Free Updates

Let us tell you when new posts are added!

Email:

Navigation

Categories
July, 2014 (4)
June, 2014 (5)
May, 2014 (4)
April, 2014 (4)
March, 2014 (5)
February, 2014 (4)
January, 2014 (4)
December, 2013 (5)
November, 2013 (4)
October, 2013 (4)
September, 2013 (5)
August, 2013 (4)
July, 2013 (4)
June, 2013 (5)
May, 2013 (4)
April, 2013 (5)
March, 2013 (4)
February, 2013 (4)
January, 2013 (4)
December, 2012 (5)
November, 2012 (4)
October, 2012 (5)
September, 2012 (4)
August, 2012 (5)
July, 2012 (5)
June, 2012 (4)
May, 2012 (4)
April, 2012 (5)
March, 2012 (4)
February, 2012 (4)
January, 2012 (5)
December, 2011 (5)
November, 2011 (4)
October, 2011 (5)
September, 2011 (4)
August, 2011 (5)
July, 2011 (5)
June, 2011 (6)
May, 2011 (7)
April, 2011 (4)
March, 2011 (5)
February, 2011 (3)
January, 2011 (5)
December, 2010 (4)
November, 2010 (5)
October, 2010 (4)
September, 2010 (4)
August, 2010 (5)
July, 2010 (4)
June, 2010 (5)
May, 2010 (4)
April, 2010 (4)
March, 2010 (5)
February, 2010 (4)
January, 2010 (4)
December, 2009 (3)
November, 2009 (5)
October, 2009 (4)
September, 2009 (4)
August, 2009 (5)
July, 2009 (4)
June, 2009 (5)
May, 2009 (4)
April, 2009 (5)
March, 2009 (6)
February, 2009 (5)
January, 2009 (5)
December, 2008 (4)
November, 2008 (4)
October, 2008 (6)
September, 2008 (5)
August, 2008 (5)
July, 2008 (4)
June, 2008 (6)
May, 2008 (5)
April, 2008 (5)
March, 2008 (4)
February, 2008 (4)
January, 2008 (5)
December, 2007 (4)
November, 2007 (4)
October, 2007 (6)
September, 2007 (4)
August, 2007 (4)
July, 2007 (5)
June, 2007 (4)
May, 2007 (3)
April, 2007 (2)
March, 2007 (1)

Search

Archives

<May 2009>
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
262728293012
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31123456

by Maureen A. Taylor

More Links










# Monday, May 04, 2009
Photographing Children in Our Ancestors' Day
Posted by Maureen

In honor of Mother's Day, I'm including a short piece on photographing of children from Rhode Island photographers William Coleman and Orville Remington. They were business partners in their studio from 1867 to 1883. 

During their first year, the men published a booklet advising potential customers how to dress and pose for their pictures. They also include practical advice for parents on getting pictures of their children. I find some of it quite funny and hope you do, too.
Many photographers dislike taking children. It is true, they are sometimes troublesome, and the result uncertain; but again, they are so often easy and graceful, and their pure complexions give such delicate half-tones, that some of the finest pictures are those of children, and no artist seeking after excellence would forego, even from choice, the oportunity they afford.

For very young children, it is necessary to choose a fine day, and the best light, which is usually in the forenoon.

Avoid giving or mentioning sweets to them. Do not play or fuss too much with them. Generally a child will sit best if left entirely to the operator.
The last bit of advice is still true today <grin>. Here are some pictures of "hidden mothers" (or photographer's assistants) who often appear—partially—in old pictures of babies.



Ancestories blogger Miriam Robbin Midkiff sent in this adorable photo (above). She writes:
Attached is a photo of my husband's maternal grandmother, Leona Mary MARTIN (on left) and her twin, Lee Joseph MARTIN, taken c. 1907 in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. If you look closely at the left side of Leona's gown and the right side of Lee's gown, you'll see evidence that someone (or a couple of someones) are sitting out of sight, holding the children on the sofa.  The twins would have been about a year old (they were born 17 Dec. 1906). The back says "For Grandpa and Grandma". Only their maternal grandparents, Isaac and Rebecca (HEWITT) LUKE were still living by the time they were born. I imagine this photo was a Christmas gift.
These close-ups show the odd folds in the children's gowns—it looks like they're concealing grown-ups' hands:

  

Donna Richmond sent this picture (below) titled "child of L.C. Hataway, Black Creek, La." At teh baby's waist, you can clearly see the hands of a woman hidden under the rug.



