Sunday, March 27, 2011

Photographers' Marks (Photographic Puzzles, part 2)

Last week I offered some tips that have helped me identify old photos. As promised, I want to share a success story.

Mr. Y e-mailed me several photos from his family collection that had no identification, including this family group. He knew which branch of the family they came from, and that they had lived in Wilson, N.C. He suspected this was a picture of his great-grandparents. Mr. Y had started with genealogical research, including census records, to get the names and ages of children in the family. He asked if I could come up with any more clues.

Photos courtesy of the Yarborough family

I wasn't sure if I could help, at first. I thought the boy in the back looked like he was wearing a military cape, but I'm not an expert at clothing clues and I didn't want to steer anybody wrong. I finally decided I would just look up the photographers' marks and not spend too much time on this lovely puzzle.

The names on the left were a little hard to read from the scan, but I picked out "Engle." I didn't expect to find him in my Photographers in North Carolina book because of the Philadelphia mark, but I looked for him anyway — and got lucky.

Apparently John F. Engle had a long, illustrious career, making photographs all around the country, including Philadelphia. He did spend some time in North Carolina, and worked with a man named Lund. Look closely: Lund is the name beneath Engle on the mark. And in the center is an elaborate E and L.

I looked up the other name. Viggo Lund worked with Engle in 1897 on Nash Street in Wilson. They worked together other years in Elizabeth City, but since this family branch lived in Wilson, the time they had a studio there would be a good assumption.

Most of the photographers in the book worked in certain areas for several years or even decades. But these two men worked together in that town just one year. Amazingly, that narrowed down the photograph to 1897.

According to Mr. Y's research and more recent photos, the young man with the mustache is probably his great-grandfather, Bud Perry. The older couple are his step-father and mother, Claiborn Perry and Zilphia Smith, who had five children at home in 1900. In 1897, the two boys would have been about 12 and 15, and the three girls age 9, 7 and 3. Bud, 20, got married in December of that year.

This cabinet card appears to be the boy on the right in the family photo, Weston Perry. The couple's youth and prominent display of rings suggest a wedding photo. Francis Marion Winstead was a photographer from 1880 to ca. 1908. This picture was probably taken between 1898 and 1908, when Winstead returned to Wilson and worked without a partner, because only his name appears on the frame. Those dates also fit the likelihood that Weston would not have been married yet in the 1897 picture (at age 15).

This lovely young lady also posed for Francis Marion Winstead. Upon closeup comparison of her face with the two dark-headed girls in the family portrait, I think she is the little girl on the right. That puts this photo toward the latter part of the 1898-1908 window.

Mr. Y is hot on the trail of his ancestors, armed with a few more clues. And once again I'm glad I invested in a good reference book that provides such useful information.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating work, Elizabeth. I could spend hours staring at those photos, imagining the moments.
And why aren't I surprised that a bibliophile enjoyed 84 Charing Cross Road; great book, great movie.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks. Going to watch the movie, maybe this weekend. Just finished "Dewey" last night. *reaches for hanky*