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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, September 01, 2013
Ancestral Occupations
Posted by Maureen

Do you know what your ancestors did for work? My paternal grandfather painted houses and so did his father. My maternal grandmother worked in a cotton mill alongside the rest of her family. Their stories were passed down in the family and evidence in documents like city directories and census records added more details.

Throughout the centuries, men, women and even children labored to support their families. You may think you know the whole story behind your ancestral work history, but there could be missing pieces.

Women often worked outside the home before marriage, then afterwards stayed home to raise children. However, many of these women also had jobs or juggled multiple volunteer positions. During World War II, women returned to the workforce to fill jobs once held by men. One of my aunts found employment in a ship-building factory. 

In this picture a woman welds pieces of a cooling system at the Washtenaw County, Mich., Willow Run Bomber Plant in July 1942. A woman photographer, Ann Rosener, took the picture.  You can view more of these WWII photos at the Library of Congress website.

8e11140vedit.jpg

Child labor laws are a 20th century phenomena. Many of our grandparents (and earlier generations) worked in fields and factories.

In support of child labor laws, photographer Lewis Hine documented children working in mills in the early 20th century. His captions sometimes include partial names and identifying details.

Joe Manning fills in the rest. His Lewis Hine project is amazing! He takes those bits and pieces from the Hine captions, does some research, and then contacts relatives to tell them that he's found a picture of a family member working as a child.  In most cases, they have no idea that their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents worked as children.

Photographs of our ancestors at work are not very common. Studio portraits rarely capture individuals in work attire.  I wish I had a picture of my grandfather painting or of my grandmother in a factory, but  I don't. If you have occupational photographs I'd love to see them. Follow the "how to submit your photo" guidelines. 

This week, take a few minutes to interview family members about their work history. You might have a few surprises in store.


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

  • 1940s photos | children | men | occupational
    Sunday, September 01, 2013 2:30:12 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 25, 2013
    The Marsteller Old-Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I outlined the mystery of the Ralph Marsteller photo.  This week I'm back with more details.
    StaffordFamily photo Ralph Reinhardt Marsteller_edited-1.jpg
    Let's start with some basics.

    What are they wearing?
    Clothing clues can be very helpful, BUT it's important to remember that there were lots of different styles every season and people didn't automatically wear the most current fashion. I look for details that help create a time frame. In this image, the most fashionably dressed woman is standing in the back on the far left.

    Staffordhat.jpg

    Fashion research suggests that this woman posed for this picture in 1918.  The lightweight fabric worn by everyone in the picture suggests a warm weather month. These little details could help pinpoint when Ralph Marsteller met his family or friends.

    In 1918, broad-brimmed hats with an upturned edge returned. You could buy a similar hat in the Sears Catalog for that year. Widespread collars were very popular on dresses in this period as well.

    stafford boy.jpg

    These lightweight suits for little boys appeared in mail-order catalogs circa 1914 and were still popular four years later. They were recommended for boys 2 to 6 years of age and cost approximately 70 cents. So this boy's attire places him in an age group.

    Who's Not in the Picture?
    Patti Stafford knows that Ralph's wife Eva isn't in the photo, and it doesn't look like their teenage son is here either—none of the children are the right age to be him. Nor is their daughter Arlene in this picture; these girls look too young.

    Who's Who?
    If this picture was taken about 1918, then Ralph's son Ralph could be the little boy in the military style suit. He'd be 5 years old.

    It's also possible that Ralph's sister is in the picture along with her husband and their children. More research into this angle could result in an identification.

    The older woman is not Ralph's mother. She was deceased by this time, but this woman could be an aunt who resembles some of the people in the photo.

    stafford older woman.jpg

    Ralph's mother Dianna Jane Rumfeld/Rumfield had sisters with small children at the time of this picture. This could be a gathering of the Rumfeld/Rumfields, rather than the Marstellers.

    Ralph's brother Henry is still living, so Patti's next step is to show him this photo to see if he can identify anyone in it.

