Photo Wishes Really Do Come True

By Maureen A. Taylor

There are two success stories this week: an answer for the contest winner and a current connection for a 20th century mystery!

First, there is a solution to the picture of the men dressed like Indians that I covered in Contest Winner Mystery and Contest Winner Revisted. A few people wrote to me and suggested that the men might be members of the Improved Order of Red Men (IORM).

A year or so ago, I enlisted the help of David Lintz of the IORM for another photo. He confirmed my suspicions (and those of readers) that this group of men dressed in loin cloths could in fact be members of the IORM. He sent me a list of the tribes active in Cincinnati from 1851 to 1905. From 1896 to 1902, there was only one tribe in the city: Wyandot Tribe No. 5. There were two earlier tribes that worked in German and Lintz thought that perhaps Charles Schmidt was once a member of one of them. However, the only tribe that fits the time frame of the picture is the Delaware Tribe No. 20, which was founded in 1866 and remained active until 1896.

If Juliann Hansen’s ancestor was a member of the IORM, he would have been eligible for membership at age 21. It’s time to take a closer look at those painted faces for her great-grandfather.

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Lintz thinks that this photo depicts the Degree Team. He told me that there were usually 16 to 19 members, if the tribe had that many, trained in ceremonies. These men held the initiation ceremony for new members and raided members through the three degrees of the order.

Way back in March, I featured a page from Carol Norwood’s mother’s shipboard scrapbook in Around the World with Family. Last week she wrote to me to say she’d made a connection.


Her mother’s scrapbook included autographs from fellow travelers, poems and drawings. One of the signatures was from Babeta Hofmeyr, who was on the ship Poelau Tello with Norwood’s mother and aunt. Hofmeyr’s son is still living and wrote to Carol.

I’m so happy for Juliann Hansen and Carol Norwood!

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

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album