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by Maureen A. Taylor
Monday, March 24, 2008
Posted by Maureen
In honor of Women’s
History Month, I’ve decided to run another picture of a woman and baby—but
this time only part of the woman appears in the picture.
I’ve taken to
categorizing images like this as “hidden mothers.” There's no way to say for certain the
arm extending into the carriage to brace this child belongs to its mother, but
it’s either a cautious mother, a nursemaid or a photographer’s assistant. I
vote for the mother.
Before I start dissecting this picture—do you have any
images with partial women in them? I’d
love to see them and feature them next week. Send them to me.
So who’s this darling
tot? Gwen Prichard doesn’t know. A genealogical Good Samaritan gave her the
album it was in after finding it in an antique trunk in California. Several of the people
are identified members of the Godfrey and Locke families who, according to the
photographer’s imprint, posed for pictures in Jonesburg, Mo.
The woman who purchased the trunk wanted family
members to have the photo album so she contacted Jonesburg Historical Society
who in turn suggested she write to Gwen. It’s one of those odd serendipitous
Gwen thinks the album
belonged to Olive Cornelia (Locke) Smith (born in 1861) based on the identified
images. Now she’s trying to figure out who else is represented. This is one of the mystery pictures. There are
four photos on a page—this baby, an older child, a man and a woman. They may be
the baby’s parents, but before jumping to conclusions let’s date this picture.
While the baby picture
doesn’t have a photographer’s imprint the other three were taken in Moberly,
- The light green card
stock of this small (4” x 2 ½”) photo was typical in the mid to late 1870s.
- The toddler wears a
white dress with colored sash and a necklace. This child’s attire is also
typical for the early to mid-1870s.
These last two details
date the picture, but it’s the baby carriage that draws our attention. The
first carriage that could be pushed was invented in 1848. Before this, baby carriages
were drawn by ponies and other small animals. Newer carriages, like this one, enabled
mothers, nursemaids and nannies to stroll with their children. This fringed
model looks similar to the horse-drawn surrey carriages used by families
in the 1870s. The top would protect the child from the sun. Babies faced front
to be admired by passersby.
This particular carriage
is well padded with an animal fur lining and a checkerboard knitted blanket. A
scalloped edged embroidered cloth decorates the inside. The woman has her hand
underneath this cloth supporting the baby allowing us to see the beautiful
stitching. You can see other examples of early carriages on the Wisconsin
Historical Society website.
While this is a picture
puzzle, the date brings Gwen one step closer to figuring out who it might be.
This baby (probably a girl because her thin hair in parted in the middle) was
born in the mid-1870s.
Anyone interested in helping me narrow the time
frame? Check patent records to see if you can match up the design of this
carriage. I’ll give you a hint: The leading baby carriage designer in this time
frame was Adolph Meinecke. Don't forget you can respond in the Comments field below.
1870s photos | children
Monday, March 24, 2008 3:04:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Posted by Diane
Two weeks ago I wrote about how Polaroid stopped manufacturing film
. In the Comments section to that article, Nancy Owen asked, "Over the years, I've taken a lot of Polaroid pictures. Many of them are
not holding up. The edges of the paper on the back are coming unglued.
What can I do to preserve my photographs?"
Ahh, Nancy, Polaroid pictures are
a bit troublesome. If you've taken these instant pictures and haven't looked at them in a while, it's time to take a peek. These images have a tendency to fade, crack and become unglued.
The best solution is to scan them, then fix the damage using photo editing software.
Several people wrote to me privately saying how much they liked using their Polaroid cameras. According to an article in Sunday's Boston Globe
, Fuji still makes instant film. You can see a selection of their products on the Fuji Web site
. And yes, it works in Polaroid cameras!
photo news | preserving photos
Tuesday, March 18, 2008 3:44:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Monday, March 10, 2008
Posted by Maureen
There's something special about seeing a grandmother and grandchild posed together in a photograph. This little tyke is the spitting image of her grandma.
Emma Dempster-Greenbaum owns this picture. It's labeled "Grandmother & Sarah Ann." The photographer was J.C. Cone and Sons of Farmington.
Emma dated this photo based on family information. At 11 months old, Sarah Ann Jackson immigrated to the United States with her parents in November, 1886.
