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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, October 27, 2008
Final Installment: One-Glove Mystery Solved!
Posted by Maureen

I'm doing the happy dance right now! I finally contacted Sue Anderson, the owner of the photo of the four men—two wearing one glove each—featured in two blog posts. Turns out she was on vacation and hadn't imagined the fuss being made over this photo. All she wanted to know was the date of the image and why the one glove. 

In the first post, I dated the image using the postcard back to a time frame of 1904 to 1918. That was the only sure information in the picture.

In the second installment, I reported readers' theories and focused on the gloves. Well, the pieces have finally fallen into place. You're not going to believe it!

While Sue's older relatives were sure two of the men were Lance and Elmore Melson, she wasn't positive because these elderly relatives have been wrong before. They said the two men in the front were Melsons and the men in the back were Wingfields.

Those two in the front are definitely Melsons. Sue sent me several other family photographs that confirm the resemblance. The ears are a giveaway.

Elmore Melson (b. 1896) had two other brothers: Joel (b.1894) and Bertram (b. 1892). I think Sue's family was partially right. Lance Melson would be too young to be in the group photo, but Joel is old enough. It's actually his presence (right front in the group image and below) and age that specifically date the image and solve the one glove detail!

Joel Melson.jpg

Notice the rolled up pants <smile>.

So here goes...
  • Joel dies in 1918 in Oklahoma of pneumonia. The group portrait is likely the last image taken of the 24-year-old. It fits the 1918 period. His brother Elmore would be 22 in that image.
  • Melson and his brothers worked as farmers and weren't very well-off. In Joel's spare time, he also worked as a bronco rider. In the first blog post on this mystery, I suggested the glove was work-related. Since bronco riding isn't something I'm pfamiliar with, I contacted a colleague, Kathy Hinckley (known as the Family Detective), who grew up on a ranch in South Dakota and participated in riding events. She confirmed my theory that bronco riders wear one glove on the dominant hand! Mystery solved.
The men's ties are very Western in style. Kathy made one other comment about something I pondered: Why dress in suits and wear the riding glove? She thought this picture probably commemorated a special event, such as winning at the rodeo. I have no proof of this detail, but the explanation makes sense.
  • There's one more detail Sue helped with—the rolled pants. In the group picture those rolls look like cuffs, but it turns out Joel wasn't very tall, and instead of having his pants hemmed, just rolled them up.  
Sue is amazed at the number of comments and emails about her photo. Thank you to everyone who posted remarks or sent comments. I'm glad we can put the artifical hand theory to rest; Joel had both of his hands at the time of his death.


1910s photos | group photos | men | props in photos
Monday, October 27, 2008 3:28:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, October 20, 2008
Gloved Mystery
Posted by Maureen

Last week I wrote about a photo in which two of the men depicted each wore only one glove. I wondered about the significance of this oddity. A couple of people sent me e-mails about their thoughts.

Let's take a closer look at the gloves:

Lance and Elmore Melsonedit.jpg

Candy Rypczyk wrote, "My husband had a relative who lost both hands in a coal mining accident in Pennsylvania, and wore heavy gloves like this to hide the hooks he had in place of hands. The young man looks pretty young to have worked in the coal mines, but could also have been born with a hand deformity. Just a thought. (Perhaps the other young man is wearing a glove 'in sympathy.')"

I agree with you, Candy. There's definitely something different about the hands of the man on right. If you compare the dimensions of his hand, the gloved one is significantly larger. That's not the case with the man on the left—both his hands are the same size. I'll delve deeper into this mystery by contacting the owner of the photo to see if she has an additional family information.

Thank you also to the reader who suggested the man on the right might have an artificial limb, and to the person who observed the way the men in the front posed their legs for the picture. Another reader thought it might be a golfing glove.

I wonder if the type of glove provides any clues. It's a heavy leather glove. It's a little fancy for a work glove and their attire doesn't suggest they've come from their day's labor to pose for this picture.

So the questions remain:

  • What type of glove is this?
  • Do their gloved hands correspond with their dominant hands?
  • Did they have injured/artificial hands? Perhaps they are missing partial fingers on those hands?
  • What did these men do for work?
Isn't it fun the way a single photo can generate so many questions!

men
Monday, October 20, 2008 2:19:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Sunday, October 19, 2008
Tag continued!
Posted by Maureen

Kathryn Doyle of the California Genealogical Society and Library Blog added two more categories to the Tag game also called a meme.  By the way, check out the international blogs that Kathyrn tagged.

Five Places to Visit Again
1. Italy ( I love the whole country)
2. Sante Fe, New Mexico
3. Jekyll Island, Georgia
4. Bermuda (Have you caught on to the theme...sun and warmth)
5. The Pacific Coast

Five Places I Want to Visit for the First Time
1. Scotland ( I want to tread where my ancestors lived!)
2. The rest of the Fifty States I haven't been too. ( I know that's not specific)
3. Spain
4. Egypt
5. Switzerland
Actually anyplace I haven't been.  I LOVE to travel.


Photo fun
Sunday, October 19, 2008 3:39:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, October 17, 2008
Tag I'm It! An Online Game
Posted by Maureen

Diane Haddad of Family Tree Magazine's Genealogy Insider blog tagged me and this blog in a game of Internet tag.  So here goes...

