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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, March 18, 2013
Intinerant Tintype Artists and Your Family
Posted by Maureen

Jim Cat found this photo when his grandmother died. It's one of those family photo mysteries—Jim doesn't know who these women are.

Cat2.jpg

I love the way the photographer captured four young women sitting on their front stairs.

Jim labeled it a daguerreotype, but it's actually a tintype. The spontaneous pose reminds the viewer of a paper snapshot. In fact, tintype "snapshots" were available long before George Eastman invented his amateur negative camera. The word snapshot refers to taking an "instantaneous" image using a handheld camera. It generally means an amateur was taking the picture, but there were professional photographers who specialized in capturing these fleeting moments.

Itinerant tintypists traveled from town to town in wagons loaded with chemicals, plates and darkroom equipment. Tintype photographers also walked the streets of major cities enticing customers to memorialize their visit with a photo. 

The tintype was usually presented to a customer in a paper sleeve. I've seen sleeves in bright pink, red, blue and just about every other shade. Some have embossed designs like this one, while others have printed decorations.

What they all have in common is a tendency to deteriorate. If you own one of these early 20th-century tintypes in a paper sleeve, you should scan it at a high resolution—at least 600 dpi—to preserve the content.

From the dress styles and the hair, the date of Jim's picture is circa 1910.  The short sleeves and lightweight fabric suggest a warm weather month.

The woman second from the left has rested a hand on her adjacent companions, a clear sign these are close friends or relatives. Cat thinks these women may be family. I'm waiting for additional information to help with that detail.


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

  • 1910s photos | candid photos | snapshots | Tintypes | women
    Monday, March 18, 2013 2:12:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 31, 2012
    Twelve Months of the Photo Detective
    Posted by Maureen

    It's time to look back at the year. Every week I write a Photo Detective blog post—that's 52 columns in 12 months. It's a lot of free photographic advice and tips. Here are my month-by-month 2012 favorites.

    January
    Last New Year's I offered advice on sharing images online, tackled a photo mystery about the identity of the mother in a picture, and discussed a Scottish picture.

    February
    I got into the planning for my trip to WDYTYA Live in London by comparing British and American fashion. 

    March
    Hat's off to spring! Last March I featured toppers for men, graduation caps, and talked about the relationships between hairstyles and hat design. If you want to learn more about hats or hair, my books, Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900 and Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900, will help.

    April
    The whole month of April focused on identifying photographs of children. Study the clues to add names to those pictures of tykes.

    May
    A trip to the National Genealogical Society inspired a series of columns on the Jeffers Family photo.

    June
    You can view the entries in the Family Tree Magazine photo contest, study a photo of ancestral blue jeans or be awed by the images of wheat threshing.

    July
    With the world watching the Olympics, I deciphered the clues in a picture from the 1908 Olympics.

    August
    I revealed the winner of the Family Tree Magazine Photo Contest. That photo mystery now appears in my new book, The Family Photo Detective. It's now available in the ShopFamilyTree.com store.

    Have you considered the relationship between photography and genealogy? I took a look at the types of records that help solve a picture mystery.

    September
    This month was all about preservation. A badly damaged image encouraged me to talk about ways to save family pictures. There is more information on storage and labeling images in Preserving Your Family Photographs.

    October
    A picture of a giant mechanical grasshopper appeared in my Photo Detective column in Family Tree Magazine, and some readers stepped forward to tell the story of their ancestors' fascination with creating these creatures.

    I shared the story of a woman who found a family picture after three decades and explained how old-time photographers could alter pictures long before the development of Photoshop.

    November
    Have you ever posed for a multi-generation photo? It's not a new phenomena. Our ancestors did, too. Mary Lutz sent me several images of her family. It turned into a series on identifying who's who in a group picture.

    December
    I love snapshots! They are spontaneous and often capture bits of everyday life. Follow this series on a picture of a man standing in his backyard.

    Thank you for reading this column and for submitting your family photos. If you'd like to participate, there is a link, "How to Submit Your Photo," in the left-hand margin. I can't wait to see your pictures!

