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Mystery Photo

Posted by Mummy Dearest on Oct-15-2004

I am hoping that this will help to guess a date for this mystery photo:




I have no idea who these people are, except that it is an old family photo.

I also wonder what’s up with the left arm of the gent sitting down. Where is it ? Is it gone ? Or dangling away, some place very uncomfortable,perhaps looped into the wicker work backside of the chair the woman is sitting in ?

Update :

Could somebody look at that photo and tell me what they see ? The women’s clothing is giving me 1905- ish, the older man’s, 1870-ish. I find a facial resemblance between the gent sitting and the woman standing behind him. I see an odd, ribbon shaped tie ( southern ?) on the very tall young man and a ring on the left hand of the statuesque brunette.

The two young people on the left do not resemble each other in any way, nor are they standing close to one another. The two standing on the right are very close to one another.

The only one looking right into the camera’s lens is the woman sitting. In general, I’m not catching a jolly atmosphere here- why was this picture taken ? What event is it noting ?

As an aside, the only one who bears ( and only the vaguest) resemblance to any photos that I have seen of our family, is the short ( no, there is more resemblance than that…) young man, standing on the right of the photo.

I could use some profiler kindof shit.

  1. Karen Said,

    But weren’t photos of this era extremely formal? So you wouldn’t get a lot of jollity coming through. You’re right, though, the only one who looks relaxed is the woman looking at the camera; perhaps it was her idea to have the portrait taken, and the others are just humouring her.

  2. Squeekie Said,

    I agree…formal photos were rarely cheery in appearance. My mother has done our family histories extensively and has worked in a museum for years. One thing we have both noticed is that the people rarely, rarely smile. I think maybe because it was a hard life. They frequently didn’t have the ‘ease of life’ that we have now? Perhaps the one looking in the camera was the ‘pixie’ of the family…the one who was never serious? As for the mans arm…I think your right…it does appear to be at an odd angle. I got out my magnifying glass and took a peek but can’t really tell if the arm is there or not, but if I had to guess I say not. As for who they are, my guess is a mother and father with their children and spouses…but which are the children is anyones guess. Good luck with it all…do you have any other family that might be able to shed a bit more light?

  3. Karan Said,

    My guess is that it’s from around 1900….look at this fun site: http://www.memorialhall.mass.edu/activities/dressup/1900_woman.html make sure you click next layer so you can add more than just the underwear.

  4. Karan Said,

    My mother always told me that they didn’t smile much because their teeth were crummy. I don’t know if that’s fact or not but I sort of think that it was just considered appropriate decorum to be serious for such an important occassion…afterall….how many folks have smiled in the paintings that came before photography.

  5. Ann Said,

    I’ve been told they didn’t smile because of the type of camera that was used back then. You know…. the kind where the photographer would be bent over the camera with his head under a black cloth. It would take several minutes for the picture to be ‘taken’ so a smile after that much time would look very forced and unnatural.

  6. sue Said,

    Thanks for the comments- really. I spent hours trying to date this photo yesterday. I really, really wanted it to be pre-1880, but it just isn’t.

    My dad copied this photo last year from the original which belongs to his Aunt. According to her, this is a picture of her mother’s family- the Kerlins-, mom, pop and four of their kids.

    Here is where the problem arises : I’ve seen/ have pictures of every member of that family except one son. These aren’t the same people! Although the 1910′s are precisely when their children would be reaching adulthood.

    Yet, my Great Grandmother held on to this photo and obviously told her daughter these were Kerlins.

    I begin to wonder if perhaps the short, young man is the other son- the one that I have never seen a photo of. He resembles the other Kerlin men ( this is my family- remember ? Where you get pleasant looking men and woofs of women) more than he doesn’t.

    Unfortunately, my Great- Aunt is best described as having a heart of gold, not razor sharp wits.

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