Unknown Woman In Day Cap: The Minor Family Album

This middle-aged woman sat for her portrait, held motionless by a photographer’s head rest for the minutes-long exposure. The discomfort of such stillness couldn’t keep an impish grin from her face.  Woman in a Day Cap’s identity and relationship to my family has been lost. Her photograph, however, can serve now as a mid-nineteenth century fashion plate, evidence of what a mature woman wore out and about on a cold day.

LOOK WITH ME

A white cap covers the woman’s gray-streaked hair, framing her face with its starched ruffles.  A white ribbon is tied under her chin, ensuring the cap’s place come wind or rain.  At her throat, the woman wears a white cotton collar, one to three inches wide, with scalloped tatted edges decoratively set off by the dark material underneath.  The woolen wrap is worn draped across the front, gathered and fastened on the upper left arm–not at the throat like other coats and cloaks of the 1840s and 1850s.  Her hands are tucked inside a white fur muff, likely made of ermine.

Even if I don’t know how this woman is related to my Minor family, I take great delight in the inclusion of her photograph.  As always, digging in the Minor Family Album reveals treasures.

Smiling Woman Wearing Day Cap. Cabinet card (1885-1895) of original daguerreotype (1845-1855). Minor Family Album, p. 17; author's collection. 2014.

Smiling Woman Wearing Day Cap. Cabinet card (1885-1895) of original daguerreotype (1845-1855). Minor Family Album, p. 17; author’s collection. 2014.

Windows To My Past

Vintage photographs lead to vintage family.  Folks that shared an historical context and proximity, whose connections of love and sorrow shaped decisions that are even now rippling through my time.

I love looking at these eyes, windows to my past, staring back into my present.

Family Portrait taken by T W Rogers, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, circa 1874.  Standing: Sarah, John P., Olfred Minor.  Seated: Mary Jane Gwynn and Francis Marion Minor.  Standing front: Robert Minor (b. 1869) Photo recovered from Minor Home Farm circa 1965

Family Portrait taken by T W Rogers, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, circa 1874. Standing: Sarah, John P., Olfred Minor. Seated: Mary Jane Gwynn and Francis Marion Minor. Standing front: Robert Minor (b. 1869) Photo recovered from Minor Home Farm circa 1965

Thomas W Rogers of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania took this portrait of my great-grandfather’s birth family in the mid-1870s, when Robert Minor was about six years old.  The faces of his parents bear distinctive features, which I make use of as I sleuth through other photographs.

Like now, when we turn to pages eight and nine of the Minor Family Album.

page 8 blog

Marion Minor (1828-1913) His Roman nose was a strong facial feature. His right eyelid drooped noticeably.

 

page 9 blog

Mary Jane Gwynne Minor (1829-1908) Her most striking feature were her startingly light, and probably blue, eyes.

 

The photographs are mounted on heavy cardstock, with a metallic coating–silver or gold–on the beveled, scalloped edges, a product commonly used from 1880-the early 1890s. The two appear to be in their early sixties, suggesting a portrait sitting after 1888.  The puffy fullness at the shoulder of Mary Jane’s dress narrows the timeframe to between 1889-1892.

I imagine Mary Jane and Marion starting their day with the usual farm chores, milking cows, gathering egges, lighting the stove and fixing breakfast.  Instructions would be given to Robert and the farmhands for the rest of the day’s chores, before the couple changed into their best clothes.  A horse was hitched up to the buggy and they drove out onto the “red dog” surface, heading up the hill of Ceylon Road, past the homes of siblings and children, nieces and nephews, on their seven mile trip to Carmichaels.

What was the occasion for the photographs?  A sixtieth birthday acknowledged?  Their fortieth wedding anniversary celebrated?

Whatever prompted the impulse, I am grateful that the studio appointment was kept, and that I have these eyes gazing from my past.

The Story Lies In His Hand

Page Five of The MINOR FAMILY ALBUM

How good it is to see familiar faces!!