    Research often turns up overlooked information. When Ralph's father William died, a Mr. Snyder was appointed guardian for him. While going through all the family paperwork looking for a connection, Patti found an interesting detail. Dianna Jane's marriage certificate states that her last name was Rumfeld/Rumfield. Her death certificate states that Dianna's mother was Louisa Snyder. This detail suggests that Snyder was a family member.

    I'm hopeful that Henry can put names with the rest of faces, but for now it looks like Patti has a picture of her grandfather and his father taken in about 1918.


    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

  • 1910s photos | group photos | men | snapshots | women | World War I
    Sunday, August 25, 2013 4:30:43 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 19, 2013
    Looking for a Pennsylvania Connection
    Posted by Diane

    Every week I search the submissions for this column looking for a mystery photo. Each photo is accompanied by some basic information and usually a story. My next steps are to contact the person who sent in the photo either by phone or email, then start digging for more information. This picture is very intriguing. 

    Only one person in Patti Stafford's group portrait is identified. It's her great grandfather Ralph Reinhardt Marsteller (born 1887 in Center Valley, Pa.). The rest of the people are unknown.

    But even having one name is a start. Patti hopes to find other Marsteller or Reinhard relatives who recognize people in this picture.

    StaffordFamily photo Ralph Reinhardt Marsteller_edited-1.jpg


    Ralph's father William Hillegass Marsteller died suddenly at age 40 in 1896, Allentown, Pa, without a will. T he courts appointed a Mr. Snyder as Ralph's guardian. Patti believes the 9-year-old and his sister, Estella, continued to live with their mother. It's possible that court records hold additional details.

    I'm working with Patti to piece together the story of this image.
    • Could the little boy on the left be her grandfather Ralph George Marsteller?
    • Could the older woman in the front be her great-great aunt?
    • Why is her great-grandfather in this picture, but not her great- grandmother and their other son?

    Patti's taking another look at her family history to see if she can find a family with several girls. There are three girls in the picture as well as the little boy in the sailor suit on the left. The gender of the child being held by the man in the back row isn't clear. 

    So how do the clues add up?  I'll be back next week with the rest of the story. I love a good mystery—don't you?


    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

  • 1910s photos | children | hats | men
    Monday, August 19, 2013 2:00:17 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 11, 2013
    Old Family Photos: Fraternal Organizations
    Posted by Maureen

    Blanch Flanigan owns not one but two images of family in dress that identifies them as members of a fraternal organization. These secret societies were very popular in the 19th century. They offered men brotherhood, work opportunities and a shared mission.

    Symbolism varied. The three interconnecting rings of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows signifies friendship, love and truth. Masonic aprons and compasses are also distinctive.

    These groups were primarily for men, but at least one fraternal organization allowed both male and female members: the Order of the Eastern Star. Boston lawyer and educator Rob Morris established this group in 1850. It was represented by a single star.

    Could these individuals be members of this organization?

    flanigan1edit.jpg

    This couple posed in the 1870s for this portrait. Mary Ellen and Henry Watson wear a fraternal collar with just one star.

    The Watsons were both born in Ontario, but their son was born in Quebec, Canada. It is unknown if this picture was taken in Ontario or Quebec. It's a solemn formal tintype portrait.

    I've seen pictures of men in fraternal regalia, but not a picture of both a man and a woman in this attire from this period.

    flanigan3.jpg

    Members of fraternal organizations were supposed to be respectful of their attire, so the second image is puzzling.

    flanigan2edit.jpg
    The men are clowning for the camera with their legs crossed, collars askew and with cigars in their mouths. The man on the right is Henry Watson. Seated next to him is his son James.

    The son wears a wide brimmed youthful style while his father wears his work cap. I love the hat on the father. I'll be in touch with Blanch to see if she knows more about Henry's occupation.

    There are a few questions relating to this image:
    • Is James a member as well?  Most groups had age requirements. Is he old enough to be a member.
    • Is the son wearing his mother's collar, or vice versa?
    • Why are they clowning for the camera? Could the collars be photographer's props?