10 Years Ago I..
1. Left full-time employment and benefits like vacation time to freelance and focus on photos.
2. Coordinated a website project Boston Family History
3. Had two young children
4. Wrote my first trade paperback book, Through the Eyes of Your Ancestors, a guide to family history for kids.
5. Didn't have time for anything else <grin>

Five Things on Today's To-Do List
1. Try to catch up on e-mail
2. Write this column
3. Attend my son's soccer game
4. Work on some client reports
5. Wrap up work to take the weekend off

Five Snacks I Enjoy
1. Newman O's (the wheat free/dairy free kind)
2. Pamela's dark chocolate chocolate chip cookies
3. Raspberry Sorbet (Haagan Dazs)
4. Tostitos
5. Green and Blacks 85% Dark Chocolate

Five Places I've Lived
1. Bristol, Rhode Island
2. Providence, Rhode Island
3. Boston area, Massachusetts (twice)
4. That's all!

Five Jobs I've Had
1. clerk in a hardware store
2. Photo Curator
3. Reference Librarian
4. Picture Researcher
5. The Photo Detective <grin>

Five Blogs I Tag (This is a hard question there are so many I like to read)
1. Dead Fred (of course)
2. California Genealogical Society and Library Blog ( I love Wordless Wednesday's)
3. The Genealogue
4. The 24/7 Family History Circle
5. The Practical Archivist


Photo fun
Friday, October 17, 2008 9:10:02 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, October 13, 2008
Postal Clues and a One-Glove Mystery
Posted by Maureen

In honor of an upcoming article in the print Family Tree Magazine, this week's photo mystery is a postcard.

In the January 2009 issue, I wrote a piece called Getting the Message on the ways our ancestors communicated and the types of records they left behind. One of the methods highlighted was postcards. (The issue mails to subscribers near the end of October and goes on sale Nov. 11.)

Sue Stevenson sent me this postcard of four men:

Lance and Elmore Melson.jpg

In the front row are supposedly
(left to right) Lance Melson (1907-1988) and Elmore Melson (1896-1938). It's a real-photo postcard—a photograph with a postcard back.



Sue's big question doesn't concern the men's identities, but the mysterious single glove on each man in the front row. Before looking at that puzzle, let's backtrack and look at the other clues.

Let's start with the postcard back. One of my favorite postcard sites is Playle's Auction Site. It has an online directory that details the stamp box designs.

According to this site, the AZO box with upright triangles in the corners appeared from 1904 to 1918. Uh oh—if Lance Melson was born in 1908, he'd have to be 10 in this photo. That doesn't add up.

The men's clothing is a bit odd. Are their pants legs rolled up, or do they just have very wide cuffs? Cuffed pants were common on casual clothes in the early 20th century, but the cuffs on these pants are a bit extreme.

Neckties are the other interesting clothing detail. The man on the right in the front row wears a soft polka dot tie, a pattern that first appeared in the late 19th century. This style may be unique to his area, since it's not the type of tie you'd see in most of the country in the early 20th century.

Based on a working date for this image between 1904 and 1918, it may depict Lance's and Elmore's fathers, rather than the boys. More family history information would be necessary to verify that conclusion. 

As to the one glove? It's curious that one man wears a glove on his right hand and the other on his left. This could indicate their dominant hands. I haven't found other images like this, but I suspect these heavy leather gloves were worn for work. Or perhaps the men were just clowning for the camera.

Sue's right about their ears, though. This facial similarity indicates the men are likely related.

If anyone else has a photo of men wearing one glove—decades before Michael Jackson made it fashionable—send it along to me.

1910s photos | group photos | men | photo postcards
Monday, October 13, 2008 4:44:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Monday, October 06, 2008
Sound Off! Where Do You Post Family Pictures?
Posted by Maureen

In honor of October being Family History Month, I'd like to hear from you about your favorite photo sharing sites and where you post your family tree information. I have to admit this is a personal interest.

If you read the July 2008 issue of Family Tree Magazine then you know I wrote an article, Charmed Life, about how relatives re-connect.  Last weekend I experienced something all the folks quoted in that piece mentioned--finding a lost piece of family history.  Here's the irony.  Not only did I happen across a distant cousin's website with pedigree charts but I also discovered he'd posted a couple of photographs of my great-great grandmother and her siblings as well as her parents. 

I've been roaming the Internet for years looking for connections with no luck. Imagine my surprise to finally have an "Oh My Gosh" moment.  Now of course I'm wondering if I should create my own family website or just add to his information.  I have a family tree on Ancestry.com for my paternal side, but this cousin is from the maternal side of the family. Since my Mom is interested in genealogy, she's been working on her tree (with a little help from me).

Ah...the dilemma.  So what's an inquiring genealogist to do?  Ask the readers of this column of course.  I'd really like to hear about your good experiences of sharing research and relics, but also how you'd do things differently.

It's no news to you that there are lots of sites and many possibilities. While I've been involved in genealogy for decades this is the first time I've been asked to share.  So what do you think?


Photo-sharing sites
Monday, October 06, 2008 4:14:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [13]