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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, January 25, 2010
Photo Fun with Friends
Posted by Maureen

Way back in August, I asked for photos of people smiling. In response to that request Teri Colglazier sent me this photo.

ColglazierHOBO 8 1880 a (2).jpg
The woman in the back left has a toothy grin, probably because this group of friends has decided to have fun in front of the camera. No costumes were necessary—instead, a hand-painted board on the feet of the men proclaims: "The Hobo 8."  (There are eight young people in this photo.)

Teri thought that underneath the word hobo was a number 80. I'm not sure. It looks like it could be Ho with Bo beneath it. If it's a number, it's not a year.

While older folks often posed for pictures in their Sunday best, it wasn't unusual for young people to go to the studio dressed in casual clothes. The two men on the right wear big sweaters that could be worn today. In the back row, all four young women wear white blouses paired with dark skirts, belted at the waist. The little details in this photo provide a time frame:
  • The straw hat worn by one of the young men. It has a narrow brim and and wide ribbon.  The shape and style of hat brims and ribbons change from decade to decade in the early 20th century. He could work in an office.
  • The fellow on the far right has a flat-topped cap—all the rage in the second decade of the 20th century

  • The other two men wear a type of sports cap and a fedora style hat also in style in that period.

  • The smiling woman arranged her hair so that it forms a ridge on the top of her head. The woman next to her has her hair pulled back casually in a bow.

  • The woman on the far right is the most conservatively dressed with a Gibson girl-style high-neck blouse and full hairstyle.
The detail that clinches the date is the mob cap worn by the woman second from the right. I've seen photos of this type of hat on women working around the house in the period just prior to World War I. 

The facts add up to the photo being taken between 1910 and 1916.

Teri now has to figure out who's in the picture. In her e-mail, she mentioned that her family kept every photo ever taken or given to them by family and friends. She thinks the man third from the left could be a family member, but she's not positive.

Anyone out there recognize these people, photographed in McLean County, Ill.?


1910s photos | group photos | hairstyles
Monday, January 25, 2010 11:08:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, January 18, 2010
Head Toppers
Posted by Maureen

As you know I love hairstyles, but I'm also a hat person. No, I don't wear one, but I wish I did.  Given this fascination with brimmed accessories, is it any wonder I couldn't pass up Bro. Joseph F. Martin's challenge?

This photo depicts his great-grandparents Nicholas and Marcyanna Kaptur in front of their home in Detroit. Standing next to them are their daughters Emily and Constance.

KapturFamilyDetroit.jpg

It's a wonderful snapshot.  Bro. Martin would like to know when the picture was taken but can't identify the hats.

I've spent the morning studying their hats. From left to right, there's a wonderful array of chapeaus. Dating and identifying a hat relies on a few things such as size and shape of the crown, size and shape of the brim, decorations (if any) and then the other details in the picture.  The final bit is important because very often, historic hat styles return to current fashion. If you don't look at the context of the hat you could have the wrong decade or even century.  

Great-grandmother Maryanna has a fascinating hat with a narrow brim and puffy mushroom looking crown. Her warm-weather straw hat is accented by a wide ribbon. Her husband wears a soft felt hat with a boxy crown and a wide brim. Next to him is one of their daughters, looking quite fashionable in a soft brimmed cloche hat. Her sister wears a smaller hat with what looks like a folded-back brim. 

Maryanna's dress with its drop waist and sailor-style collar is much older than the photo; I think from circa 1920. Older folks in photos tend to wear older styles rather than the current trends, but there are exceptions. The daughter standing second from left wears a lovely summer dress with narrow sleeves topped with full caps, and belted at the natural waist. It's the most fashionable outfit in the photo, stylish around 1925-1929.  Her sister wears a drop-waist dress from about 1925.