The clothing details support this time frame. Sarah wears a typical baby dress while her grandmother's conservative pleated skirt and fitted bodice are from the 1880s. Her dress lacks the bustle typically worn by younger women. Her eye-catching hat accessorizes her outfit—it's tied with a wide ribbon at the chin, and the high crown features what looks like leaves and small berries. She holds a handkerchief, ready for a drooling baby.
The photographer also fits the time frame. Emma researched J.C. Cone and found he lived in Farmington, Ill. I double-checked and found Joseph C. Cone in both the 1900 census for Farmington and in a biographical encylopedia, Portrait Biographical Album of Fulton County, Illinois
There's a bit of bragging in his business name. Cone was 58 in 1900, and his son, 27. When he printed the photographic card bearing this photo, his son was still a teenager just learning his father's business.
It's the grandmother's presence that confuses the picture evidence. While Emma found an immigration record for Sarah Ann and her parents, she's unable to verify that grandmother Catherine Dempster came with them. Catherine was the baby's only living grandmother in the 1880s.
Emma wonders if this picture is a copy of one taken in England. That's possible, but it's also likely his is an original.
So, how old is Sarah Ann in this picture? She's still a baby, based on her short hair and long dress. The length of the dress indicates she's not walking yet—otherwise, the dress would be shorter to accomodate her steps. Since most children's first steps occurring around a year to 15 months of age, Sarah Ann is probably less than a year old here.
Unfortunately, this data doesn't help determine whether the photo was taken in Illinois shortly after arrival, or in England before she left.
I'll be back next week with a follow-up.
1880s photos | children | photographers imprints | women
Monday, March 10, 2008 9:56:31 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Posted by Maureen
Another photographic giant is shutting down production on one of its products. In mid-February, Polaroid
announced that after this year, it will no longer manufacture film for its cameras. You can listen to the National Public Radio
interview live on the web.
Edwin H. Land established the company back in 1937. It offered photographers instant gratification: Take a picture, wait a few minutes and you could see your picture. Now digital has replaced the days of watching the print develop in front of your eyes. Follow the ups and downs of this trend-setting company on Wikipedia
I guess my husband and I will retire all our Polaroid cameras. My first one was called the "Swinger" because it had a strap to hang from your wrist. It was a lot of fun to use.
Got a question about your Polaroid pictures, submit them to me at email@example.com
or ask them in the comment field below.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008 3:52:24 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Monday, February 25, 2008
Italian Military Picture Part 2
Posted by Maureen
Two weeks ago, I promised a second installment of the blog on the Italian soldier
photo. Thank you for commenting on the first column. While I puzzled over the v. Fabio Massimo.83
, two of you reminded me that v.
stands for via
, Italian for the road on which the photographer had his studio.
I'm amazed at the additional material in that postcard and where it led me this week. Gosh! Let's continue reading the evidence.
- Next to SPQR is an image. Taking a chance, I researched Roman tourist sites. Turns out that columned structure is a monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of unified Italy. It wasn't inaugurated until 1911, providing another beginning date for this picture.
- Above the monument is a plume with an interwined EV, which represents the king—either Vittorio Emanuele II or his grandson Vittorio Emanuele III.
- At the top of the card are portraits of Vittorio Emanuele III (1869-1947) and his wife, Elena (1873-1953), Princess Petrovich of Montenegro. He becamse king July 29, 1900, following the assassination of his father, Umberto. He reigned until he abdicated May 9, 1946. Next to the portraits is the flag of his House of Savoy—red with a white cross.
- A quick search for secoli fedele made me shout, "I got it!" The phrase "Nei Secoli Fedele" means "always faithful." That phrase on the photo mat identifies the man pictured as a member of the Carabinieri. These men policed both military and civil matters. Follow the link to read more about them and see another picture.
Remember the owner of the picture, Justin Piccirillo, thought this man was his relative, Costabile Piccirillo ( 1891-1974). This could be him. Judging by the other clues in the image this picture dates to about 1911, when he'd be 20.
PS: I asked a military specialist to take a look at the uniform. I'll report back soon on what he had to say.
1910s photos | men | Military photos | Photos from abroad
Monday, February 25, 2008 10:58:10 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Friday, February 15, 2008
Fun and Simple Photo Editing
Posted by Maureen
I'm a fan of a relatively new website called Picnik.com
. It may make you forget expensive photo editing programs even exist. Here's what to love.
