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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, April 06, 2009
Why the Long Faces in Old Photos?
Posted by Maureen

Every so often I bump into a 19th century photo in which the subjects are grinning. It's a rare event. Occasionally, you see a Mona Lisa smile, but it's difficult to locate an image from the 19th century where folks actually showed teeth the way we do today. So, you're probably wondering—why the long face in most pictures?

In the beginning, I imagine that sitters were nervous in front of the camera. It was new, and having your picture taken was an uncomfortable procedure.

Look closely at your early photographs and see if you can spot a posing device such as a wooden stand behind the subjects' feet. This device sometimes extended as far up as the head and had clamps around a person's waist or head to keep him still for the long exposure time. Would you feel like smiling?

In this 1870s tintype, you can see a chair with the adjustable back. This man holds the the chair back, but if you look closely at his feet, you can see a wooden brace stand.

men046.jpg

You can learn more about photographic patents and these tools in Janice G. Schimmelman's American Photographic Patents 1840-1880: The Daguerreotype & Wet Plate Era (Carl Mautz, $25.00). Unfortunately, I don't own a picture of a full clamping device. Anyone got one to share?

I have a small collection of women and babies I call "hidden mothers." Women hid under blankets and rugs to keep their babies still for the camera.  In this photo, a mother or a photographer's assistant braces the toddler for the picture.

babies022.jpg

There were also devices to hold babies that look like medieval instruments of torture.

Let's not forget another reason individuals didn't smile for the photographer: dental care. Forget cosmetic dentistry—few folks had a full set of pearly whites. In fact, dentistry was a new profession in the mid-19th century. The online Encyclopedia Britannica has a short article on the history of dental care.

If you have a picture of a "hidden mother," a smiling ancestor, or a photo that includes a posing device, email it to me and I'll post it in this space. Both of the images above are from my research picture collection.


1870s photos | children | men | photo backgrounds | women
Monday, April 06, 2009 5:26:27 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [7]
A Blog Worth Reading
Posted by Diane

Just wanted to say congratulations to Maureen for making the Photo Detective blog one of Chris Dunham's 10 Genealogy Blogs Worth Reading.

And thanks to Dunham! (He's the Genealogue's more serious alter ego.)


Photo fun
Monday, April 06, 2009 2:52:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, March 30, 2009
Picture Origins: Overseas or in America?
Posted by Maureen

In response to last week's column on tinted pictures, Barbara Stone sent in this oversize hand colored photo of a young woman.

barbaraIMG_4138.jpg

It's on canvas and framed in a gorgeous gold setting. According to Stone is was found in a collection of pictures of her father's Irish relatives who lived in Ansonia, Conn. The problem is: Where was it taken and who is it?

I own a similar type image of my great-grandfather. His picture and the one owned by Stone are charcoal-enhanced photographs. Each is likely based on a much smaller original photograph.

In the late 19th century, photographers advertised that they could produce this enhanced enlargements. The wide upper sleeves on her dress, the design of the bodice and her hairstyle all provide a time frame for the image of the late 1890s. Stone wrote that it might depict Jane (Lomasney) Coppinger from Kilworth, County Cork, and wondered if it was made it the United States or in Ireland.

Figuring out if this is Jane is a matter of finding out her birth date to see if she's a young woman in the late 1890s. If that's the case, verifying her immigration year could identify the place of origin for this picture. It's a case of adding up the facts. Do the details of her life (i.e. her age) and immigration information support Stone's hypothesis? I'll let you know if I find out.

BTW, there is a new Web site for English photo reunions. You can watch my YouTube video about it. If one of your ancestors lived in Hull, England, you'll definitely want to take the Hull Challenge.

1890s photos | enhanced images | women
Monday, March 30, 2009 2:15:39 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Sunday, March 29, 2009
Picture Origins: Overseas or in America
Posted by Maureen

In response to last week's column on tinted pictures, Barbara Stone sent in this oversize hand colored photo of a young woman.  It's on canvas and framed in a gorgeous gold setting.  According to Stone is was found in a collection of pictures of her father's Irish relatives who lived in Ansonia, Connecticut. The problem is: Where was it taken and who is it?

