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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, February 10, 2014
Photo Album Mystery: Whose Granddad is It?
Posted by Maureen

Photo albums are always interesting to look at.  You can find almost anything tucked into a album: I've seen locks of hair, swatches of fabric, colorful scraps of paper, postcards, family photos, and images of friends and famous folk. Most times it isn't clear as to who's who.

Art Parker calls himself a "Kodak kid" from Rochester who grew up in the Pocket Instamatic generation. He's fascinated with photographs but is stumped by this image.

GrandDadArmstrong.jpg

At some point, a well-meaning relative of this man wrote on the page, "Grand Dad Armstrong."  I bet you know the problem.  The big question is, whose granddad is Mr. Armstrong?

This is a question of provenance. The history of ownership of this image is very important. This album is currently owned by Art's cousin. To verify the identity of this gent, it's important to know who owned the album all the way back to when it was put together. Of course, it's possible someone added that image later, but it's also likely that the person who placed the images in the album put it there.

Some 19th-century albums have patent numbers in the front that can suggest when a relative bought it. Researching patents is really easy at Google's Patent Search. Art can enter a patent number into the search box and find the patent relating to the album. Nineteenth century patents included an illustration of the item.

GrandDadArmstrong close up.jpg

The general appearance of this image suggests that it's a copy of a daguerreotype. Here are some tips on spotting a copy in your album. A daguerreotype is a shiny, reflective image on a silver-coated copper plate that needs to be held at a angle to view. You can read more about daguerreotypes in the January/February 2014 Family Tree Magazine.

Art believes there are two possibilities: This man is either Isaac Armstrong (1779-1855) or his son Alfred B. Armstrong (1819-1902). 

The knotted tie worn by this man looks like those worn in the mid-19th century. Combine this detail with his age and the fact that it's a copy, and it appears this man could be Isaac Armstrong. His picture was likely taken in the early 1850s.

Now I want to know ... where is the original daguerreotype? Descendants of the Armstrong family still live in New York State's Southern Tier. I'm hoping the original is still in the family.


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

  • 1850s photos | cased images | daguerreotype | Revolutionary War
    Monday, February 10, 2014 10:07:58 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, October 21, 2013
    Clues in an Old Photo Copy: Who Is She?
    Posted by Maureen

    Two weeks ago I wrote about Shirley Dunkle's image, a copy of an earlier photo. The clues added up to suggest the photo was copied about 1900, but that this woman in the image sat for the original portrait in the mid 1850s.

    Dunkle - Moores family - About 1860.jpg

    Shirley has a possible identification for this woman based on the date: She young woman could be Mary Jane Smethurst. She was born May 24, 1839, in Middleton, Lancashire, England. She married James Roberts March 31, 1861, in St. Mark's, Dukinfeld, Cheshire, England. 

    After the death of her husband in 1885, Mary Jane and many of her children immigrated to Massachusetts in 1888. She died in 1916.

    If this is Mary Jane,she was approximately 17 years of age and living in England when she sat for this portrait.

    I have one last question. What type of photograph was the original?

    In the United States, photographs taken in the mid-1850s were primarily daguerreotypes. These are shiny and reflective, and quite distinctive in their appearance. But when I looked at photographs at the Who Do You Think You Are Live show in London, it was quite apparent that the English didn't embrace the daguerreotype. 

    William Henry Fox Talbot, an English photographic inventor, introduced a type of paper print that was popular in the 1850s: the salted paper print, produced from paper negatives.

    Frederick Archer invented photographs on glass in 1851. His ambrotype process competed with both the salt paper print and the daguerreotype. The Ambrotype didn't become popular in the United States until the mid-1850s. 

    Shirley's family no longer owns the original photograph. I'm hoping another of Mary Jane's descendants still does and can shed some light on just what type of picture their ancestor posed for.


    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

  • 1850s photos | ambrotype | daguerreotype | salt paper print
    Monday, October 21, 2013 3:07:05 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, October 13, 2013
    Spotting a Copy of an Old Family Photo: Part 2
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I discussed photographic copies. It's a big topic. I used Shirley Dunkle's photo as an example. In the case of her photo, it was the context and the costume of the image that clued me into it being a copy.

    I've received several questions about the topic this week, so I'm going to delay discussing the identity of the woman in Shirley's photo until next week to focus more on copies.

    So, how can you spot a copy? Sometimes it's a little thing and other times it's pretty obvious.

    Here's a photo from my research collection:
     
    copy1.jpg 

    It's a little fellow from the mid-19th century. Can you see the scalloped mat visible in this copy? The original in this case was a daguerreotype.  The reflective nature of a daguerreotype made it difficult to photograph.  It's a great example of an obvious copy. The rest of the evidence in the image added to the identification of it not being an original.

    copy2.jpg
    The copy is a real-photo postcard of the type that dates to the early 20th century. Real-photo postcards are introduced circa 1900. Someone (perhaps the little boy all grown up) wrote on the card that the original image was taken 52 years in the past. Too bad there are no other identifiers on the card, like a name, date or location.

    There were photographic copies in the early days of photography as well. The only way to make an identical daguerreotype was to either duplicate the pose or make a copy of the original.

    Photographers' imprints often include a statement about their ability to provide copies. Daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, paper prints and tintypes were all copied in photo studios when an owner needed another one.

    One person asked about remounting of pictures. Theoretically it's possible to remount an older image on newer card stock, but I've never seen an example of this from the 19th century. It was far easier for a photographer to re-photograph the original.

    I'm still working on Shirley's mystery. She's added another image to the mix. Tune in next week!
     


    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

  • 1850s photos | daguerreotype
    Sunday, October 13, 2013 11:43:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]