Take a good look at these photos from Peggy Batchelor Hamlett. I can date them, but I’m still working on identifying the symbolism on the men’s shirts shirts.
- The design of the mat for the above image suggests it was taken in the 1860s.
- The image is a tintype, which isn’t unusual for the time period.
- The man’s beard in the photo above is a style called a Greeley, after newspaper publisher Horace Greeley. In the image below, the man wears an imperial-style beard.
- Both men’s shirts are in the style of a collarless work shirt with a double-buttoned small band around the neck.
- The eight pointed stars on shirt of the man above and the design down the button placket are very interesting. The eight-pointed star is called the Star of Redemption, and is associated with baptisms.
Peggy and I are trying to determine if this image represents her ancestor Dr. Francis Marion Montgomery, of Tyler, Texas, who was born c. 1830. He was a devout Methodist and became a circuit minister.
Montgomery could be the man in the image above, but there’s one problem—the second image, below. Who is this man, and do the shirts signify that the two pictures are related somehow?
This image made me start from scratch. I’ve seen work shirts like these from the 1860s, but frankly, I haven’t seen this design before. In the second photo, the design looks like either a tree of life or the flame of life.
Are these fraternal society photos? I don’t think so. I consulted with Rhonda McClure of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and we agreed the markings are unusual, but couldn’t find a fraternal match. David Lintz of the Improved Order of Red Men is taking a look at the images to see if he recognizes their significance.
A couple of folks at the Smith County Historical Society in Tyler, Texas, are working on this problem, too. They have a large photo archive, so my hope is that someone there will have an “aha!” moment. They’re considering Civil War Uniforms or volunteer firemen.
Could the shirts be traditional attire from another country? Peggy’s family had been in the country for a while when these images were taken.
Could the pictures show Montgomery and a colleague who traveled with him on the circuit? I contacted the United Methodist Archives at Drew University, but they couldn’t identify the star or the other design as part of their symbolism.
Could these be people who aren’t in Peggy’s family? Anything is possible.
At this point I’m waiting to hear back from a few folks … I’ll keep you posted. If you have any ideas, contact me.