Here's one more picture from my collection of unidentified photos of hidden women. It dates from the late 1860s. Don't you just love the hands holding the baby's head still?

Happy Mother's Day!


children | women
Monday, May 04, 2009 2:35:25 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, April 27, 2009
House History Help: My Favorite Books
Posted by Diane

My bookshelves are an eclectic mix of volumes on everything from forensic identification of facial features to button history. Any book I think might help analyze a picture ends up in my library.

This diversity of titles includes several tomes on house history. If you find yourself with an architecture problem, these books should help you tell the differences among styles:
  • Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia McAlester and Lee McAlester (Knopf, $45.00).  This is a classic. Full of illustrations and easy to understand diagrams.
  • Identifying American Architecture: A Pictorial Guide to Styles and Terms: 1600-1945 by John J. G. Blumenson (W.W. Norton, $15.95). This is a pocket size guide to house details.
  • The Visual Dictionary of American Domestic Architecture by Rachel Carley (Holt, $27.00). Extensive text accompanies the drawings in this reference volume.
Don't forget to check out the architecture problem in my most recent Photo Detective column in Family Tree Magazine (July 2009). The second installment of that column appeared in this space.

If you're looking for a social history of early American architecture, my favorite is Where We Lived: Discovering the Places We Once Called Home, The American Home from 1775 to 1840 by Jack Larkin (Taunton, $40).

It covers everything from outhouses to mansions. Once you start reading Larkin's book you'll be hooked. I couldn't put it down. Fascinating first person accounts make it so much more than a reference tool.


house/building photos
Monday, April 27, 2009 2:50:25 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]
# Monday, April 13, 2009
Raising the Roof: Architectural Images
Posted by Maureen

This week's blog column is actually the second part of a photo mystery.  The first installment appears in my Photo Detective article in the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine. That issue should be in your mail boxes starting this week.

Here's a synopsis of the problem: Bergetta Monroe has a mystery photo (of course!) of a farm. She doesn't know where it was taken or when, but she has a list of possible surnames for folks that could have owned the property. 


In the article, I offer tips to solve this family mystery and promise to discuss the architectural details in this blog.

I've taken this picture apart section by section, looking for elements that could help identify this mid-19th century farm. The main house appears to be in the Greek Revival style, which is characterized by Doric columns on the front porch and a pitched roof. The windows feature six-over-six panes of glass. Greek Revival design was popular from 1825 to 1860.

Other features are visible when you enlarge the front yard of the house:
BergettaDSC_4511 NEFposts.jpg

Look closely. You can see the simple Doric columns, but also visible are nine hitching posts for horses and a fence on the other side of the house. That could signal a road nearby.

The dominant greenery are pine trees. In front of the fence in the foreground is tilled land and some young trees, possibly fruit bearing varieties. If this house and yard is still intact, those saplings would be much bigger by now.
BergettaDSC_4511 NEFtrees.jpg

My favorite building on the property is the Italianate style barn, with its turreted roof and bracketed cornices (along the roof line).  It even has arched windows, one of the determining details in that architectural style.
BergettaDSC_4511 NEFbarn.jpg

This particular building style dates from 1850 to 1880, possibly making the barn newer than the house. Why else would the owners build their dwelling in one style and the barn in a more elaborate style? So many questions...

There are many outbuildings on this property, and the size and condition of those structures suggest this was a prosperous farm. It appears that there are smaller farms in the vicinity. Note the dwelling to the rear left, behind the barn. That doesn't appear to part of this estate.

In the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine, I discuss a date for this photo, but that only begins to tell the story of this farm. Given the family information Monroe supplied, this picture was taken in New England, either Vermont, New Hampshire or Massachusetts. The likeliest location is Vermont. You'll have to read the story to find out why (grin).

We're still trying to identify the exact location.

photo-research tips | house/building photos
Monday, April 13, 2009 3:44:50 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
# 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]