- It's online, Web-based software. All you do is access your pictures on your computer or use the ones you've uploaded to sites such as Flickr.com, Facebook.com, photobucket.com and webshots.com, and those in your Picasa Web albums. Pick a picture to edit and get started
- It's free. There's a $24.99 upgrade for additional features, but most of the regular editing tools are free. If you want more fonts or creative tools, I recommend signing up for the full version.
- Picnik's tools work with Macs, Windows and Linux operating systems.
- It's fun. I played with a couple of pictures to see what could be done. I added shapes, captions and used the editing tools to improve the look of an old photo.
- This Web-based program has a lot of power. You can sharpen blurry pictures, straighten crooked ones, correct redeye, fix exposure settings and a lot more. You can even resize pictures and select a format for saving (JPG, PNG, TIF, etc.).
- Finally, once you're done, you can share the images by e-mailing them to family and friends or posting them to a list of Web sites, such as Flickr.
You've got to try this to believe it. While it won't replace the sophisticated programs like Adobe Photoshop, it goes a long way to do more than the basics.
I'd like you to sound off about your favorite photo editing program. For years I used Microsoft's Digital Image Pro, but now that's been discontinued. What do you use to "fix" your pictures? Click Comments and let me know.
Next week I'll be back with more information on our Italian soldier
preserving photos | Web sites
Friday, February 15, 2008 4:00:58 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Overseas Military Uniforms
Posted by Maureen
Justin Piccirilli is an extremely patient genealogist. He first contacted me back in 2005 about these images, which he thinks depict his great uncle Costabile Piccirillo in a military uniform.
This is part one of a two-part photo identification problem that covers both military history and foreign family photos.
As you probably know from reading past columns, deciphering clues in a military image is a challenge. There were no standard uniforms in the 19th and early 20th century.
This gorgeous portrait shows a young man in a dress uniform. I know it’s a dress uniform because of the white gloves and shiny epaulets at the shoulders. Each metal piece of his uniform is freshly polished for this important portrait.
This full-body picture shows this man at attention with some simple props—a vase of flowers and a doily on a table.
Here, just the man’s head is visible in a picture postcard, framed with illustrated symbols of his native land. The photographer hand-colored the plume red and blue. The photo format gives a beginning time frame for the postcard—photo postcards first became available in 1900.
It’s an interesting card. Each symbol is there for a reason. Here’s part one of the breakdown:
- Underneath the oval portrait are the letters SPQR, which stand for the Latin motto of Rome, Senātus Populusque Rōmānus ("The Senate and the People of Rome").
- Beneath the motto, the words Ricordo di Roma translate to “Souvenir of Rome.” You also can see the sons of Rome, Romulus and Remus, nursing from their wolf mother.
- At the bottom is the photographer’s name, G. Tibaldi, with the words fotografia artistica. Under his name is V. Fabio Massimo.83. I think the 83 refers to 1883, perhaps the year he opened his studio, but I’m not familiar with this term. Anyone seen this before?
- Along the bottom edge are the words fotografo dei RR.CC and Vietata la Riproduzione. The latter is essentially a copyright statement.
- Four vignettes around the oval depict famous Roman battles and scenes.
This identification is a work in progress. I’ll fill you in on more details next time.
men | Military photos | Photos from abroad
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 6:55:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Monday, February 04, 2008
Share Photos on Flickr
Posted by Maureen
This weekend I finally had time to play with the web photo phenomena known as Flickr
. I'm sure some of you have been members for a while and now I know why. It's fun! For those unfamiliar with this very popular way to post, share and create with photos I'll supply the basics.
- First—It's free! You can upgrade to a pro membership for around $24. You create an account using your Yahoo ID and start uploading images. It's that easy.
- Users choose how public or private they want their albums. Got some you want to share with the world? Pick public. If not, select one of the other options.
- You can send links to your family and friends so that they can peek at your private albums.
- Need a photo related present? You can do that to. I suggest taking the Flickr tour to explore what you can do with this site.
Recently the Library of Congress
partnered with Flickr to share images from the country's largest photo collection. To access the images, just type library of congress
in the search box in the upper right-hand corner. You'll be stunned at the diversity of images in the nation's library. My personal favorites are all the early color pictures.
Don't be shy. Flickr lets you post comments to each picture.
The response to my call for interesting photo backgrounds is filling my e-mail inbox. I'd like to share more of those images with. I've written to Flickr to see if that's possible and to double-check that creating a group doesn't violate their noncommercial rules. If for some reason Flickr turns down my request, I'll find another way. Keep the pictures coming!
