Wedding Album: 8/7/00  
     
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Wedding Album
by Maureen Taylor


Geri Diehl asks, "Could this be the wedding picture of Elizabeth Goza and William Harrington who married in 1846?" It is an image passed from her grandmother, to her mother and ultimately came to be in her collection. Like the photograph examined in Which Husband Is It?: 5/15/00, this picture is a crayon portrait. In this image, the photographer or an artist colored the couple's eyes and parts of the background blue.

It is most likely a copy photograph of an earlier image. Since it is a copy, it isn't possible to be absolutely certain of a time frame without being able to compare it to the original. In an artistically enhanced portrait costume elements could be altered to be more current with the copy than the original. There is an absence of detail in the woman's clothing that would help assign a definite date. Given these uncertainties, there are several costume features that suggest a later date of the late 1850s.

The man is wearing a double breasted shawl collared vest of a style from the 1850's. His jacket has darker trim on the upper lapel and collar. This is not usual for either 1846 or the 1850s. One of the determining factors is his collar. In the 1840s, most men wore their collars standing up. The man's hair is blunt cut and is has a mustache and a goatee that can be found in photographs of the later period.

It is unfortunate that the artist chose to represent the woman's dress as a solid black without sleeve and bodice details. It is possible to date a photograph from the shape of the sleeves and the bodice. The artist spent time enhancing her collar and gold tinting her broach and earrings. The style of her small drop earrings also confirms the portrait was not taken in 1846, but in the 1850s. The woman is wearing her hair in a center part with a low bun behind her ears. In the 1840s women generally wore their hair over their ears. In most cases the ears would be hidden under a loop of hair. In the late 1850s and early 1860s women wore their hair in the style shown in this portrait. Her wide collar of whitework became fashionable in the 1850s is the primary evidence that the portrait was not taken in 1846. Dress collars were a different shape and style in the '40s.

Family members suspect that this was a wedding portrait for the Goza/Harrington couple, but the photographic evidence doesn't agree with the marriage date. It could a portrait the couple had taken later in their marriage or an as yet unidentified couple.

This portrait has not survived a century and a half without damage. The upper left-hand corner of the picture is missing. At one point it was framed. You can see the outline of the frame in the picture. The brown areas show the effects of the resin in the wood framing. Exposure to sunlight probably accelerated the aging process. A professional conservator can stabilize these problems. For a list of photographic conservators in your area, contact:

  • American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works
  • 1717 K Street, NW
  • Suite 301
  • Washington, DC 20006
  • (202) 452-9545
  • aic.stanford.edu

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




Maureen A. Taylor, owner of Taylor & Strong, combines her background in history, genealogy, photography and library science to assist individuals and institutions with research and project management. She is the author of several genealogical books and articles including the upcoming Preserving Your Family Photographs and the recent Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs. She also is project manager for BostonFamilyHistory.com, a site that lets visitors plan a genealogical research trip to the Boston area.

Her current book, Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs, provides the reader with proven methods of photo analysis and interpretation. With Taylor's help, the mystery surrounding many old family pictures can at last be unraveled, enabling these photographs to assume their proper place among treasured family memorabilia.
 
 

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