One of the photos I included came from the Library of Congress and serves as a good example of how family photos can also represent history. It’s a gorgeous stereo view of a young girl dressed as a symbolic figure.
According to the cataloging record, this image is Fontinelle Weller posed as Columbia, taken on March 13, 1873, by F.G. Weller of Littleton, N.H.
The 1870 census provides additional details. The girl’s name was actually Fontanella A. Weller and F.G. was her father Frank G., a photographer. (You can find this record using the following citation: 1870 U.S. census. Grafton County, New Hampshire, population schedule, Littleton, p. 567, dwelling 170, family 191, Frank G. Weller citing National Archives microfilm publication M 593, roll 841.)
I used my Boston Public Library card to find Fontana on the subscription database Heritage Quest, but you can also locate her using Ancestry.com.
The depicting of individuals as symbols of America goes back to the founding of this country. Fontanella has a serious expression on her face while holding the flag. Her white Roman-style dress with a crown identifies her as “Columbia, Mother of the Republic.”
In the late 18th and early 19th century, Columbia was a woman, but as seen here, in the mid-to later 19th century, she became younger. You can read more about American symbolism in David Hackett Fischer’s Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas ( Oxford, $50).
If you haven’t searched the Library of Congress catalog of prints and photographs, try it and see if you can find images of the members of your family. Anyone out there related to Fontanella? According to FamilySearch, she married Henry Fitch on June 13, 1890.
If you’ve located family photos on the Library of Congress site, let me know by posting a comment below.