile.  Before I weigh in on who's in the car, I'm going to ask her for a higher resolution photo.

The first thing you notice when you look at this photo is that the steering wheel in on the right side.  In the early years of American automobile manufacturing, it's not unusual to see the wheel on the right.  It was pretty typical for early horseless carriages.  There was a rare car known as a Hamilton constructed in 1909 that also featured a right-hand steering wheel. Only 25 were made.

There were so many car manufacturers in this country that there's no comprehensive guide. Just like fashion, the date is in the details. Start by looking at the length of the chassis, the style of the wheels and headlamps as well as the style of the windshield (if there is one).

These four men posed for a photo seated in a studio prop that resembled a touring car.  I love the small side door with a handle!

wiseman2.jpg


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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1900-1910 photos | automobiles | props in photos | Vehicles in photos
    Monday, March 17, 2014 1:54:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 30, 2010
    Hand-Me-Down Family
    Posted by Maureen

    Years ago, Truli Powell's mother received a box of photos from one of her husband's cousins. Now Truli is trying to date and identify the images. She's hoping that the cousin only gave them images from their specific line.

    Powell Unknown 1 (2).JPG

    In this "like mother, like daughter" tintype, the mother and the woman in the back (I'm assuming grandmother) wear nearly identical dress designs and hats. This 1890s scene depicts three generations on an outing. I love the park bench as a prop.

    Powell Unknown 2.JPG

    In the second tintype Truli sent, a young man in a suit and coat poses with a painted backdrop that features a house and a wall. The "rock" in the foreground is supposed to create the illusion that he's actually standing outdoors. Since backdrops usually reflect the area where someone lived, I wonder where this was taken.

    Truli wants to know if this could be her great-great-grandfather Peter Floyd Powell (1832-1922). Unfortunately, that doesn't appear to the case. This photo depicts a young man probably in his early 20s. From the neatly greased hair to the polished shoes, this is a young man who's dressed very nicely for the late 1880s.

    She sent another picture and I have to include it. Last week I focused on backdrops.
    Powell Unknown 8 (2).jpg
    Here, two young girls posed behind a backdrop with cutouts for their heads. Their hats and the car date the picture to the early 1910s.  One of the girls would be the right age to be the young girl on the bench in the first photo.

    It's too bad that Truli's father's cousin didn't label the photos in some way, but hopefully the information in this column will help her put names with the faces.

    Need help with your own mystery photos? Look for Maureen A. Taylor's book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.


    1890s photos | 1910s photos | photo backgrounds | Tintypes | Vehicles in photos
    Monday, August 30, 2010 4:07:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 23, 2010
    Studio Backdrops
    Posted by Maureen

    At last weekend's FGS conference in Knoxville, I did a little shopping. Picked up a couple of interesting books and this lovely trio of photos. I just love the backdrops. This photographer spared no expense.

    While in the 19th century most backdrops looked like the outdoors or living rooms, in the 20th century the backdrop often sets the scene into a historical context. 

    In December 1903, the Wright Brothers lifted off the ground in the first flight. Mass transit by airplane was decades away, but that didn't keep folks from simulating flight. Here, a group of friends are posing in a painted backdrop that looks like an early aircraft, with the skyline at their feet.  Their clothing and the design of the airplane dates from circa 1912.  You can view early airplanes on the web at Early Historic Aircraft.
    FGS001.jpg

    In the next postcard, the same woman seated at top right in the first photo takes another picture in the same studio. This time, you can see the airplane set to her left while she sits on a fake racehorse. She wears the same suit and hat so it's possible it was taken on the same day.

    FGS002.jpg

    In the same batch of photos I found another image of her standing near a painted wall with "Pennsylvania Pullman" on it. George Pullman manufactured train cars, trolley buses and streetcars. You can read more about him on Wikipedia. I think this is a train car, but I'm still trying to find a reference to the words on the side.
    FGS003.jpg

    I may not know the name of this woman, but it appears that in the early early 1910s she liked to frequent photo studios with creative backdrops.

    You'll find advice for creating, sharing and saving your family's photographs in the Family Photo Essentials CD, from the editors of Family Tree Magazine and Memory Makers magazine.


    1910s photos | photo backgrounds | props in photos | unusual photos | Vehicles in photos | women
    Monday, August 23, 2010 5:17:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Friday, April 17, 2009
    Cars in Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    I'm taking a break from the house photo this week to give you time to receive copies of the print version of Family Tree Magazine and read about the other clues in that image. I have one more short installment to post.

    In the meantime, I pulled out a different type of photo mystery. It's all about a car. I live with two gear-heads who can talk about engines and car design for hours. It runs in the male line of the family—every one of them has an antique automobile.

    Naturally I was really happy to receive this photo in my inbox:

    Chuck Baker3.jpg

    This is Chuck Baker's dad's family. His question is about the car on the left. Could it help date the image?

    Absolutely. He thought the picture was taken pre-World War II and that's likely. Here's why.

    Chuck Baker2.jpgThe car definitely provides a beginning year for a time frame.  It appears to be a 1938 Dodge touring sedan. According to The Ultimate Auto Album: An Illustrated History of the Automobile by Tad Burness (Krause, $16.95) approximately 73,417 of these vehicles were produced. It sold for $898. 

    The double-rear window is what led me to that identification.  The 1937 Chrysler Airflow also had two windows in the rear, but a different trunk design. There might be more automobiles out there with a double-rear window. If so, please let me know.

    This identification was based on all the details visible in the back of the car. Ah ... if only I could see the front.

    You're probably wondering if the license plate helped. It would have if I could've enhanced the image enough to see it clearly. It's quite blurry when I enlarge the image.

    However, Chuck's family lived in southwest Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania first issued license plates in 1906, and every year a car owner had to get a new set of plates. That practice ended in the 1950s.

    In 1956, license plates became a standard 6x12 inches.  If you want to read more about plates in Pennsylvania and see examples of late 20th-century versions, consult Vehicle Registration Plates of Pennsylvania on Wikipedia.

    As for when this picture was taken, 1938 is the earliest everyone could have posed for this family gathering. The clothing suggests a time frame of late 1930s to early 1940s. Chuck Baker was right—the picture was taken before World War II.


    1930s photos | candid photos | group photos | Vehicles in photos
    Friday, April 17, 2009 7:13:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]