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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Thursday, June 21, 2007
Look to the Past (Columns)
Posted by Maureen

If you're new to this blog you probably aren't aware of the lengthy archive of past "Identifying Family Photographs" columns available on the Family Tree Magazine Web site—just click on the Photo Detective Archive link on the left of this page.

You can read about submitting your own picures by clicking Submit your Photo and Question.  Remember what your grade school teachers used to say, "There are no stupid questions."  Send me your mystery photos and see them posted in this space. I love a challenge! 

Please use Family Tree Magazine as a subject line. I tend to delete anything I think is spam. I'd hate to miss seeing your photos.

Don't forget you can use the Photo Detective Forum to post your queries or photo related questions.



Thursday, June 21, 2007 4:02:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Traveling Photographers
Posted by Maureen

All Michael Bell knows is that this photo’s subject, Martha B. Bell, sent the image to her uncle (Michael’s great-grandfather) after her father died in 1892. The month and day of the portrait aren’t recorded.



I’m estimating the photo could’ve been taken before or after Martha's father died—the puffed shoulder seams date the picture to the early 1890s.

It’s a classic example of a family milestone photo. Tragic events often pushed people into studios to capture images of their remaining loved ones or even the deceased. Read more about postmortem pictures in my column Dead Men Tell No Tales.

When Bell asked me about a date for the portrait, he also inquired about the photographer, Orris Hunt. I wrote about two other Hunt pictures in a column several years ago, Which one is Real?. When that picture was taken after 1905, Hunt was in St. Paul, Minn., having recently purchased another photographer’s studio.

The imprint in the lower left of Bell’s picture identifies Hunt as traveling photographer. Hunt’s Palace RR Photo Car was actually a photo studio in a railroad car. Whenever and wherever the train stopped, Hunt opened his studio to residents of the area.



Martha Bell took advantage of one of these rail stops in her hometown in Floyd County, Ga. Perhaps after a decade or more of endless traveling, Hunt decided to settle down in a St. Paul studio. That’s when he took the photo of the young man in the earlier column.  

Hunt wasn’t the only railroad photographer in 19th- and early 20th-century America.  Any time you see an imprint with RR as part of the address, you’ve found another one. Then, railroads were what planes are today. They crisscrossed the country bringing goods and services—including photographers—to folks in far-off places.

Bell’s photo has an interesting past. Not only was it taken for a specific reason, but now he knows he had a patient relative: She had to wait for the next train with Hunt aboard to have her picture taken.

1890s photos | photographers imprints | women
Tuesday, June 19, 2007 5:58:12 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, June 11, 2007
It's Confession Time: Developing Old Film
Posted by Maureen

Kelly posted a question to the Forum in February about developing old film.She found a camera with film in it from the 1960s and her camera shop sent it out for processing.

It's confession time. This is your chance to sound-off in the Forum about film you've forgotten to develop. Not the snapshots you took at the wedding last summer,  but your pictures several decades old. My Mom just gave me a small bag full of undeveloped movie film from my childhood!

If you're a hoarder and can't bear to part with a roll of undeveloped film, don't despair. There is hope!  Rocky Mountain Photo Labs specializes in processing old still and moving picture film. All films are batch processed which means you might have to wait months, like Kelly, to get your order back. Rocky Mountain Photo Labs can't guarantee the quality of images produced from the old rolls in your attic due to aging issues.

You'll have to take a chance that the price and wait might be worth it.  Who knows what family history photo treasures are on that roll? I'll bet you can't remember. :)  My Mom can't either.



preserving photos
Monday, June 11, 2007 2:13:05 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, June 04, 2007
Porcelain Complexion (Literally!)
Posted by Maureen

I own a pillow case with a photograph of my grandmother taken in about 1910. You’re probably thinking it’s an unusual picture format, but it’s actually not.

In the early days of photography, daguerreotype buttons and jewelry were common. Once paper prints and light-sensitive chemicals became readily available, photographers could develop pictures on anything you could apply the chemicals to: leather, wood, paper, cloth and like this week’s photo submission, a piece of porcelain.


This photo’s size, 3 x 4 inches, and hand coloring give it the appearance of an 18th century painted portrait miniature. It’s really a photo enhanced with color to make it look like a painting. When Diana Truxell showed this picture to a friend who likes old photographs, the friends didn’t recognize it either, and suggested Truxell send it to me. Thank you! I’m always on the lookout for photographs on items other than cardboard.

Truxell is also trying to figure out who’s in the picture. This is one of those queries that make me feel like I’m playing a game show with a choice of answers. Is it her husband’s grandmother Mary Ditner (Martin) Truxell (born 1891)? Or Mary’s mother (born 1863)?

The woman’s high-necked dress, prominent buttons and contrasting trim date the picture to about 1883 to 1888. This is likely Mary’s mother, who would be between 20 and 25 years old in this picture. Oral traditions and provenance (the chain of ownership) can confirm the ID.

Truxell had one final question: Does the unique surface indicate this woman lived anywhere in particular? No, photographers across the country, even in rural areas, had access to materials that allowed them to creatively present family pictures. The careful coloring of this photo wasn’t done by an amateur though. Professional photographers often employed artists to handle such intricate jobs.

Case solved!


unusual surfaces | women | 1880s photos
Monday, June 04, 2007 7:26:52 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]