The Marsteller Old-Photo Mystery

By Maureen A. Taylor

Last week I outlined the mystery of the Ralph Marsteller photo. This week I’m back with more details.
StaffordFamily photo Ralph Reinhardt Marsteller_edited-1.jpg
Let’s start with some basics.

What are they wearing?
Clothing clues can be very helpful, BUT it’s important to remember that there were lots of different styles every season and people didn’t automatically wear the most current fashion. I look for details that help create a time frame. In this image, the most fashionably dressed woman is standing in the back on the far left.


Fashion research suggests that this woman posed for this picture in 1918. The lightweight fabric worn by everyone in the picture suggests a warm weather month. These little details could help pinpoint when Ralph Marsteller met his family or friends.

In 1918, broad-brimmed hats with an upturned edge returned. You could buy a similar hat in the Sears Catalog for that year. Widespread collars were very popular on dresses in this period as well.

stafford boy.jpg

These lightweight suits for little boys appeared in mail-order catalogs circa 1914 and were still popular four years later. They were recommended for boys 2 to 6 years of age and cost approximately 70 cents. So this boy’s attire places him in an age group.

Who’s Not in the Picture?
Patti Stafford knows that Ralph’s wife Eva isn’t in the photo, and it doesn’t look like their teenage son is here either—none of the children are the right age to be him. Nor is their daughter Arlene in this picture; these girls look too young.

Who’s Who?
If this picture was taken about 1918, then Ralph’s son Ralph could be the little boy in the military style suit. He’d be 5 years old.

It’s also possible that Ralph’s sister is in the picture along with her husband and their children. More research into this angle could result in an identification.

The older woman is not Ralph’s mother. She was deceased by this time, but this woman could be an aunt who resembles some of the people in the photo.

stafford older woman.jpg

Ralph’s mother Dianna Jane Rumfeld/Rumfield had sisters with small children at the time of this picture. This could be a gathering of the Rumfeld/Rumfields, rather than the Marstellers.

Ralph’s brother Henry is still living, so Patti’s next step is to show him this photo to see if he can identify anyone in it.

Research often turns up overlooked information. When Ralph’s father William died, a Mr. Snyder was appointed guardian for him. While going through all the family paperwork looking for a connection, Patti found an interesting detail. Dianna Jane’s marriage certificate states that her last name was Rumfeld/Rumfield. Her death certificate states that Dianna’s mother was Louisa Snyder. This detail suggests that Snyder was a family member.

I’m hopeful that Henry can put names with the rest of faces, but for now it looks like Patti has a picture of her grandfather and his father taken in about 1918.

Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album