    Happy New Year!


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

  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | 1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | 1920s photos | candid photos | cased images | children | Civil War | group photos | hairstyles | hats | holiday | house/building photos | photo backgrounds | preserving photos | props in photos | ShopFamilyTree.com
    Monday, December 31, 2012 4:07:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, October 22, 2012
    Photos and Family History Vacations
    Posted by Maureen

    Last weekend I spoke at a meeting of the Genealogical Research Institute of Virginia (GRIVA). My last lecture of the day covered family history vacations and discussed ways to use photos of homes, cemteries and other places to create an itinerary. I talked about visiting old family homes in person and virtually (using Google Earth).

    I also mentioned what to do with those vacation photos afterwards. I suggested posting them on sites like Historypin.com and Whatwasthere.com.

    Then I turned the meeting into a forum and let folks share their family history vacation tips. They asked if I would share their suggestions with the readers of this blog and I said YES! So if you're planning a family heritage tour, here are a few things they recommended.
    • Don't forget to visit the courthouse. One woman stressed the importance of looking for legal documents.

    • If you know the name of the cemetery where your ancestors are buried, but you can't find it, try calling the local funeral homes. A man said that a quick phone call helped him find the cemetery.

    • Take pictures of gravestones in the vicinity of your ancestors' monuments. Those folks might be relatives and you don't know it yet.

    • If your ancestors lived along a waterway, try consulting old nautical maps. They often show docks and can help you pinpoint a residence.

    • Look at church windows. Your ancestor may have paid for a memorial window.

    • Call the local public library to see if they have a history/genealogy collection. Verify the hours, too—websites don't always have up-to-date information.

    The GRIVA attendees also shared some general travel tips:

    • One woman loves to take Grayline tours of a city to orient herself.

    • If you go to Europe, take a small suitcase. Larger cases are too much work to lug around.

    • Another woman says she travels with old clothes and shoes. At the end of the trip she throws them away, leaving plenty of room for all the trip treasures she's collected.

    If you have a family history trip tip, please share it in a comment (below).  


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

  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • candid photos | house/building photos | Photos from abroad | Web sites
    Monday, October 22, 2012 5:38:36 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [14]
    # Monday, December 19, 2011
    Holiday Photos from Your Family Albums
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you to Kim Dawson, Carol Norwood and Fran Jensen for sending in holiday photos from their family albums. 

    dawson2.jpg

    Kim Dawson sent me this lovely photo of a family with their Christmas tree.  The child is Elsie Marion Quakenbush (born 1908). She's posed with her mother Ella Baird Quakenbush and her father, Alfred Garfield Quakenbush.  On the back it says "To Grandma with love from us all don't fail to see Elsie's baby doll it looks just like a baby."  I enlarged the picture to look at the doll.
    dawson3.jpg

    It is pretty life-like.  It looks like Elsie also received a book "Sing a Song of Sixpence" and a tea set.  Her parent's are proudly posed with a new Victrola so perhaps that was their Christmas present.  Elsie looks about  6 or 7.

    Kim thinks that Alfred's brother George Willis Quackenbush took the photo. He was a photographer in Oxford, New York.

    norwood2.jpg
    Carol Norwood submitted an image of her parent's Bill and Cita Jacobs. They are sitting under the tree at Cita's parents home in Hartford, Connecticut. The Jacobs were still newlyweds.  They were married three months prior to Christmas.

    Jensen.jpg

    Fran Jensen emailed me this charming studio shot of four children.  Her grandfather, John Roy Tolve Johansen is on the right. His sister Alma sits next to him. She's hugging a china faced doll. The other boy and girl are the Bough's who were the photographer's children. It was taken in Ringsted, Iowa.

    Here's one more picture.  This is one from my non-family collection.
    babies008.jpg
    I don't know the identify of these two boys, but on the back it says "Christmas 1898."  Don't you just love their modified Little Lord Fauntleroy suits.

    Happy Holidays!  If you want to see more Christmas trees, I have a short video on my Vimeo channel.


