Blanket Backdrop

Blanket Backdrop

Helene Armstrong thinks the seated woman is her great-grandmother Margaret E. Jordan Stephens, but if that's true, who are the women standing behind her? A caption on the back reads "Ally, Rose, Mar." The "Mar" probably stands for Margaret, but Armstrong has no idea who the others...

Helene Armstrong thinks the seated woman is her great-grandmother Margaret E. Jordan Stephens, but if that’s true, who are the women standing behind her? A caption on the back reads “Ally, Rose, Mar.” The “Mar” probably stands for Margaret, but Armstrong has no idea who the others are. She’s trying to locate all Margaret’s children, but there may be as many as 13!

In the April 12 Identifying Family Photographs, we used the stamp box on the back of this photo postcard to establish a date. Now let’s look at the beautiful backdrop.

I’ve seen ancestors posed in front of all sorts of painted backdrops and even a few wrinkled sheets, but this gorgeous bed covering adds texture to a simple portrait. Georgia women such as these ladies have a long tradition of producing beautiful quilts and blankets. The online New Georgia Encyclopedia contains a description of this history. On this Web page, you can see a photo of several members of another family, the Wheelers, in front of a quilt they made. This makes me wonder if the backdrop in Armstrong’s photo is part of the story.

Armstrong believes whole-heartedly the older, seated woman in this photo is her great-grandmother Margaret E. Jordan Stephens, because she owns identified pictures of her. The picture dates from about 1910 based on the length of the young women’s dresses, as well as the shape of the collar on the dress of the woman on the left. According to information from census records, Margaret would’ve been about 77 years old at this time.

There are a couple of possible IDs for the two younger women: They may be Margaret’s daughters, hard to find in censuses because they went by nicknames or middle names. Margaret had sons, so the women could be daughters-in-law. Or they may be ladies who helped with the quilt in the background, posing to commemorate the completion of their work just as the women in the New Georgia Encyclopedia photo did.

I’m still working on the bed covering facts. I’ll let you know about new information in the Photo Detective Forum. Or if you can identify the pattern, please add your own thoughts to the forum. <!–

Conservation
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Find out how to submit your own picture for possible analysis by Maureen Taylor. E-mail her at mtaylor@taylorandstrong.com.

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