Photo Detective: Making Dates
9/27/2009
Questions from readers of this Identifying Family Photographs column range from "which wife is it?" to the more-general "who is it?" In the case of this photo, a date would go a long way to helping Kellee Eubanks-Stevenson determine the woman's name. Is it her great-great-grandmother, who lived from 1842 to 1920, or one of great-great aunts? Eubanks-Stevenson thinks this photo was taken either in the 1880s or around 1900. Is she right?

This is a simple portrait of a woman, probably in her 20s, sitting in a wooden chair with her hands folded in her lap. The backdrop isn't fancy, and neither is the patterned linoleum floor.

The key pieces of evidence here are the accessories. From 1914 to about 1920, women wore high-top two-tone patent leather shoes just like this young woman's. Dresses at the time fell to just below the calf, showing off shoes but not skin, thus keeping a woman's appearance modest. A wide-brimmed hat adorned with a single ribbon and a flower makes this woman a head-to-toe fashion plate.

According to our estimated date, this woman isn't the great-grandmother, who'd be close to 80 after 1910. Could it be a daughter born in the 1870s or 80s? The appearance of the young woman, the lack of lines in her face and the time frame for the photo strongly suggest this woman actually is a granddaughter.

Eubanks-Stevenson estimate wasn't too far off. She had the right century, but the wrong generation. By searching her family tree, she should be able to come up with suspects to put a name with this attractive face.

Find out how to submit your own picture for possible analysis by Maureen Taylor. E-mail her at mtaylor@taylorandstrong.com.

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