# Monday, March 23, 2009
Hand-Colored Photographs
Posted by Maureen

Do you own any photographs that are hand-colored?

These tinted enhancements range from delicately shaded pink lips and gold jewelry to elaborate coloring that obscures the image and transforms a photograph into a painting.

Powders, paints, crayons and pastels were all used to make photographs look more lifelike. Some photographers hired artists to apply the color, while others attempted to do the job themselves. The final results were mixed based on the skill of the person laying down the color.

The history of photography is full of examples of hand-colored images from the early daguerreotype period to the digitally colored images of today.

firemenedit3g06607v.jpg

Here's an example from the Library of Congress. It's three men from the Phoenix Fire Company and Mechanic Fire Company of Charleston, SC.  Isn't it beautiful? The photographer tinted their jackets, but the red color most attracts the eye.  

It was taken c. 1855 by Tyler & Co. Additional information on Tyler can be found in Craig's Daguerreian Registry.

In John Comstock's A System of Natural Philosphy (1852), there are details about how this tint might've been added and a bit of background on coloring in general:
Coloring daguerreotype pictures is an American invention, and has been considered a secret, though at the present time it is done with more or less success by most artists. 
The color consists of the oxyds of several metals, ground to an impalpable powder. They are laid on in a dry state, with soft camel-hair pencils, after the process of gilding. The plate is then heated by which they are fixed. This is a very delicate part of the art, and should not be undertaken by those who have not a good eye, and a light hand.
Comstock received these details from a Mr. N.G. Burgess of 192 Broadway, NY, and claimed that "he was an experienced and expert artist in this line." Nathan Burgess also is in Craig's Daguerreian Registry. It appears he was one of the earliest daguerreotypists in this country.

Note: If you were looking at the original of this image, you'd have to view the image at an angle. This is a key characteristic of a daguerreotype. They were also reversed.

If you have a hand-colored image you'd like to share, see the photo submission guidelines.


1850s photos | enhanced images | men
Monday, March 23, 2009 2:07:20 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, March 16, 2009
Irish Pictures
Posted by Maureen

Before I launch into a list of Web sites handy for finding pictures of your Irish ancestors, I need to thank genea-blogger Randy Seaver for naming last week's video of hairstyles to his best blog posts of the week. Thank you, Randy! 

Now on to sites with images of the Emerald Isle and its people.

National Library of Ireland
These digital collections are searchable by keyword. Select images are available in digital form for browsing. Unfortunately, only a small portion of their collection is available online, the majority must be used in person. Need an excuse to go to Ireland?

Old UK Photos
According to the home page, "this Web site was launched in July of 2006, with the idea of preserving old pictures in perpetuity and displaying as many old photographs as we can of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands." You can look for free, but none of the images is available for purchase or use.

Francis Frith
Search the Web site of this photographic publisher for images of England, Eire, Norhern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It contains an interactive feature that allows you to add your own story. If you see an image or collection of images that you'd liek to save, create an online album.

Don't forget to check collections in the countries in which your Irish ancestors settled. For instance, the Library of Congress collection has pictures of Irish immigrants.


photo-research tips
Monday, March 16, 2009 3:11:39 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, March 09, 2009
Hairstyles!
Posted by Maureen

A few months ago, I asked for family photos of interesting hairstyles. I was overwhelmed with the response.

So many photos presented a problem. How could I present them?  A slide show was the answer. I used Picasa, a free photo organizing tool from Google. I included a musical track just for fun.

Credits are at the bottom of each slide. There's some additional information as well. If a photo was submitted without a date, I tried to add a date to it. Enjoy!

(Here's a viewing tip: To watch the slideshow in full-screen mode so the captions are easier to read, look at the bottom gray bar of the video screen and click the rectangle button, located on the right side next to the up arrow button.)


Look for my ancestral hairstyles article in the May 2009 Family Tree Magazine (on sale now!).
 


hairstyles | Videos
Monday, March 09, 2009 12:55:20 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, March 02, 2009
London Wrap-Up Part 1
Posted by Maureen

A big thank you to Diane for posting a couple of pictures in this space last week.  London was fantastic! I'm a bit jet-lagged from the travel and tired (but excited) about all the things I saw at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show last weekend.  This is an event I've wanted to attend for a couple of years, but the timing was never right.  However, this year's schedule was perfect. 