    The basic identification facts of this photo are known, but there's a bigger story.

    I'd start by studying the local history of the town in which the family lived. This will help determine which fraternal organizations were in the area in the 1870s. This is a Masonic-related group, but which one?

    This isn't the first time I've written about fraternal groups. Here are three columns on the Independent Order of Odd Fellows:


    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

  • 1870s photos | fraternal | hats | occupational
    Sunday, August 11, 2013 3:57:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, August 04, 2013
    Foreign Photos in the Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    This week I'm at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Conference. It's a huge event with folks attending from all over the globe. I love the international atmosphere and especially like looking at photographs taken around the world.

    Photos taken in foreign lands can be particularly challenging. Instead of showing you this week's photo immediately, I'm first going to break it down into clues. The image is one I purchase for my personal photo collection.

    foreign1.jpg

    The style of this woman's hair and the square-necked bodice and the fit of the dress identify a time frame of the early 20th century. Women who followed the current Parisian fashions and who lived in urban areas generally adopted western style dress. Even fashion-conscious women in rural areas might follow trends while others adopted the local cultural dress.

    foreign4.jpg

    Her hat rests on a chair. This additional detail narrows the time frame. Hats about 1910 featured wide brims and tall crowns with lots of trim.

    foreign2.jpg

    Men didn't always wear western dress. The style of this man's coat and even his mustache suggest a photo taken abroad (or one showing an immigrant in the United States). The insignia on his lapels are military.

    foreign6.jpg

    I could use a little help with the imprint. The photographer's information on a photo usually includes a name and address. Is there anyone who can read the Cyrillic on this image? 

    foreign3.jpg

    Here's the whole photo. The couple to the right are very fashionable folks for the second decade of the 20th century. The man on the far left and the young man in front draw attention because of their different clothing.  Photo studio props and backdrops vary around the world, but they usually include some basic similarities: a chair, something on the floor (in this case it's hay) and a painted backdrop.

     foreign7.jpg

    At their feet are the hats worn by members of this party. Two straw hats with wide bands and one military cap. That likely belongs to the man on the far left (see enlargement above). 

    Photos taken in foreign lands need careful study of every detail. You'll find more help in my book Family Photo Detective.


    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

  • 1910s photos | hats | Military photos | women | World War I
    Sunday, August 04, 2013 7:07:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Sunday, July 28, 2013
    A Family Portrait Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Lauren Hamilton submitted this photo with a few questions, but as soon as I saw it I thought, "uh oh, this might not be who Lauren and her cousin think it is."

    McCauley_4__.jpg

    The cousins' great-great-grandfather John McCauley was a Mennonite minister in Ontario, and later an Evangelical minister in Iowa. Born about 1840 in Dunfermline, Scotland, he and his family immigrated to Markham, Ontario approximately two years later. 

    McCauley moved to Iowa in 1872 and died there in 1899.

    Lauren's first question was about the approximate date of this photo.

    Women wore dress styles like this in the late 1880s. This woman's dress has a bodice that ends at the hip and a skirt with straight pleats. She wears her hair in a simple bun.

    Her husband wears a typical suit for the period. It consists of a slightly fitted jacket, likely with a vest underneath, and a tie with a wide knot at the neck. Lauren wondered if this man wearing a minister's collar, but he's not; rather, he's wearing a patterned silk tie. His trimmed mustache and neat hair cut also suggest this photo was taken very late in the 1880s.

    McCauley2___.jpg

    This date conflicts with family information on McCauley. In the 1880 Census for Montgomery County, Iowa, the 40 year old McCauley has seven children aged six months to 16. The two youngest children are girls.

    Lauren also wanted to know if the child standing in the skirt is a boy. That could be. In the 1880s, boys up to age 5 wore skirts, sometimes with pants underneath. Plaid was a popular patterned fabric throughout the decade. Lauren thought that child might be a McCauley son born in 1864, but the 1880s date rules out that identification.

