More Photo Detective Mailbag

More Photo Detective Mailbag

Figure 1 Some readers submit lots of information to help me date and identify their family images, but many queries resemble this one from Peg Koontz: "Picture being submitted for identification, would love to know about the date taken. Thanks." Dear Peg, To date this attractive image of...

Figure 1
Some readers submit lots of information to help me date and identify their family images, but many queries resemble this one from Peg Koontz: “Picture being submitted for identification, would love to know about the date taken. Thanks.”

Dear Peg,
To date this attractive image of a mother and two children, look at the woman’s hairstyle and the son’s tunic suit. Her full hairstyle would support any of the large hats in style between 1900 and 1910. (Oversize decorative pins would have secured a hat to her hair.) The boy’s short pants and tunic top with attached belt also were popular at that time.

Although toddlers of both sexes wore dresses in the early 1900s, I can tell that the younger child is a girl because of the center part in her hair. To identify these family members, check your genealogical records for a girl born at the turn of the 20th century with a brother a few years older.

Figure 2
“Here is a picture of an unknown woman. This picture has been passed down two or three generations without an identity. Would you please try to date the picture?”
Andrea Ware

Dear Andrea,
It amazes me how many beautiful photographs remain unidentified. This young woman in her mid- to late teens is obviously dressed for a special occasion. Is she a debutante, a graduate or ready to go to her first grown-up dance? Whatever the occasion, the image has a number of clothing clues that establish a time frame.

In the late 1890s (especially after 1896), women’s dresses featured tight lower sleeves and puffy upper sleeves similar to the style worn in this portrait. Her choice of accessories—fan and handkerchief—are not unusual for the time period. And young, unmarried women often wore bows in their hair.

Her age combined with the dress and accessories suggest that this is a graduation photo. White was a common color for graduations and summer events.

Figure 3
“I believe the picture of the couple to be my third-great-grandparents Daniel and Imogene Johnson Pence. Imogene lived between 1812 and 1883.”
Brenda Gordon

Dear Brenda,
This photograph was taken in the mid-1880s, perhaps as early as 1883, the year Imogene died. I base my time estimate on the woman’s draped overskirt, the small buttons and velvet panels on her bodice, and her handmade collar and cuffs. Her fingerless gloves, called mitts, are more commonly seen in 1840s portraits, but they briefly reappeared in the 1880s. If you think this woman could be in her late 60s, then your identification might be correct. I think she looks younger than that, but she may have aged well.

The mat around this portrait is actually a page from a photo album. The slit in the mat below the photo is for sliding the image into place.

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