The Mystery of the Pale Eyed Woman

The Mystery of the Pale Eyed Woman

Photo Detective Maureen A. Taylor continues her three-part investigation on the family photos of one of our readers. This week's she's looking for clues in this haunting image of a young woman wearing a Peter Pan collar.

photo identification clues

The last image in Sandy Eichelberger’s mystery pile is a haunting portrait of a light-eyed woman.  Her pale eyes are prominent in this picture.

Since it’s a head and shoulder image there isn’t a lot of detail.

What we can observe:

  • She wears her hair pulled back.
  • There is a bow on the crown of her head, likely the detail for a snood.
  • Her dress sports a round collar that today we refer to as a Peter Pan collar.
  • She’s not that old.  She could be in her twenties or early thirties.

While we don’t have the whole image, it appears that the original could be a carte des visite.  These small card photographs were common by 1859.

Let’s estimate her age as 30 and the date of the photo as 1864.  With a year and an approximate age, it’s possible to estimate that her birth year is in the vicinity of 1834.

There are questions that will help identify her:

  • Who gave these images to Sandy and before that her mother?
  • Is there an online tree that I can refer to?
  • Which of her female ancestors were born circa 1834?

Those three questions and their answers will generate their own set of questions. For now, these are a good start.

The three mystery images are from different generations:

My biggest remaining questions:

  • Why save these three images?
  • Do these individuals bear a family resemblance to anyone?

Three generations of pictures pleading for identification.  They could be family or friends.  Only further study can elaborate their stories.   I can’t wait to begin.


Want to become a photo detective? Our Family Photo Detective book will teach readers how to identify and verify people in family photographs by comparing facial features in a collection of photos.

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