    McCauley3___.jpg

    Lauren really wants to know if the photo was taken in Ontario or Iowa. Unfortunately, this 3.5x5-inch photograph appears trimmed, instead of mounted on cardstock, as for most 19th century images. Such mounts often provide the photographer's name and location, a valuable clues for identifying a picture. That and the color of the cardstock, also a telling clue, are missing in this instance.

    The photographic backdrop might help in identifying who took the image. In order to look for studios that match this setup, Lauren needs to know a location.

    So who's in the picture?  McCauley would be close to 50 years old in the late 1880s, and his youngest child would be 7 or 8. This husband and wife look younger. 

    Instead of confirming Lauren's identification, I've deepened the mystery. Hopefully this new information will match someone on her family tree. 


    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

  • 1880s photos | children | hairstyles | men | women
    Sunday, July 28, 2013 7:57:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, July 22, 2013
    A Southern Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Cornelius Webbedit.jpg

    The story of a photograph is so much more than its simple details. This is a carte de visite (CDV) image. The mounted size of a CDV is 2.125 x 3.5 inches.  The slight oval shadow on this picture signifies it was once in an album.

    When confronted with a photographic album, read it front to back, studying the placement of the images. Who's in the first position?  That's the most important person to the individual who created the album.

    In this case, the photo is out of the context of the album.

    The photographer's studio is typical for the 1860s. There's a patterned oilcloth on the floor, a plain backdrop, a single drape and a paisley table covering. The studio has given the image a slight tint and added a bit of color to the man's cheeks.

    He wears a sack coat, a shawl-collared vest, a long necktie and loose trousers than narrow at the ankle.  At his feet is either the base of the table or a photographer's posing device. The facial hair is typical for the late 1860s.

    Stephen Taylor owns this image. He's hoping it depicts his great-great-grandfather Cornelius Webb.  Born in Philadelphia in 1836 to unidentified parents, Cornelius married an Irish immigrant, Mary M. Kennedy, in Charleston, SC in 1859.

    The 1860 Federal Census for Charleston lists the young couple living in a boarding house in the third ward (Heritage Quest Online, National Archives film M653, roll 1216, page 252, line 9). He was a tin smith and his personal estate was worth $500. 

    Most tin smiths served an apprenticeship of four to six years, then started their own business. It is unclear whether Cornelius actually manufactured goods or just sold them. The term tin smith referred to either. There were merchants in Charleston with the last name of Webb, but more research is needed to determine if Cornelius was one of them.

    According to the Frederick Ford's Census of the City of Charleston, 1861 (Charleston, 1861), Cornelius lives in a brick house at 123 Church Street, in the third ward. The Charleston Gaslight Co. owned the building. A quick search on Google maps shows that the house (as long as street numbering didn't change) no longer stands. Looking at the street view provides an indication of what it might have resembled.

    Could this be Cornelius Webb?  It seems pretty likely.  He died in 1869 at 33 years of age, leaving behind five small children, including one born that year.

    He would have posed for this image between his arrival in the city circa 1859 and his death a decade later. Harvey Teal's book, Partners with the Sun: South Carolina Photographers 1840 -1940 (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2001) documents five photographers who operated studios in Charleston prior to the Civil War. During the conflict, the Confederate government's Tax Act, levied a tax of $50 a year on anyone operating as a photographer (Charleston Mercury, May 9, 1863, page 1). After the war, several new studios opened. Most operated studios on King Street.

    The presence of a photographer's imprint on this portrait would help narrow the time frame. Teal's book lists specific dates for photographers.

    The man in this image appears prosperous. He's posing clasping his coat at the lapels, a sign of pride. This man appears older than his early 20s, so if this is Webb, it's likely he posed after the Civil War when he was in his late 20s or early 30s.


