"Unknown" photos are packed with information!

May 22, 2019

This family photo was found in a thrift store in upstate New York and passed along by a friend.  I do despair when I see photos at resale shops -- or worse, entire photo albums!


Someone saved these images for years and years. When the stories became obscure, the photos were deemed useless -- mistakenly.


There's so much information in the content of this photo. Not everyone is looking at the photographer, and the woman in the straw hat is casting a shadow over her own face... all evidence of an amateur photographer. Snapshots were made possible, and popular, by Eastman Kodak in 1888, so it's probably after that date. 


 The women's sleeves give a lot away. The elder women in the front have peaked shoulder/sleeve seams, which were popular in the late 1880s and early 1890s. The younger women behind have flat shoulder seams and leg-o-mutton sleeves that extended to the elbow -- popular around 1892. By 1898, sleeves had a pronounced round puff that went from shoulder to halfway down the upper arm. The younger women's sleeves, along with their trendy "activewear" of the loose white blouse, lead me to date this as a summer between 1892 and 97. The man second from the left is wearing a wedding ring, and the woman on the far right in the front is not.  The empty seat may signify a family loss. If we knew the general family line that held the photo, we may be able to see who was married, a spinster, or passed on in that 5-year period. If the newspaper or pamphlet being held by the grand dame in the front row is legible in the original, that would also tell us more -- perhaps it's an obituary or has a date on it.


There are telltale signs in the object, too. Because in the early days the size of the photos reflected the size of the film, exact measurements would give even more information!  The back of the photo may have the photographer's name and/or address -- or just the city, all with possibilities for helping us find a location as well as a date or branch of the family. The board to which it is affixed may have information, depending on its size, thickness, even color.


And the original owner... or perhaps the second or third owner. Who was that? Who saved it all this time and died without it’s story told? 


If you have a family history quandary like this one, you may be interested in booking a VIP day with me, or talking about how we might tackle an album of unknowns together. To read more about my VIP package, CLICK HERE.

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