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Identifying a Fur-Clad Family Member

By Maureen A. Taylor

Two weeks ago I deciphered the clues in a mystery wedding. Sandy Eichelberger submitted it. She thought it depicted members of her mother’s family.

It’s a three-part challenge. This week, it’s a photo that is a relief from the sweltering summer heat. It’s a woman in a winter coat standing in a winter scene. It’s an elaborate studio set-up with snowy hills and a white floor. We’re supposed to believe that this woman posed outside.

photo identification studio early 1900s

Clues in the setting

Studio settings can provide clues. The background can identify a place. Sometimes the painter includes a recognizable local landmark. Other times landscapes reflects the area in which the subject of the portrait lived. Beachside pictures might represent a holiday at the shore.

The furs she wore

In this image, a woman of means posed draped in furs hands in a fur muff. There are nine animal heads and bodies in these furs. I can’t tell whether they are minks or not, but they might be.

The odd thing is the black fabric on the top of her hat. It could be a scarf because there is fringe on the end. I wonder what it’s doing on her head, though.

Known clues

Even though we don’t know her name, we know a few things:

  • She likely lives in a cold climate.
  • She’s financially well-off based on the number of pelts stitched together
  • The clothing clues suggest a date circa 1910
  • She appears to be middle aged. A woman about 45 years of age in 1910 would be born circa 1865.

Remaining questions

Now what I need is a bit of family history information from Sandy: her mother’s name, grandparents and maybe great grandparents names and dates. From this information I can develop some theories.


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