    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

  • 1860s photos | beards | Civil War
    Monday, July 22, 2013 3:23:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, July 14, 2013
    A Multi-Mystery Historical Baby Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Jim Moses recently found himself with a perplexing family photo mystery. When going through a trunk from his great-grandfather Luther Abner Moses (1860-1905) , he found an intriguing photo.

    WBryanfront.jpg

    It's a wonderful photo of a baby laughing. Everything in the trunk is related to Abner, but this photo is a puzzle. As far as Jim knows, there are no family links to this child.

    On the front it says "W. Bryan (4 months old) January 1893)."  The back is even more confusing.

    WBryanback.jpg

    Along the top edge (to the right—I've turned the image on its side) is "E.R. Pitt."  And in different script, "Compliments of Frank to Earle. Taken by J. Pilbeam (?) with Gen. Miles."

    Underneath that is "Made in Arkansas May 18 (13), 1891." Also written on the card is "Red Cloud and Little Big Horn."

    So many mysteries:
    • Who is W.Bryan?
    • Why is E.R. Pitt written on the back?
    • Who are Pilbeam and Gen. Miles?
    • Who are Frank and Earle?
    • Where was this taken?
    • Why was it in the trunk? 
    • Was the photo taken in 1893 (as on the front of the card), 1891 (as on the back), or neither?

    A search of the 1900 US census on HeritageQuest for W. Bryan resulted in a William Bryan in Arkansas, who was 10 at the time. You can't always trust ages in the census. Could this be the boy depicted in the photo?  Or does the "Arkansas" notation on the back refer to something else?

    The "E.R Pitt" notation could refer to the Earle who received the card from Frank.

    There are no Pilbeams in Arkansas in the 1900 census, but it's not an uncommon name in Michigan, which is where Luther Abner (in whose trunk this photo was found) lived. 

    Gen. Nelson Appleton Miles, whose name appears on the back, served in the Civil War and in the Spanish-American War. He spent two decades fighting on the American frontier and he drove Sitting Bull into Canada after the Battle of Little Big Horn. The names Little Big Horn and Red Cloud appear on the card.

    Could these be notes for something else? I've seen the backs of cabinet card photos used as scratch paper filled with math problems or handwriting samples, but in this case, some of the information seems more significant. 

    It's a picture mystery with lots of different threads to follow. There's one other thing to consider: Our ancestors collected interesting images. Perhaps this was an image bought because it's unusual. In an age when most people posed with serious expressions, the image of a baby laughing was an anomaly.

    In the meantime, I'll keep digging. These multi-layered mysteries are frustrating but fascinating. 


    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

  • 1890s photos | african american | children | unusual photos
    Sunday, July 14, 2013 4:39:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, July 07, 2013
    Clues, Cousins and Contacts: Three Ways to Solve a Photo Mystery
    Posted by Diane

    What does it take to solve a picture mystery? In this case it's clues, cousins and contacts.

    ThomazinTintype Tintededit.jpg

    June Thomazin is determined to solve this tintype mystery! I featured it in my Photo Detective column in the September 2010 Family Tree Magazine (you can get a download of that Photo Detective column or the full issue at ShopFamilyTree.com).

    She was hoping someone would come forward with more information, but no one did. Here's how the story evolved.

    Clues
    Back in 2010, June submitted two painted tintypes. I studied them and suggested they were taken in the late 1860s. Tintypes, patented in 1856, remained popular until the mid-20th century. The wide lapels on the man's jacket and the woman's belted dress fit the period.

    Cousins
    In June's tireless search for an answer, she discovered three other copies of this picture owned by various cousins. At some point, a descendant of this couple took the image to a studio to be copied and had different versions of it made. Of the four existing images, two are tintypes and two are crayon portraits (photos enhanced with charcoal and artist's materials).

    One cousin owns the tintype above. His mother wrote on the back "Grandma Dunaway's parents." June and her cousin thought this meant Wesley and Elizabeth (Close) Newman.

    In another cousin's collection is this tintype:

    Thomazin2TinType painted (5).jpg

    In the 1860s, photographers had reversal lens. Some tintypes are reversed images, while others are corrected. Two of the cousins' four images have the husband seated on the viewer's right; in the other two, he's seated on the viewer's left.