The fifth page frames a young couple’s portrait, carefully staged to tell the story of a momentous autumn day. Robert Minor had just taken May Stevenson’s hand in marriage.

The twenty-three year old groom was dressed in well-tailored pin-striped pants worn with a frock coat and matching waist coat–a fashion which would indicate that the Thursday wedding was held during the day.  His bride, seventeen year old May Stevenson, wore an exquisite gown with lace at the throat, on the bodice, and at the cuffs.  The hat, no doubt designed and made by her milliner mother, Mary Jones Stevenson, was trimmed in the this same lace and finished with feathers.  September 8, 1892 was a grand day for these families.

The Presbyterian minister, T. G. Bristow, conducted the service in Carmichaels, Greene County, Pennsylvania.  After Robert and May exchanged their vows, and the LARGE families of both bride and groom mingled in congratulations, the newlyweds stopped by the Public Square studio of T. W. Rogers and had their picture taken.  Robert stared a bit like a deer caught in a lantern’s light, perhaps rocked by the realization that the circuit of ice cream socials and steamboat shows had come to an end. A soft smile tugged at May’s face, however.  The young lady had survived the arduous years following her father’s death and secured her future with this prosperous young man.  Together the youngsters would join in the family business–raising cattle and children to carry on the Minor legacy on Ceylon Road, Garard’s Fort, Pennsylvania.

May Laura Stevenson and Robert Minor said "I do" on September 8, 1892, in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania.  The service was officiated by Rev. T. J. Briston, a Presbyterian minister.

May Laura Stevenson and Robert Minor said “I do” on September 8, 1892, in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania. The service was officiated by Rev. T. J. Briston, a Presbyterian minister.

The Minor Family Album: Continuing The Search for Mr. Chin Whisker’s Identity

Mr. Chin WhiskersMy last post contained a LOT of information about the face that greets me when I open the Minor Family Album.  Mr. Chin Whiskers was originally thought to be our family patriarch, John Pearson (Pierson) Minor, but that hypothesis was thrown out when a cousin shared copy of a labeled tintype of John P. Minor.  My image and his image were NOT of the same person.  Continuing my search within the Minor family tree, I compared my image to another image of a known Minor, Samuel Minor, who was John P’s brother.  These two images were not of the same person.  I left the post dangling the idea that perhaps my image is of a third brother, Asa.

Is this bearded man Asa Minor?

Among my family artifacts are documents and letters found in an old leather satchel, retrieved from the Minor Home Farm long ago by my mother.  Included in this treasure trove are letters from Asa Minor to his brother, John P.  (You can read more about this exchange here.) These papers establish that the brothers kept in touch, and presumably John’s children would have known of their uncle.

The 1860 US Federal Mortality Schedule tells us that Asa died in January of that year, succumbing to consumption from which he had suffered for nine months.  His wife continued to live on the farm in Deerfield Township, Warren County, Ohio.

So, Asa kept in touch with John.  Asa was alive in the 1850s when everybody with a bit of money could get a photograph made.

That is all we really know.

Could this photograph be Asa?  If I can confirm that the TW Rogers took a photo of a photo and if I can confirm that the man’s clothing is typical of the late 1850s, then I could feel a wee bit of confidence in that identification hypothesis.

For now…

I turn to the blogosphere, to photo detectives, to descendants of Asa Minor–what do YOU think?

  • What timeframe does the jacket, vest and beard suggest to you?
  • Are there other copies of this photograph out there, LABELED?
  • Are there other photographs of Asa out there?

Of course there are other possibilities…

What if this is a member of Mary Jane Gwynne’s family?  I don’t have much research to document her family, other than her father, Alfred, died in 1835.  And until I can narrow down the timeframe for the photograph, original or copied, then I can’t really narrow down which male family members this might be!!

And so I conclude this post as mystified as I began.  The whiskered man begs to tell a story.  For now, the story will have to remain untold.

