S. Haynes, Photographic Detective


I decided my first foray into the world of these wonderful old photographs retrieved from my mother’s basement would be the extraordinarily beautiful purple velvet-covered album, in a style apparently representing the peak of 19th century photographic print presentation.  Here are the album’s complete contents:

After making a photo record of the album as a whole, my next step was to remove each photo and scan it at high resolution.  (The album is constructed so the photos — which are in the form of albumen prints affixed to cabinet cards — may be slid out through a slot beneath the photos.)

Often the front or — more importantly the rear — of the card contains information about the photographer, which sometimes can be invaluable.  For example, the two photos of young girls shown at image 9:  the back of each card shows “Burnette Albion NY.”  Research shows there was a photographer named Burnette working out of the relatively small town of Albion in the late 1800s, but more importantly, since the children are my grandmother Wilma (at left) and great aunt Myra (at right), I can estimate the photographs’ dates to be approximately 1890, since Wilma and Myra’s mother, Eliza, left Antigua, B.W.I. (where they were born), and that year moved to Holley, NY, which is about ten miles east of Albion, making it likely that Eliza made the short trip to Albion for the portraits.

Photographers ranged from Rochester, NY, and nearby towns, to Cleveland, OH, to Bloomington, IL, and finally to Racine, WI, which is the city of origin for the Jackson family branch of which I am a member.

So it went with all thirty photos in the album.  You may be able to discern from the pages in the gallery above that some of the photos are extraordinarily beautiful, done in the style typical for the period, and I now have a priceless document, not only for its beauty, but as well for the picture it provides into family history.  I’m now looking forward to reactions from family members once I’ve posted all of this for them to review, especially once they have an opportunity to examine larger renditions of individual photos.

An ancillary benefit of the work is correspondence received from far-flung branches of my family, since cousins to whom I’m sending this material are writing other relatives I don’t know personally, passing along information and links, and those relatives write in to express pleasure at seeing images of relatives long dead, but not forgotten.

It’s a far richer and more rewarding experience than I initially would have ever believed likely.


Meanwhile, Elsewhere, Department

The very good, pretty good, and simply ugly.

Very good:  new developments in fighting cancer that represent a potentially extraordinary advance.

Pretty good:  a real expert weighs in on the movie Contagion and finds that it overstates the timing of pandemic progression, but that the underlying science is presented decently.

Simply ugly:  reader Eric in The Netherlands sends an article about how the British are developing computers to determine if we’re lying.


Beautiful, energetic Victoria — a few sessions, all memorable.

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