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

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | candid photos | children | holiday | men | women
    Monday, December 19, 2011 2:32:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 29, 2011
    Hurricane of 1938: Before and After
    Posted by Maureen

    people-on-the-beach-watch-h_1fb8582c4b.jpg

    I grew up on the Rhode Island shore and spent summers on the beach. In Rhode Island (and New England), we measure storms like this weekend's hurricane/tropical storm against the grandaddy of all New England hurricanes: the Hurricane of 1938.  

    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the shores of Narragansett Bay were dotted with resorts and beach houses. In this circa-1930s photo of Watch Hill, RI, groups of bathers and sun worshipers cluster under umbrellas in all modes of beach attire. It was a typical summer scene until Sept. 21, 1938.

    Watch Hill was famous for its beaches, which stretched seven miles to the west to a lovely place known as Napatree Point. The 1938 hurricane changed the Rhode Island shoreline and washed away many of those summertime places. 

    On Napatree Point, 39 cottages, their owners' cars and the road all disappeared and 15 people died, swept out to sea or into Watch Hill Harbor. Today, Napatree Point is a nature conservation area.

    2001-19-watch-hill-235_ea6df4669a.jpg

    Here's a view of part of the Watch Hill shoreline after the storm. 

    You can see other scenes of the 1938 damage to Rhode Island on the Rhode Island State Archives Virtual Archives. You can use the search box on the home screen to search for hurricane or place names.  If you want to read about that storm, I suggest, R.A. Scotti's Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 (Back Bay Books, 2004).

    The Rhode Island State Archives has one of my favorite picture collections, so don't stop with hurricane pictures. There is a lot more to look at in their virtual exhibits. 


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

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

  • 1930s photos | candid photos | men | women
    Monday, August 29, 2011 3:22:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, November 16, 2009
    A Blast From My Past
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week after writing the column on photo storytelling I decided to take my own advice and browse through all the family photos I scanned last summer. I looked at pictures of my Mom as a young child and saw pictures of my own childhood. All of a sudden I spotted one of me as a pre-school age child sitting on a couch intently working on something.  What was IT? 

    family275.jpg
    I didn't know right away. So I kept browsing through pictures and discovered I had other images taken on the same day.  They are all snapshots.

    I went back to this picture and tried to think about the folks in the other images in the roll, where it was taken and when. All that thinking triggered a memory flashback.  Suddenly I could remember that day and what I was doing.  I was playing with my favorite toy--A Wooly Willy. I remember spending hours working on different mustaches, beards and hairstyles. Drawing the iron filings across Willy's face with my pen magnet.   (Here's the proof, I was into thinking about pictures at a young age!)

    A picture memory flashback is a funny thing. All kinds of things come to mind. The sound those patent leather shoes made on the kitchen floor, the shushing noise that dress made as I twirled around, and the painful curlers my mother used to achieve those curly locks.

    This holiday when you're dragging out boxes and albums of pictures don't forget to share the pictures and stories of your own childhood.  Pay attention to the details in the picture and those in your memory.  As for the year of this picture-- I'll never tell <smile>.

    If you're wondering what happened to all the pictures you've submitted to this space, I'm working on a blog calendar.  If you haven't heard from me you will soon.


    candid photos
    Monday, November 16, 2009 4:52:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, September 14, 2009
    One More Time: Funny Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

    I have another album of funny pictures to share with you. This time, there's even an entry from faraway Chile. Thanks to the Web, this column has readers around the globe.

    Cook6 Jul 1913 Mt  Washington 001.jpg
    Laura Cook sent me several images of her grandmother Marie Schultheis clowning with friends in the summer of 1913. This is my favorite (above). I love the pained expression of the guy on the bottom.

    caponeLadies with dresses pulled up (2).jpg

    Barbara Capone sent in a family mystery. It was taken in Scotland County, Mo., at what she thinks was Minnie and Joseph Cook Walker's house, but she has no idea who these people are. The Walkers were her Capone's grandparents.

