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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, 02 July 2017
4th of July Clues in Old Family Photos
Posted by Maureen

Takoma Park, Maryland, 1922. Library of Congress.

Symbolism abounds in family photos taken on the 4th of July.  These three young men posed as the iconic drummers and fife player that commonly seen on the 4th of July as the trio from Yankee Doodle Dandy.

A search of newspapers on GenealogyBank.com turned up the story of the parade in which they participated.  The children of the Petworth section of the city made floats and marched on the morning of the 4th. 

Traditional holiday symbols include American flags and bunting, parades, picnics and fireworks. 

But the holiday celebrations varied from community to community and from region to region. My hometown of Providence, RI once liked to start the festivities with cannon fire at dawn.

Other towns had chariot races, foot races, baseball games and other sporting events. Town-wide picnics were commonplace too.

Look for 4th of July clues in your family pictures:
  •  Try to spot the symbols mentioned above especially children in colonial costume like the Yankee Doodle Dandy trio.
  • Study clothing clues to pinpoint a time frame for the photos. You can use past Photo Detective blog posts about clothing as a resources. Start with the search box in the lower left hand margin.
  • Read the local news for the day.  You might be able to match up scenes in your pictures with events in your ancestor's community.

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
    Sunday, 02 July 2017 15:10:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 28 May 2017
    Honor Your Family's Veterans With an Online Photo Memorial
    Posted by Maureen

    Memorial Day is the day we honor our fallen military service members with parades and speeches. The backyard barbecues held afterward kick off summer.

    How Memorial Day Began
    There wasn't always a Memorial Day. In 1868, people gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to honor Civil War soldiers buried on the land once owned by Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The government had bought the parcel at a tax sale and set aside 200 acres for a cemetery.

    Planners of what was then called Decoration Day chose May 30 because it didn't commemorate any battles and because flowers would be in bloom. You can read more at Decoration Day, 1868.

    decoration daycropped.jpg

    In this Library of Congress photo of Decoration Day in 1873 (the LOC catalog entry notes a penciled-in date of 1868 on the back of the image is wrong), Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. James A. Garfield are in the reviewing stand. Grant was president from 1869 to 1877, and Garfield served as president for 20 days in 1881, until he was assassinated. 

    Decoration Day officially became Memorial Day in 1971, more than a 100 years after the first ceremony.

    Create an Online Photo Memorial to Your Family's Veterans
    Fold3.com makes it easy to create an online memorial to the military men and women in your family. You can view what other memorials look like here. Hover over Memorials to chose US Honor Wall, US Vietnam Wall (based on names from the Vietnam memorial), or U.S.S. Arizona Wall (based on names from the U.S.S. Arizona memorial).

    Before creating a new memorial, search for the veteran's name to see if one already exists. You can create a free basic Fold3 account and add information to what's already online.

    If there isn't a page for your relative:
    1. In the Memorials menu, select Add a Memorial Page (or click here). You'll need to create a free basic Fold3 account if you're not a member of Fold3.
    2. Set up a profile page with a name and picture.
    3. Add a summary of facts about the person.
    4. Identify related pages (perhaps another relative served as well) or add them yourself.
    5. Upload photos and digitized documents.

    You can add a story about the person and ask others to contribute their memories. When you're finished, share the page on your social media accounts.

    For an example of what's possible, take a look at this page for William Taylor (no relation to me). There's a list of personal details, a cemetery stone as a profile picture, and short stories about him. In the upper right of the screen is a prompt for page visitors to tell a story about him. 

    If you've created a Memorial Page, please share the link with us.


    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

  • Save
    Decoration Day | Memorial Day | patriotic | Veterans
    Sunday, 28 May 2017 16:57:42 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Sunday, 03 July 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, 03 July 2016 22:54:24 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, 29 June 2015
    Our Ancestors' Fourth of July Celebrations
    Posted by Maureen


     
    How did your ancestral town celebrate the Fourth of July? In this image by John Lewis Krimmel, the citizens of Philadelphia honor the day in 1819.

    Researching Fourth of July celebrations in historical newspapers published in your ancestral hometowns can tell you how your family marked the occasion. I learned that in my city, the day started with cannon fire at dawn. Later in the day, a balloon ascension was held in the downtown.

    Providence, RI, was well known for featuring balloon ascensions on Independence Day. In the first such ascension, in 1800, the passengers in the basket were a dog and a cat. Local celebrity Prof. James K. Allen and his son experimented with balloons in Providence before and after the Civil War. During the war, the Allens flew surveillance balloons for the Union Army, under the command of Gen. Ambrose Burnside.

    Each generation celebrated the Fourth of July differently.

    In this Library of Congress print from circa 1875, families gather for picnics. Today, July Fourth fireworks, parades and concerts are common activities.

    Patriotic symbols like flags often appear in family photos. Count the stars in the flags to pinpoint a time frame for the image.  The number of stars changed throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries as new states joined the union.

    One of my favorite photos featuring patriotic symbolism is a stereograph of Fontanella Weller. Her father posed her as Columbia in 1876.

    If you want to learn more about how and why we celebrate the 4th of July, Peter de Bolla's The Fourth of July (2007) is an good read. 

    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
    Monday, 29 June 2015 15:23:03 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]