Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mystery woman, Part 1

My Armstrong-Davis photograph album contains several unidentified photos, but two that are labeled contain a mystery I have yet to solve.

I have two photos I’m pretty sure are of the same woman:

The handwritten label for the first photo appears to say "Maggie Davis."  It's possible it could be a different last name.  I'm pretty sure my mother wrote "Maggie Davis" on the second photo (a paper print on a cabinet card) as I recognize her handwriting.  There is nothing on the back except for the photographers engraving, so she probably labeled the photo based on the subject's resemblance to the lady in the ferrotype.  Even if the name is correct, I have no idea if she is related or how she fits into the family tree.

I’m pretty sure the first photograph, a tinted ferrotype (tintype), was taken around 1871 for two reasons:  the clothing and the photographer.

Maggie’s dress and hair are very similar to a girl in a photo from 1870 that appears in Joan Severa’s book Dressed for the Photographer.

Maggie’s dress has very similar sleeve style and ruffles.  Also, the young ladies’ hair styles have almost identical “temple rolls” drawn up from a center part, along with ribbon bows that are “arranged to lay flat on the crown.”

In Maureen Taylor’s Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs, she lists some style details from 1869-1874 women's fashions that show up in this photo of Maggie:
“Black velvet neck ribbon with brooch or charm…earrings and necklace matched.”
“Armhole over shoulder.”

The photographer's name shows up on the back of the paper sleeve:

J.U.P. Burnham shows up in the 1870 Savannah City directory on Bull Street and then in the 1871 Savannah directory at 158 St. Julian, the same address on the back of the photo sleeve.  He doesn't appear in the 1874-75 directory, but shows up listed in Richmond, Virginia's city directory.  From a search of city directories from the 1860s-1870s, he seemed to be based out of Portland, Maine, but lived in southern cities at various times.  

So the combination of the dress style and photographer's clues lead me to believe that 1871-1873 could be the most likely time range for the first photo.  Unfortunately, Ancestry didn't have Savannah city directories for 1872-1873, so I couldn't check for Burnham in those directories.

In the first photo Maggie appears to be in her twenties.  In the second photo she is obviously older.  Look at the ears of each lady.  Along with the facial resemblance, the ears help in concluding that these are probably photographs of the same person.


I’m guessing the second photo is from the 1890s or early 1900s.  Using hairstyle, costume clues and the photographers’ names (Launey and Goebel) I might be able to narrow the time period.  I’ll save that and discussing the possible relation to Annie Graham for next week’s blog.

1 comment:

  1. Love that you have a J.[John] U.P. Burnham marked tintype!

    I have a wee bit more info on him if you'd like it; the description he states of his location is a slightly different one for me.