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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Photo Cards Redux
Posted by Maureen

What type of holiday greeting do you send to friends and relatives?

Four years ago I wrote Season's Greetings, a column about photo cards and shared an antique example from my collection. It's a beautiful New Year's card  from a woman to her friends. As you can see, sending photo cards is nothing new. That one dates to the 1880s.

I used to mail standard cards with a few words inside but since I wrote that piece I decided to join the millions that now design their own picture greeting. One of the photo editing programs I use lets me select snapshots and drop them into the layout. It's a cinch.  I usually select a collage type display that allows me to pick several different images to tell our family story in photos and captions. I just never get around to writing a full letter!

In addition to saving the cards I receive, I also keep a copy of the one I send out.  It's a mini archive of holiday greetings. 

 I'm not sure how many of you are checking this space during this busy time of year, but if you have a heritage photo card, send me a jpg of the image and I'll post it here next week. My email is mtaylor@taylorandstrong.com. In the meantime...

Happy Holidays!  


preserving photos
Tuesday, December 25, 2007 11:22:47 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Backgrounds and Furniture in Photos
Posted by Maureen

In the last month or so, I've met (via e-mail) a lot of people who collect specific types of pictures or who know a lot about a photographic detail. I even corresponded with someone who collects photographers' fingerprints on daguerreotypes. Now that's a identification database I'd like to have! 

Over the last couple of decades, many books on photo history have been published. I've collected quite a library on clothing, forensic analysis techniques used by the CIA, furniture, postcards and military costumes (to name a few).

You'd be surprised by what I've got on my shelves, but there are still a couple of titles I'd like to see published.
  • Photographic backgrounds—I've only found one short article on backdrops, and it doesn't begin to cover the topic. If you own a picture with an interesting background, send it to me and see it featured here.
  • Furniture in photos—I use furniture-history tomes when looking at the tables and chairs featured in photos, but as far as I know, no one has published anything on that topic. In addition to clothing and the photographer's imprint, furniture can place a picture in a time frame. Think wicker in the 1890s and fringed chairs in the 1860s.
Send me your photos with interesting backgrounds and furniture, and let's build a database of reader photos and create our own online reference tool for these two understudied bits of photo history.


photo backgrounds | props in photos
Tuesday, December 18, 2007 11:46:23 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, December 10, 2007
Dress Details Reveal Photo Dates
Posted by Maureen

This week’s mystery photo comes all the way from New Zealand.  Don’t you just love the way the Internet brings us all closer together!

Janet Drinnan wrote of the picture below “We think it may be our great-great-grandmother, who was born in Buchanan, Stirlingshire, Scotland, in 1810.  Her daughter Elizabeth, who emigrated to New Zealand in 1862, had it.  It is not Elizabeth, as we have several photos of her in New Zealand—she was born in 1840 when her mother was 30 years old. Elizabeth’s mother, who was born in 1810, died of cancer in 1865 at 55 years old.”

Unfortunately, I have bad news for Janet: This woman isn't her great-great- grandmother (born 1810).

The woman in this photo lived long after 1865. The design of her dress dates the picture to circa 1900 to 1905. Notice her scalloped collar with jet beaded trim, and the pleated inset in the bodice. She has three-quarter-length sleeves. Lower sleeves extend to the wrist, with pleats and a beaded wristband. It’s a gorgeous dress, probably made from black silk. The woman wears a chiffon rose pinned to her bodice and a similar hair bow. (Hair bows were worn by younger women in this period, while older women usually chose plain hairstyles.) The bow, dress and setting provide elegance to this portrait.

Clothing styles were different in the 1860s. Women then wore wide skirts and full sleeves with small collars. Jet beaded trim was also commonly used in the 1880s, but the other clothing details point to the 1900 to 1905 time frame.

Now that I’ve destroyed a family oral tradition of who’s depicted, let’s see if I can help determine who this really is:

  •  Where was the photo taken? Janet didn’t mention a photographer’s name and address, but that would make a difference. Is this woman a relative who stayed in Scotland, or a friend in New Zealand?

  • Who was important enough in Elizabeth’s life that she’d keep the picture? Elizabeth had it, but it didn’t come with her on the long trip from Scotland in 1862. The image was taken too late for that. This woman could be a friend, sister (if she had any) or aunt.
  • Who’s old enough? While musing over these questions, Janet has to keep in mind that this woman is in her middle years. She should examine her research for a woman born likely after 1840 but definitely before 1860. Signs of aging vary with genetics and illness so this woman with white hair could be a bit younger or older than this time frame allows.
  • What else does the photo show? This woman doesn’t wear a wedding ring, but tshe still may have been married. Not everyone in the 19th century wore a wedding band. Or, this woman could’ve been widowed or removed the ring due to weight gain.  

Once Janet considers these questions she should be able to list a few suspects.


1900-1910 photos | women
Monday, December 10, 2007 4:55:17 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Gift-Giving Tips
Posted by Maureen

If you're looking for a gift for the genealogists on your list, here are a few photo-related suggestions:
  • A digital camera. There's a member of my family who still uses film. While there's nothing wrong with that, the holiday season is a good time to jump into digital. Manufacturers often bundle printers with cameras, saving you or your recipient time and money. Keep in mind you don't need a lot of megapixels to make 4x6-inch prints, or fancy gadgets to take a good picture. Look for cameras with image stabilization and an optical zoom that fit your budget.
  • A photo printer. I just bought an all-in-one—a combination photo printer/scanner/copier—for around $50! It's an Epson and uses the Durabrite inks, which means I don't have to worry about the longevity my prints as long as I also use acid- and lignin-free photo paper. Before purchasing a photo printer, check out its preservation ratings on Wilhelm's Image Research.
  • A scanner. While legal-size scanners are still little pricey for my budget, you can find many letter-size models for less than $100. Look for scanners that can do high-resolution (300 dots per inch or higher) scanning. Here's a tip: Read the reviews at Flat-BedScannerReview.com.
Looking for some smaller gifts? Buy Zig markers (for labeling resin-coated pictures) and soft-lead graphite pencils (for labeling heritage images) at art supply or scrapbook stores. Buy a box of acid- and lignin-free photo paper at an office supply store, or a beautiful preservation quality photo album at a stationary shop.

Click Comment to add your photo-gift ideas. Happy holidays!


photo postcards
Wednesday, December 05, 2007 3:49:33 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]