Seeking Victoria: Start with the Clothing and Photographer

Seeking Victoria: Start with the Clothing and Photographer

One of our readers is hopeful that the woman in this photo is her great-grandmother Victoria. Our Photo Detective, Maureen A. Taylor, shares which clues to investigate first.

photo identification photographer location clothing

Could this be Victoria?

Jennifer Fromme’s picture once belonged to her grandmother. You’ll understand her frustration with the lack of name on the back.  She knows whom she thinks it depicts but wants a second opinion. She’s hoping it’s Victoria N. (Pierce) Cooper, her great-grandmother.

Jennifer was right to start with the facts of her great-grandmother’s life and the details on the photographer. Those two elements can disprove a photo theory within minutes.

Victoria (born 1872) lived in Fayston, Vermont and then Lisbon, New Hampshire. According to Jennifer, she met and married Herbert S. Eastman in 1900 in Lisbon.  Their marriage is on Ancestry.com.  By 1908, Victoria has a son with her second husband Edward Cooper and their living in Waitsfield, Vermont.

Hmmm.

Traveling the Land

I’m familiar with the territory. It can take a long time to travel in Vermont and New Hampshire today, never mind a hundred plus years ago. Lisbon is seventy one miles from Fayston. Waitsfield is a mere six and half miles.

In this photo the young couple posed for a photographer named Corse, in Montpelier, Vermont. If Victoria and Herbert married in 1900 in Lisbon, New Hampshire, why not sit for a photo there?

Here’s the interesting detail. Montpelier, Vermont is on the way from Lisbon to Fayston. Perhaps the couple stopped in the city on the way to see family in Fayston.

The Vermont Historical Society shows that Corse was in business in that area from 1887 to 1909. It’s a date range that covers Victoria’s marriage date.

Wedding Bells or Not

Both the man and the woman in this cabinet card wear corsages, a typical prop for weddings. She wears what looks like a white dress with wide lapels and full upper sleeves. In the 1890s, a woman’s sleeve can date an image.

Her full sleeves and bodice style suggest a date closer to the mid-1890s than 1900 when narrow sleeves were in vogue. With only a four year gap between a tentative fashion time frame and the marriage there are a couple of things to consider: the economic status of the bride and whether she’s wearing an older dress.

Lingering Questions

I have a few questions about Victoria, Herbert, and this photo:

  • What happens to Herbert? If Victoria marries again then there may be either a death or a divorce. On Ancestry.com there is another marriage to a man that might be Herbert.
  • I’d try to find other relatives of Herbert to see if they own pictures of him.
  • Jennifer has images of other female relatives of Victoria and I’d love to see them side by side with this young woman.
  • Are there any relatives living in Montpelier in the mid 1890s that might end up being this couple?

Every photo raises a lot of questions. Some are answerable right away and others take a little longer. In this case, this couple could be Victoria and Herbert, but I’d tie up the loose ends first just in case there is another possibility.


Editor’s Book Recommendations: Family Photo Detective

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