Photo Detective: Clearly Stated

By Maureen A. Taylor Premium

On the back of genealogist Rene Larson’s photo, someone (she doesn’t know who) wrote, “The Edwards Family. This picture taken at Gore, Okla. sometime before statehood.”

Larson wonders if the caption is right. She submitted a couple of questions and a lot of answers, having already used her research skills to piece together some of the facts behind this simply labeled image.

The statehood clue was the easiest to figure out by looking at a reference book such as the Family Tree Resource Book for Genealogists, edited by Erin Nevius and Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (Family Tree Books, $29.99). If you’re an online information gatherer, search Google for oklahoma statehood. Several sites, such as the Oklahoma State Archives’ online 2005-2006 almanac, offer details on how the area attained statehood Nov. 16, 1907.

Next, Larson went through her family data for birth and death dates of key people in the picture. The eldest male (second from the right) is George Washington Edwards, who died Nov. 19, 1909. This fact provides an end for the photo’s time frame. Larson identified the girl (second from right, in a shorter skirt) as Daisy Edwards, born in 1895.

Larson is well on her way to answering her own questions. She wondered:

  • Could the female on the far left be younger than the female next to her wearing the short skirt?
  • Was this photo really taken before 1907?

Let’s answer the second question first. The clothing and hairstyles in this picture date the image to around 1905 to 1909, when women piled their hair atop their heads and wore high-collared shirts and dresses. Let’s factor in Daisy’s age: Born in 1895, she’d only be 10 in 1905, and 14 in 1909. If this is Daisy, and if this picture was taken prior to Oklahoma statehood, she’d be between 10 and 12 in this photo. It’s difficult to clearly judge Daisy’s age here because her face is blurred, but based on the length of her dress and general appearance, I think she’s older than 12.

That means if Larson can confirm the young woman is Daisy, this image probably dates from after 1907 and the caption is wrong.

Larson asked whether the other woman on the far left of the picture might be younger than Daisy. That woman wears a full-length dress like her older relatives in the center of the picture; young teens often wore shorter skirts. I think Daisy is younger but that the two are fairly close in age.

Given the evidence, I suspect whoever wrote the caption on the picture did so years after it was taken and guessed at the date. Regardless, this photo is a wonderful treasure taken sometime around Oklahoma’s admission to the Union.

Want to weigh in? Add your thoughts on this week’s mystery photo to the Photo Detective Forum. I’ll go there to answer your questions and keep you up-to-date with new clues on our mystery photos. <!–

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