    PeelEarlMarionNeil (3).jpg

    Here's a fun snapshot of Faith Peel's father, aunt and uncle. She doesn't know the names of the rest of the folks.

    sebaskyunidmen275 (4).jpg

    Marlys Sebasky thought this picture and the next one looked very similar to the original posting of the card players in Fergus Falls, Minn. What do you think?

    unidmen122.jpg

    Gonzalo A. Luengo O. of Chile sent the image below. It's a postcard sent from Sestri Ponente (near Genoa, Italy) to Luengo's great-great-grandfather Antonio De Filippi Montaldo. It's a bit of a mystery. The banner reads "Premio Beneficenza, 28 febbraio 1903" which translates to "Charity Prize, February 28, 1903."  Does anyone have any information on the tradition shown? E-mail me if you do.
    GonzalesANTONIO DE FILIPPI 1.jpg


    1920s photos | 1930s photos | candid photos | group photos | Photo fun | photo postcards
    Monday, September 14, 2009 4:16:12 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # 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]
    # Tuesday, February 10, 2009
    Pets in the Family on YouTube
    Posted by Maureen

    It's not hard to believe that the three installments of this blog on ancestors' adorable pets were among the most read. After all, it's family history from a different perspective—pets in the family. Since this week is the Westminster Dog Show, I thought I'd try a different presentation method for the photos.

    I've received a few more pictures for this album, but instead of posting them individually, I incorporated them into a video.

    I'm going to tweak it some more and see if I can boost the quality. I produced it in high definition but uploading it to YouTube compressed the files resulting in some blurring.

    Just in case you missed the series: 

    Pets in Pictures

    An Album of Ancestors' Family Pets

    Pet Photos: Our Ancestors Loved Their Dogs, Too!

    I'd like to thank everyone who sent in pictures! 

    (For more genealogy videos, see the Family Tree Magazine YouTube channel.)

    BTW—I have a new e-newsletter that lists my speaking schedule,and contains a link to the Photo Detective video podcast. It's absolutely free. Sign up is on my Web site.


    1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | 1920s photos | candid photos | children | men | Pets | Videos | women
    Tuesday, February 10, 2009 2:13:17 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Tuesday, August 28, 2007
    Clues from Hats and Backgrounds
    Posted by Maureen

    These four are dressed for an evening out. Everyday male attire in this period didn’t include silk top hats and shawl-collared vests, unless you were quite affluent.

    Sandra Guynn believes the man in the center of this photo is Charles Anthony Doyle (born 1867), and the women, his daughters (born in 1891 and 1892). She can’t identify the man on the left.



    Let’s answer the simple question first—when was it taken?

    The women’s hats provide a time frame of 1904 to 1908. Large hats and pouched front bodices gave women a then-fashionable S-shaped figure. (Read more about women’s headgear history in Jonathan Walford’s online article on Vintage Fashion Guild.)

    However, this date somewhat disagrees with Guynn’s tentative date. Doyle’s daughters would be young children at the beginning of that time frame and teens by 1908. So let’s look at other evidence:
    • Hindering this investigation is the lack of a photographer’s imprint. Guyunn’s photo is a copy and doesn’t know where the original is. Since a house’s clapboards and window sash are visible, likely this is an amateur snapshot rather than a professional studio photo. Guynn could examine her own and relatives' pictures for a house with similar construction. 
    • Also in the background are two screens. One is a fabric divider commonly found in houses of the era, while on the right is a large divider with attached photographs. They’re blurry, but Guynn should enlarge this photo and try to see if any of the images match other family pictures.

    • One man stares directly into the camera while the women look to our left (probably at another person), and the other man looks in the opposite direction. The man with the top hat is the significant figure based on how they’re posed.
    That man is Charles Anthony Doyle, according to Guynn’s tentative identification. He’d be about 40, the right age for this photo. The pose and attire indicate he’s a man of authority. 
    The questions remain about the women. Further research using census records could help sort it out.

    I’ll be back soon, hopefully with more information and an ID. 


    1900-1910 photos | candid photos | group photos | men | photo backgrounds | women
    Tuesday, August 28, 2007 9:35:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]