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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, September 22, 2013
"Reading" a Family Photo Album
Posted by Maureen

I love a good story, don't you? Every photo album tells one if you know where to look. The arrangement of the images is a key part of unraveling the threads of the tale.

If you're like Daniel Gwinn, you probably inherited a family photo album with few (if any) identified photos. Here's how to approach this very common photographic brick wall.
  • Start with provenance. Who owned the album before you? Who owned it before them? The ownership of the album can help you determine from which branch of the family it descends.

  • Who's on the first page? OK, so you might not immediately know the answer to this question, but this person can unlock the whole album. The person in the number one spot is a very important person to the creator of the album. It could be a mother, a father, a husband, a child or in a few instances, it's the creator of the album. Place this photo in a time frame by studying photographic format, clothing and any other clues that are in the image.
     
  • Who's next? The individuals closest to the front are also very important to the person who laid out the album. Generally, husbands and wives are grouped together on adjacent pages.

  • Not everyone in the album is necessarily family. Nineteenth-century individuals collected photographs of family, friends, neighbors and even famous persons. Your album might be a mix of these.

Each album starts with good intentions. The person placing the photos in the book likely had a plan for at least the first half of it. I've seen a lot of family photo albums and they have those good intentions in common—but by the end of the album, images are usually jumbled.

Like any good book, it's best to begin at the beginning. Don't jump around or rush to the ending. Each page needs to be studied and placed in a time frame and a place. Photographer's imprints can help you place an image geographically. Every little detail can assist in the identification.

In Daniel's case, the album came to him through his great aunt Elsie Hornberger. It belonged to her grandmother. He knows that most of the individuals in it are members of the Rock family, with origins in Lancaster County, Pa. He's submitted two tintypes that are complete mysteries. 

Tintypes were patented in 1856 and remained common until the 1930s.

rock1.jpg

A few details in this picture place it in a time frame:

  • The fringed velvet chair. This is a photographer's prop. Chairs like it appear in photographs taken all over the United States.  I've never seen it in a photo taken before the late 1860s.

  • The woman wears a bodice called a polanaise with long ends that drape down over the skirt. In many cases, the skirt has ruffles and ruching. This woman's skirt is plain.

  • This photo dates from approximately 1869 to 1875.

  • Dan thinks the woman could be Caroline Rock Cooper, born in 1828. That would make this woman's age in her 40s

I love the little book on her lap. It appears to have a plush cover and a round medallion on it.

rock book.jpg

There's something else that's interesting. Did you notice that the picture is reversed? Unless a photographer used a reversal lens, early images are mirrored. Here's the book with the reversal fixed.

book reversed.jpg

Here's the whole image with the reversal fixed.

rock1a.jpg

She holds the book with her right hand and her left arm rests on the chair.

Dan's second photo show a little girl smiling for the photographer sitting in the same chair.

Girl Rock  002.jpg

It's obviously the same studio because it's an identical rug and chair. The hat is great! It has a wide brim, mid-size crown and features feathers and a velvet ribbon and bow. In the late 1860s, little girls wore dresses similar to those worn by their mothers. The yoked bodice and small ruffled collar point to this image being taken around the same time as the first picture, of the woman. The big question is, "Who is she?"

  • She's probably around 10 years of age.

  • She's not Caroline's daughter, Mary Ann, who was born in 1852. Mary Ann would be 18 in 1870

While the older woman could be Caroline Rock Cooper, it also could be someone else in the family. It's unlikely that the girl is Caroline's daughter. 

In order to solve this mystery, Dan needs to examine his family tree for a girl born in approximately 1860. These two photos could be mother and daughter, so locating a girl born in that year could solve both of his photo mysteries.

For more information on solving family photo album puzzles, see my book Family Photo Detective.



Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • 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 | children | hats | women
    Sunday, September 22, 2013 4:17:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, September 16, 2013
    More Ancestors at Work: Early 1900s Meat-Cutting Plant
    Posted by Maureen

    If you've ever read The Jungle (available free on Project Gutenberg), author Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel describing Chicago's meatpacking industry, then you may have tried to imagine what it was like to work in that industry in the early 20th century. Roxanne Munn's photos provide an glimpse into how meat made it to our ancestors' dinner tables.

    editMunnsDrummondMeats2.jpg

    Above, Munn's great-grandfather Frank Woletz stands with his hands on the counter, furthest forward on the right.  His supervisor stands on the other side of the table. He's the man in the coat, tie and hat.  The rest of the workers wear leather aprons to protect their clothes while preparing meat for market.  In the background are carcasses. Woletz worked at Drummond's Meat Cutting Plant in Eau Claire, Wis.

    Canadian immigrant David Drummond established his meat packing business in 1873. Forty years later it was the largest plant of its type in northwestern Wisconsin.

    editmunnsDrummondMeats.jpg

    In this image, Marie Woletz, Roxanne's great-aunt, sits second from the right in the sausage preparation room. On the left is a ranch full of hanging sausages. Typical outfits for women working in this industry were leather aprons and white muslin caps.  

    Roxanne is trying to find out who else is in the photos. She's also posted them on the Wisconsin GenWeb site hoping for more identifications. If you had an ancestor who worked at Drummond's, you might recognize one of the faces.

    These images are not your typical family photo. It's the type of photo taken by factory owners, labor activists and government investigators. I'd love to know who took the images and for what purpose. I'm looking for additional images taken at the plant. 


    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

  • group photos | men | occupational | women
    Monday, September 16, 2013 4:17:01 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, September 08, 2013
    Ancestral Occupational Portraits
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you for sending in your photographs of ancestors at work! I've got quite a selection to show you. This is going to be a two-part article. There are too many to show in one blog post.

    editnegleyFrank and laundry wagon.jpg

    Wendy Negley owns this lovely picture (above) of her great-grandfather Frank Stefani with his laundry delivery wagon in Issaquah, Wash., in 1913. Frank immigrated from Sporminore, Trentino, Italy, but lived most of his life in Issaquah.

    Wendy says Frank owned the laundry and it was a family business. His son ran the company and Frank's daughters did all the washing and ironing, while he picked up and delivered to customers.

    editnorwood1945_BillSr04.jpg

    Carol Norwood's paternal grandfather, William John Jacobs (above), was a blacksmith. He learned his trade as an apprentice in Ireland and when he immigrated in 1907, he found employment in the United States.

    William worked for the John B. Stetson Co. in Philadelphia from March 1917 until October 1935. He served in World War I and during his service, worked in the locomotion machine shop.

    This 1945 photo was taken at the Johnsville Naval Air Development Center in Warminster, Pa. It was poster-size and on display at the center.

    editCorrigan harness maker.jpg

    Jackie Corrigan sent in two pictures. This one (above) shows her husband's grandfather Michael Charles Corrigan (right) (1844-1915) in his harness-making shop. She believes it was taken in Winnipeg, Manitoba, between 1903 and 1911.

    editcorriganHogue Thomas welder.jpg

    Norwood's second image (above) depicts her father, Thomas (1909-1972), who was a welder for the Canadian National Railways.

    What do all these pictures have in common?  They depict only men at work. All date from the first half of the 20th century.

    Next week I'll be back with an office scene and two images taken in a meat packing plant.


    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | 1930s photos | 1940s photos | men | occupational
    Sunday, September 08, 2013 5:19:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # 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]