Mr. Chin Whiskers

 

 

 

 

The Minor Family Album: Mr. Chin Whiskers

 

Mr. Chin Whiskers

When I first became curator of the Minor Family Album, I moved swiftly to identify this man, the first face to appear in the album. I was soooo certain of my clues and my analysis.

  1. This whiskered gent is the first photograph displayed in a Minor Family album created in the latter part of the 19th century. He must be an important family member. A patriarch.
  2. Thomas W. Rogers, the photographer, opened a studio in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, in 1864 that remained in existence through the turn of the century. Thomas took the photograph of this ancestor.
  3. The cabinet photo’s cardstock is an ivory color, with round corners, and medium weight.  According to internet sources, this description dates the card to between 1869-1875.
Digging into the family’s tree, I determined that the one Minor living near Carmichaels, Pennsylvania in the early 1870s old enough to present this image was none other than our patriarch, John Pearson (Pierson) Minor, 1791-1874.  I proudly announced my conclusion to the world in this blog.*

WHAT A ROOKIE!!!

Time has passed, my skill set has expanded, newly discovered cousins have shared their treasures, and I have eaten a very, VERY large piece of humble pie.  In other words, I MUST retract my earlier identification.

Starting over I apply the procedures learned from THE photo detective, Maureen A. Taylor, author of Family Photo Detective, Fashionable Folks Bonnets and Hats, Fashionable Folks Hairstyles, as well as, a wonderful blog on the subject.

This photograph is a paper print on a 4½ x 6½ inch ivory colored cardstock, with rounded corners.  The photographer’s name and studio location–Thomas W. Rogers, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania–appear only at the bottom of the photo.  There is no design or notation on the back.  This portrait is an example of a cabinet card, most like created between 1869-1875.

Next I view the print with an eye for internal clues.  The man is seated in front of a dark backdrop.  White dots indicate that this photograph may be a photo of a photo–that the original photograph was on a surface like glass or tin, and that the photo’s chemicals flecked off with time.  In the upper left hand corner there appears to be a curvature of the backdrop, as if the original photograph was in an oval shape.

Snag it of Mr. Chin Whiskers.

 

The man is sporting a full beard, trimmed tight about his ears and mouth.  Beards were not popular until the mid-late 1850s, and were worn by a generation of men until the late 1800s.  The man has a full head of gray hair, worn long over his ears, and parted on the side.  It does not appear to be greased down.

The shot captures the fellow from the chest up, and his beard hides the neckline.  But the coat appears to be loose fitting, with a fairly wide lapel.  The vest is of a different material and the top button is at the height of the coat’s top button, mid-chest.

These internal clues indicate a timeframe between the late 1850s and the late 1860s.

The man himself appears to be between 55 and 70 years old. And sick.

SO NOW WHAT?

Back to the stories, the roots, shoots, and leaves of this Minor Family tree.  And let’s just suppose that I am looking for a male family member who would have been between 55-70 years of age in the late 1850s to the mid 1860s.

So, patriarch Abia was dead by 1834. Francis Marion and his brothers would have been too young to be the photographed dude. That leaves a closer examination of John P., Samuel, and Asa, all of whom would have been alive in the late 1850s and at least 60 years old.

MORE CLUES SURFACE

Cousin Ron Minor has generously shared a digital image, a photograph of a tintype, which was annotated with identification.

Minor Elders Collage

The man  identified as John P. Minor (shown here on the left) has a higher forehead, and a thinner face.  The eyebrows are not the same shape, and the hair appears to be thinner.  Mr. Chin Whiskers is not John P. Minor.

A photograph of Samuel Minor found on the website Ancestry.com bears a strong resemblance to John P., a high forehead, with gray hair thinning at the brow. Samuel’s eyes are deeper set than those of my Mr. Chin Whiskers.

Is this ASA?

More clues to come…

 

*I have since removed that original post because of the improper identification, AND because people were taking the misidentified photograph and posting to ancestry.com without my permission.  If you see something that you would like to share, please ask me about it.