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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, May 26, 2013
Decoration Day, 1868
Posted by Maureen

History intersects at ironic moments that make the past very interesting. Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day, is one of those moments.

All over the United States on this day, towns hold parades and locals decorate veterans' graves. This stereo image from the Library of Congress depicts the first Decoration Day, held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868.

First Decoration Day.jpg

A who's who of national figures gathered to pay their respects to the Union soldiers buried on the property of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. That land also has a connection to the American Revolution.

It originally belonged to George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington and the adopted son of George Washington.

georgecustis.jpg

When he died, the land was owned by his daughter, the wife of Robert E. Lee. During the Civil War, the property was used for military purposes. The US government bought it at a tax sale and dedicated 200 acres for a national cemetery. Approximately 16,000 Civil War soldiers are buried there.

The reviewing stand featured flags, bunting and touches of black. Two future presidents were in the stand that day.

decoration daycropped.jpg

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. James A. Garfield are in this photo. Grant served as President from 1869 to 1877; Garfield served only 200 days before his assassination in 1881.

Garfield, who was a member of Congress, delivered the oration. He began with the following:
"I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden it must be here beside the graves of 15,000 men, whose lives were more significant than speech and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung." (The New York Herald, May 31, 1868, page 10)
There is debate over which city held the very first Decoration Day. In 1868, May 30th was selected because it didn't commemorate any battles and because flowers are in bloom. The last Monday in May didn't officially become Memorial Day until 1971.

Take a look at your family photo collections and see if you have photos of any veterans in your family. I'm going to post my pictures of those individuals on my social media pages to honor them.


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 | Civil War | Revolutionary War
    Sunday, May 26, 2013 4:29:21 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 20, 2013
    The World War I Era in Color
    Posted by Maureen

    May is the month of gardens and Memorial Day, so I thought I'd take a peek into gardens of the past. On the Library of Congress website, I discovered this gorgeous color image that depicts an important moment in the history of 20th-century gardening.

    editworld war 1 garden.jpg

    While commercially successful color photography was still a few decades away, early 20th century photographers relied on artistic mediums to add color to their images. Even early daguerreotypists colored their photographs.

    During the WWI period, hand-colored glass slides made everyday scenes come to life. In this lantern slide, two boys (one wearing roller skates) and a man read the notices for a garden.

    editworld war 1 gardencloseup.jpg

    They stand in Bryant Park, at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue in New York City, in August 1918.

    Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) photographed this scene for us to illustrate a lecture to women's gardening clubs. She was a famous female photographer who took portraits of well-known figures throughout her career. She was also a proponent of historic preservation.  Sam Watters featured lantern slides by Johnston in his book Gardens for a Beautiful America, 1895-1935 (Acanthus Press, 2012).

    The garden in this photo was part of the National War Garden Commission of 1918. While Victory Gardens are usually associated with World War II, they were also popular during World War I. People planted gardens in public places and at home. There were even rooftop gardens.

    You can read more about these gardens and their history in Gena Philbert-Ortega's From The Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes.

    Charles Lathrop Pack established The National War Garden Commission in August 1917. The war effected food production and he thought American's could boost output by creating small gardens. It's estimated that there were more than 5 million of these gardens during the war.

    You can view other WWI-era color images on the Library of Congress website. Browse the Frances Benjamin Johnston collection to see other examples of her work.

    If you have a photo of an ancestral garden, please submit it to me and I'll post it here.


    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 | World War I
    Monday, May 20, 2013 1:23:43 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 13, 2013
    Part 2 of an Italian Photo Mystery
    Posted by Diane

    Last week I introduced Eileen Poulin's mysterious photos on tin and showed you one of the two images of her Italian relatives.

    Frank LoRusso with a Martinelliedit.jpg

    Poulin's mother left her the pair with a note regarding the identity of the individuals in the photos—but the details are confusing: On the paper with the above image, a confirmation photo, Eileen's mother wrote: "Frank (my grandfather) with a Martinelli boy." The Martinellis are related to Eileen through her great grandmother on her grandmother's side of the family.

    The note stored with the second image, below, read, "brother of above." 



    The family is confused. Is the man in uniform Frank's brother, or the brother of the boy?

    I emailed Eileen for more information about when the family immigrated to the United States and how the Martinelli family was related to them. She called a relative, who identified the boy as her brother Frank Martinelli.

    Eileen's grandfather immigrated in 1916. You can view Francesco Antonio LoRusso's passenger details (or search for your own ancestor) on the Ellis Island website or click this link.

    The boy's suit and the style of the confirmation photo suggest it was taken around the year of immigration. One relative thinks it was in Italy, but Martinelli's sister thinks her brother was born in the United States. 

    The final factors about where the image was taken are the answers to two questions: Where was the Martinelli boy born? When did that family immigrate?

    The military photo was definitely taken in Italy. It depicts a man in an Italian military uniform from the WWI period.  I love that his headgear resembles women's hats of the early 20th century. 

    Military images are full of head-to-toe clues. The headgear, uniform style, insignia and even the leg wraps are evidence. The man may be a Bersaglieri, a corporal in the Italian army. For more information on Italian military uniforms see Italian Armies of World War I by David Nicolle and Raffaele Ruggeri in the Men in Arms series (Osprey, 2003). 

    Now that Eileen has a time period and additional family information, it's possible another relative can identify the soldier.

    Only a few days left to enter Family Tree Magazine's National Photo Month giveaway. The deadline is May 20th.


    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 | men | Military photos
    Monday, May 13, 2013 3:46:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 06, 2013
    A Two-Part Italian Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    How many of us have found a note in a box of family photos? I suspect that it's pretty common. Unfortunately, the person who left the note probably didn't realize that it could cause confusion about who's who.

    Eileen Poulin has a double mystery based on a set of notes and two images. On one note, Eileen's mother wrote "Frank (my grandfather) with a Martinelli boy."

    Frank LoRusso with a Martinelliedit.jpg

    The image is on a piece of enameled tin. Usually these images have a device on the back to allow the owner to prop up the picture. This type of picture was very popular in the early 20th century.

    The white arm band on the boy represents the sacrament of Confirmation. Frank was probably the boy's sponsor. Confirmation sponsors had to be a certain age, be a member of good standing in the church and could be a child's godparent. A church document would confirm the relationship between Frank and the Martinelli family.

    Belted suits in the style worn by this boy first became fashionable in the 1910s.

    martinelli boy.jpg

    Eileen's great-grandfather Francesco Antonio LoRusso was the son of Isabella Maria Nardozza (1875-1952) and Vincenzo LoRusso (1866-1959). Both of his parents were born in Avigliano, Potenza, Italy, and died in Waterbury, Conn.

    The second image in this mystery (not shown here) is a military photo identified as "brother of above." Eileen doesn't know if by "above," her mother meant Frank or the Martinelli boy. 

    I have a lot of questions to ask Eileen about the family and more research to do on the uniform. See you next week—and don't forget to enter Family Tree Magazine's National Photo Month Sweepstakes before May 20.


    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 | Religous Events
    Monday, May 06, 2013 1:40:23 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]