Next request—Got some curious props in photos? I'd love to see them
Monday, February 04, 2008 5:25:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Monday, January 28, 2008
Oklahoma Family Problems
Posted by Maureen
Debbie Deaton sent me a photo hoping I could confirm the
identity of this family. She thinks this portrait depicts the Deaton family: Franklin
Deaton, his wife, Mahalia Mae Archer Deaton, and their children. Standing next to Mahalia is her son and Franklin’s
step-son, Harley. The other boy is Arthur Lee Deaton, Debbie’s husband’s
grandfather. The girl is supposedly Zelda.
The clothing in this picture is the first thing I looked at,
but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The full sleeves on the women’s dresses suggest
a time frame of the mid 1890s. That’s the easy part. I know I’ve said it before,
but costume is only one clue. In this
picture’s case, the family history and genealogy can solve the
Debbie knows little about the individuals in this
picture. They lived in Oklahoma,
and Mahalia was supposedly a full-blood Cherokee Indian. Franklin
worked as a Sheriff. He died delivering a tax bill; as he got to the door, the
man shot Franklin
I searched GenealogyBank for newspaper stories relating
to Franklin, but
didn’t have any luck. Then I tried the Oklahoma Historical Society Web site, where you can search citations for Oklahoma
newspaper articles. Unfortunately, Franklin
didn’t appear in the index.
to search the Federal Census using HeritageQuest Online (I have access with my
Boston Public Library card—see if your public library system provides access
to HeritageQuest). I didn’t find Franklin, but there was a
1900 census record for Mahalia (below).
living with an Archer family. Her relationship to the head of the
household is "step daughter;" Mahalia's children are "step grandchildren." Both Arthur and Zildy (Zelda) appear, but no
Harley. The census states Mahala’s race as "Ind." and she reported having given birth to three children.
That led me to some possibilities:
- If this picture shows Arthur (b. August 1894)
and Zildy (b. January 1900), it certainly wasn’t taken in the mid- 1890s. The children are too old and their ages reversed.
The girl in this photo is older thn both boys. I’d estimate she's around 10
years old. The boy on the right is 7 or 8 and the other
is even younger.
- Where’s Harley in the census? He may have died. This is a key piece of information that requires additional
research. Perhaps the photo shows
Mahala and two boys from a third marriage, though I think this is the least
There are a lot of unanswered questions about the Deaton
family and this picture, but it’s a
solvable problem. I’d continue to look for a death notice or news
story about Franklin’s
death, which appears to have occurred about 1900. I also
suggest Debbie look at her family tree for other families with children
the right ages for this image. Other research that can help includes the Dawes Rolls of Five Civilized Tribe enrollments.
I have to admit all the questions around this picture make my head hurt. If you have
a suggestion for these Oklahoma
research woes, please post a comment.
- Instead of depicting Mahala and her husband,
could this image feature the Archer family from the census: Earl, his wife, their
daughter and two youngest sons?
1890s photos | group photos
Monday, January 28, 2008 5:53:58 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Backgrounds in Old Photos
Posted by Maureen
In mid-December, I asked readers to submit photos with interesting backgrounds. Thank you for images.
I'm conducting an informal study of the different types of backgrounds in photos—it's a vastly understudied area of photo history. Here's an overview:
In the 1840s and 1850s daguerreotypists really didn't use backgrounds. Their focus was capturing a likeness of a person, not making the pictures look like they were taken outdoors.
In the 1860s, suddenly you start seeing the wall behind the sitter. You can see the blank wall and the moulding at the base. At some point in the late 1850s photographers began offering handpainted copies of images with gorgeous backgrounds painted in. Many of you probably have these and wonder if they're photographs or paintings. They're actually both.
In the late 19th century, photographers began paying artists to create backdrops. You've seen some of them in past columns. The backdrop and the architectural elements create a stage setting for the portrait. In photos taken at tourist resorts, you're likely to see seaside scenes. In next few weeks I'll share some interesting backgrounds I've purchased as examples.
One of the photographs I received was from Alissa Booth. These three boys were born in the period from 1911 to 1915. Notice the delicately painted backdrop. It's professionally done and creates a nature scene so the boys look like they posed outdoors.
Keep sending me the interesting backgrounds
1910s photos | 1920s photos | children | group photos | photo backgrounds
Tuesday, January 22, 2008 4:11:07 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)