Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sepia Enigmas

Yesterday was a wet, wet, wet sloppy day.  I spent some of my time indoors going through some of my boxes of photos.  In the process I found quite a few that caught my attention, and had blog material written all over them.  So it was off to the scanner and then a couple of hours of photo manipulation and plunking them into embryonic blogs.  But it was time well spent, I've got quite a few blog ideas ahead for the next few months.  Don't worry I won't drop them all on you at once; I'll parcel them out in dribs and drabs.

There were two photos that really didn't fit any particular category, but they were such interesting capturings of a different time and era.  The more I looked at them, the more questions surfaced.

My grandmother is in the first one, the lady with the big hat.  Well at least, the former owners of the photo assumed it was my grandmother, although I note there is a question mark after the name.  From the more recent photos I've seen of my grandmother, it is possible, but I can't really confirm it.  My grandmother died when I was four, and all of the folks who could probably make a positive identification are long gone.

But back to the photo.  What do you suppose the wooden structure is behind the people?  It could possibly be a railway tressel although I doubt it.  Is it some ornate sort of fence?   And what are the cords in the air on the left side of the photo?  Are they clothesline, early telephone wire, guy wires, not sure. It appears that the gentleman to the left has been identified as Art Buchanan, a name I recognize as a merchant in the same village as my grandmother lived.  But none of the other people have any names.  With the exception of the girl to the right, none look even remotely familiar from any other photos I have.  The one on the right, does look like photos of my grandmother's sister, but I believe she was older, and in this particular shot, she looks younger than grandma.  So not a positive identification after at all.

This next photo is a real puzzler to me. There is nothing written front or back, identifying either person in the photo.  It appears to be a fairly well-to-do home, what with the pump-organ, the fine china, the ornate furniture and fancy wallpaper.  I cannot see it being any of my close relatives, as most of them were pretty dirt poor.

I find the composition of the photograph really unusual.  There is an attempt to make it look casual, in that the characters are not posed in front of a backdrop, as so many are in formal sittings, mid 1800's. The positioning of the characters is strangely odd. It almost looks like the man is kind of an afterthought, stuck in the background off to the side.  However both characters are dressed to the nines, hardly what someone might have worn about the house.

And then there is the fine china on the table, almost set there like it is the center of attention, rather than the people.  Were they showing off their best wares?  I almost wonder if it might be a posed shot, that might have been sent back to family members in Great Britain, a staged attempt to show how well the pioneers were faring in the new country.

Unfortunately there will never be any answers to either of these pictures.  The best we can do is surmise what they might be about, and speculate who the key players were.  But I suppose guessing is part of the fun of genealogy, although there are many stodgy researchers who would love to argue that point.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.


  1. Curious photos indeed! The wooden structure in the first appears to be some kind of summer house - you can just make out a kind of pyramidal roof. But what are those cords, one of which appears to be about to garotte poor old Art! The second shot certainly seems to be showing off the wealth of the couple, but the composition is eccentric to say the least. As you say all we can do is wonder.

  2. Interesting. Typically, photos were so few and far between that they wouldn't have chosen such an odd seeming utilitarian backdrop--especially all dressed up. So it must be special. Maybe it was sculpture! :-) Maybe not. The other one: It was either a poor photographer or they were trying to sell the china on e-Bay.

  3. I love old photo's like these and often wonder what they were thinking about as the photo was taken. You have encouraged me to get my own out over the comming winter :)

  4. You do have some GREAT old photos!


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