In this case, the dress styles and dates vary, but it appears that everyone's hat is contemporary to the late 1920s. The family is in the 1930 federal census as Nicholas, 68; Mary, 67; Constance, 26; Joseph, 26; and Emily, 23.  So where's Joseph in this snapshot? I don't have proof, but he's probably the one behind the camera.


1920s photos | group photos
Monday, January 18, 2010 4:53:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, January 11, 2010
Photo Identification in the News
Posted by Maureen

Readers of this column will be as fascinated as I was with these two articles on photo identification.

In the January 2010 issue of Smithsonian Magazine is the story of an unidentified daguerreotype owned by Jack and Beverly Wilgus. In it a handsome young man stands facing the camera holding a long metal rod. One of his eyes is closed shut.  The collectors thought he held a harpoon until they posted their image on the social networking image site Flickr. It wasn't long before they heard from someone who said it wasn't a harpoon and was possibly Phineas Gage. Gage's life could have been featured on a reality TV trauma show.  In 1848, when 25, Gage's life changed. An accident on the job sent a 43 inch tamping iron through his skull. He lived to talk about it and was conscious when the doctor arrived on the scene. You can read about Gage's life and the story of this daguerreotype online.  In the photo he's holding the rod that's engraved as a souvenir of the event.

Spring training is weeks away but for readers that are baseball fans, you'll get a jump start on the fun. A colleague sent me his 2004 issue of The Baseball Research Journal because it featured an article on identifying baseball images. I'm no sports fan, but I loved author George Michael's descriptions of how he sees the clues in photos of players sliding into base.  You can order copies of the Journal through the Society of American Baseball Research. 

Both of these articles will end up in my files. 

1840s photos | men | props in photos | unusual clothing
Monday, January 11, 2010 3:41:29 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Texas Twosome Revisited
Posted by Maureen

Last week's tease mentioned that I'd solved a persistent mystery. Ah ... I really thought I had the answer to the Texas mystery. Late last year I ran a three-installment story about these two men in their embroidered shirts. In the first piece, I showed you the pictures and mentioned some possible solutions. The following week I raised a couple of other issues. The third installment focused on readers' suggestions.

092109img038 (3).jpg092109img041 (5).jpg

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing through a book, Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War by T. J. Stiles. One of the illustrations is a photo of the outlaw "Bloody Bill" Anderson, and he's wearing an embroidered guerrilla shirt from the Civil War. I immediately jumped up and thought, "Oh, gosh, that's it!" The two men in their shirts could be guerrillas fighting for the Confederacy.

It seemed logical. The tintypes date from the Civil War, and Dr. Francis Montgomery was a Confederate officer for a short time before he was sent home ill with diabetes.

But was this new theory true? I picked up the phone and called the Museum of the Confederacy. Curator Robert Hancock was able to explain a few things about embroidered guerrilla shirts. He'd never seen anything like these two shirts before and really doubted that these two were Confederate guerrillas. Oh, DRAT!

He told me that guerrillas wore whatever they wanted to. Since they weren't sanctioned by the Confederacy, they weren't issued any uniforms. They worked outside the Confederate military establishment.

While he wasn't familiar with these two shirts, he was able to tell me a fascinating fact: During the 1840s, 1850s and 1860s, some young men wore embroidered shirts. Hancock told me that this fashion statement was akin to the shirts of the 1960s. In the 19th century, young men rebelling against the white shirts and black frock coats their fathers wore would wear embellished shirts. There were even outlandish printed shirts in England. Some of these featured skulls and crossbones, snakes and other outrageous designs. I'd love to see one of these 19th-century shirts!

There were other similar shirts to the one's worn here. Battle shirts for men and those worn by firemen could feature some designs. Hancock was quick to say that these two men are wearing very unusual floral pattern motifs that don't fit either category.

The big problem with these shirts is that while the shirts and the pictures are identical in many ways, the embroidery is not. So who are these guys and why the shirts? Perhaps we'll never know.


1860s photos | men | unusual clothing
Tuesday, January 05, 2010 2:15:49 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]