Props in Old Family Photos

By Maureen A. Taylor

Don’t you just love it when family history artifacts pop up in family photos? This is exactly what happened for genealogist Dorothy Jackson Reed.

In 2007, she became the owner of a Book of Worship with the name Mary K. Fricke embossed in gold on the cover. According to the title page, this book was published by the Lutheran Publication Society in Philadelphia. It has a copyright of 1870, but a section of the book was revised in 1888.

Mary K Fricke (Katherine Marie) edit.jpg

Four years later, Dorothy’s sister Miriam gave her a photograph of Mary K. Fricke taken by the London Studios in Baltimore. In the picture, Mary appears to be holding the Book of Worship.

Mary K Fricke (Katherine Marie)bible2.jpg

Mary was born in 1878 and lived until 1953. Fashion clues date this image to the mid-1890s:

  • The style of the wicker chair. Most photo studios featured wicker furniture at the end of the century.
  • Her large puffy dress sleeves. In the 1890s, women’s sleeves are quite distinctive.
  • The color of the cardstock. White was a popular color in that decade.

If this picture was taken circa 1895, Mary would’ve been 17. She’s dressed like a girl with long braids and a skirt above the ankles.

Could this be a confirmation photo? It’s quite possible since personalized Bibles were usually given to commemorate religious events.

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

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