While WDYTYA is really a trade show, there are a few different lecture tracks. Some are even free.  At American genealogy conferences you pay a general admission fee, but at the London event you only purchase tickets for specific lectures on a first-come first-served basis.

If you took a look at the two pictures you get a sense of just how popular this event is. The Facebook friends I posed with wanted to get there early. We waited in line for about an hour, but it was worth it.  Guess who secured the number one spots in the queque?  We did.

When the doors opened we were ready. Estimates for Saturday's attendance were as high as four thousand people. On Saturday the crowds were even larger and the line continued around the building even at noon. Each new Olympia/Kensington train brought loads of new folks to the event.  I have lots to share over the next few weeks. 

I'll start with a few photos so you can get a sense of the size and scope of the show.

IMG_3292.JPG
Here's one of the free lectures taught by FindMyPast.com.

IMG_3290.JPG

2009 is the year of the Gathering in Scotland. I spend some time in the booth talking about my McDuff line. He told me that there currently isn't a Chieftain of the McDuff clan. The Gathering brings all the clans together for events. I put my name in for a free drawing. My fingers are crossed.<smile>.

IMG_3306.JPG
The crowds on day 2.

I'll be back in the next few weeks with more.  I'll also post an album on my FaceBook profile.

I can't wait until next year!


Genealogy events | photo news
Monday, March 02, 2009 4:03:23 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, February 27, 2009
Wish I Were There!
Posted by Diane

Hope it’s OK if I butt into the blog for a second. Maureen’s on a whirlwind trip to the Who Do You Think You Are? Live family history show in London, where she’s staying with genealogy Facebook friends.

She says hi, and she sent a picture of the group queueing up to get in. More pictures and some words to go with them next week.



Mind the gap, please!


Photo fun | Photos from abroad | women
Friday, February 27, 2009 9:24:29 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, February 23, 2009
Two-Sided Mystery: On the Flip Side
Posted by Maureen

I love a good mystery. Last week I analyzed a group portrait and provided a time frame of the early 20th century. It was on one side of a sheet of pink paper. Before I divulge the family information behind this image, let's look at the other side. It's a two-sided mystery.

Over the years, I've seen photographs used for doing math homework, writing grocery lists and even sketching embroidery patterns. In this instance, the two photographs and the pink sheet of paper form a single scrapbook page.

cohen1.jpg

In the upper left hand corner of the flip side of the page is a picture of a young man dressed for work on a ranch--cowboy hat, tall boots, heavy gloves and riding pants that are wide at the upper legs and hips and narrow at the lower leg.

To the right of this image is a valentine.
cohen 2.jpg

The lower half of the sheet is a child's drawing of a flower with one of the petals ripped off.

cohen3.jpg

It's the final piece of evidence of this collage that so's interesting. It's a bit of a printed page.

cohen4.jpg

It turned out to be a piece of a music catalog for Conqueror Records. Carson J. Robison and his trio recorded Moonlight on the Colorado and Oklahoma Charley in 1930.  You can view an online catalog for Conqueror. Just below that listing is another song, My Blue Ridge Mountain Home, a tune that Robison wrote in 1927. If you're interested you can still purchase the sheet music from eCrater.

Wikipedia has a short biography of Robison with links to sites for more information.  He was very well known as "the granddaddy of the Hillbillies." In the early 1930s he formed his own band and travelled around the U.S. and the British Isles playing country music.  He was posthumously named to the Country Music Hall of Fame.  He died in 1957.

I have to admit that I couldn't do all this research without listening to his music. You can a recording of Going to the Barn Dance Tonight on YouTube and find a picture of him and a clip of I Don't Wanta Be Rich on Hillbilly-Music.com. It's foot-tapping music.

The pieces add up to suggest that sometime in the early 1930s, a person (perhaps a little girl) decided to piece together a few of her favorite things--a couple of pictures, a valentine, and a drawing. Maybe she was a country music fan.
cohen5.jpg
Next week I'll be back with the family details.


1910s photos | 1930s photos | men
Monday, February 23, 2009 3:36:15 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]