    The other two versions of the photo are paper prints.

    This four-fold mystery raises a lot of questions:
    • Who had the copies made?
    • Is one an original, or is the original image missing?
    • Are there other copies?

    Three of the four images are owned by cousins who descended from James William "Harvey" Dunaway (1829-1880) and his wife Treasy Humphress Bateman (1820-1901). Could this be the link that June's been hoping to find? 

    June created this graphic to illustrate who owns what.

    ThomazinMystery-Coupleedit.jpg


    Contacts
    In May 2010, I'd posted about June's detective work trying to identify a cabinet card. That post disproved a caption identifying the couple.

    NEWMANs.jpg

    A distant relative saw that blog post and sent June a copy of the exact cabinet card. This couple turned out to be the Newmans. The tintypes above show some other couple. It was an online Family Tree photo reunion

    She had such good luck with the last photo posted here, that she's crossing her fingers that a Dunaway descendant will be able to figure out who is in the tintypes. 

    I hope so too!  I'd love to write another reunion story.


    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

  • 1860s photos | enhanced images | Tintypes
    Sunday, July 07, 2013 8:30:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, June 30, 2013
    John L. Burns: Civil War Sharpshooter at Age 69
    Posted by Maureen

    This week the nation commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. For three days, July 1-3, 1863, Union and Confederate forces fought. When it was over, 50,000 had died. It was the bloodiest battle of the war.

    One of the men who survived the battle wasn't even enlisted—he volunteered on the spot. John L. Burns, a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War, tried several times to enlist for the Civil War but was turned away because of his age. He was 69. 

    Instead, he served as a teamster until sent away to his hometown of Gettysburg.

    gettsburg Burns.jpg

    On July 1, Burns left home with his flintlock musket and powder horn in hand, ready to fight for the Union. Accounts mention that he dressed in clothing he'd worn 40 years ago: trousers and a blue "swallow tail" waistcoat with brass buttons and a tall black silk hat. 

    Maj. Thomas Chamberlin of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry and his regimental commander Col. Langhorne Wister allowed Burns to join the fight near the McPherson farm as a sharpshooter. A wounded soldier gave Burns his Enfield rifle. Wounded several times, Burns crawled away and encountered Confederates. He managed to convince them he was trying to find help for his invalid wife. Their doctor bandaged his wounds and Burns found shelter in the cellar of a nearby house, and later, at home.

    Mathew Brady sent one of his photographers, Timothy O'Sullivan, to photograph Burns at his house. That image and the story of his bravery made this senior citizen a national hero.

    In November of that year, President Abraham Lincoln came to Gettysburg to deliver his address at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery.  He requested to meet Burns. After the war,  E. and H.T. Anthony issued sets of stereographs of Brady's Civil War scenes. They included O'Sullivan's image of Burns in "The War of the Union."

    Gettysburg John L. Burns.jpg

    Burns died in 1872.

    There are a few photographs of Abraham Lincoln taken while at Gettysburg.

    In this image, Lincoln lacks his high hat, but his face and beard are clearly visible.

    Gettysburg lincoln at gettysburg.jpg

    This Brady picture was only rediscovered in the National Archives in 1952.

    gettysburg close lincoln at gettysburg.jpg 

    Lincoln spoke for only two minutes, after a two-hour oration by the well-known speaker Edward Everett. At the time, the crowd greeted Lincoln's remarks with slight applause. Yet today, those seconds remain a part of our national heritage. Schoolchildren memorize these words:
    "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
    You can learn more about the Gettysburg Address in Smithsonian Magazine and see more photographs of the battlefield in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.  Use "Gettysburg" as the search term. You can read about Civil War photographs in Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album.

    All the images in this article are from the Library of Congress.


    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

  • 1860s photos | Abraham Lincoln | Civil War
    Sunday, June 30, 2013 3:55:41 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]