Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Three Mysterious Daguerreotypes

1840s Little Girl,
Who are these beautiful people?

When I first saw the Daguerreotype of this serene little girl, I thought it might be Valerie Catherine Pratt (1839-1846). The wood case and simple mat are consistent with a date in the 1840s. But one of the memorial essays written by her classmate says that Valerie had dark flaxen hair. This little girl appears to have dark brown hair.The off-the-shoulder dress was typical for little girls all through the 1840s and 1850s. This cased image was with Eliza Pratt's family photos so it could be Eliza herself, born in 1837, or one of her sisters Susan May, born in 1842, or Albina Sarah, born in 1845.

The flairing sleeves and white undersleeves date this dress to about 1850. The collar and hair-do are also early 1850s. The lady is also wearing a chain with a slide that holds a gold pencil, typical of that time period. Eliza Pratt was born in 1837 and married Benjamin Franklin Tisdale in 1851, a little more than four months after her 14th birthday. This Daguerreotype could have been taken around that time. Is this Great Great Grandmother Eliza Pratt Tisdale? Or could it be B. F. Tisdale's first wife, Maria Pike, who died in 1849.

1840s Man no ID,

Is this dashing young man Benjamin Franklin Tisdale (1823-1876)?The case and mat appear to be from the 1840s. His collar and tie also can be dated to the 1840s. There are three other known photos of B. F. Tisdale when he was older. (We will see them later.) I think the hairline and face shape in this Daguerreotype are consistent with the later photos. Another possibility is that it may be Frances Ann Pratt's husband, Wiliam McCaughey, who died in 1850.  Are there any Tisdale or Pratt cousins out there who recognize this man or have a similar image?    

Daguerreotypes were made from 1839 to 1865, but the peak years for this type of image was from 1852 to 1858. The process is a positive image on silver-coated copper plate, mirror-like and not magnetic. The most common size is 1/9 plate, 2" x 2 1/2" like the three above.

Dating old photographs is both science and art. I have done presentations describing the process for several genealogical societies and I have posted my handout as a separate page on this blog. I'll be referring back to it as we look at more of Belle's photos.                                                                        

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