Thursday, February 12, 2015

52 Ancestors 2015: #7 Columbus Couple - a CDV Mystery

This carte de visite (CDV) is in a photo album that was owned by my third great grandmother, Sarah Ann Lane Bird (1836-1873.)  The album itself was given to her in 1865 as a Christmas present by a farmer from Greensburg, Indiana named Thomas George Hamilton.  A story has been handed down through my family that Sarah was an orphan and that the Hamilton family raised her. I think the couple pictured might be part of the Hamilton family.

The back of the photograph is undated, listing only the name of the photography studio. I sent a scan of the photo to a librarian from the Decatur County Public Library who was doing some research on the photographer, R.W. Snyder.  She told me that Snyder only operated his gallery in Columbus, Indiana between 1870 and 1879; therefore, the picture had to be taken in that time frame.

Another clue to consider:  Sarah died in June of 1873.  Yet it seems likely that she would have selected at least the first few pictures of her album, and this photo was placed in the third page of the album. So I believe the portrait was taken before her death.

The picture can be further dated by looking at the woman's clothing, so I researched fashions from the 1860's and 1870's.  By the late 1870's, a narrow silhouette coupled with exaggerated bustles, fitted sleeves, and squarish necklines began to take over.  This woman has more of a full-skirted dress, relaxed sleeves, and a v-shaped bodice, which are aspects more in line with the style of the late 1860's.

After piecing together all these clues, I would guess that this picture was taken around 1870-1873, during the beginning of R.W. Snyder's photography career. The man and woman, who both look very young, were probably no older than their early to mid twenties when they sat for this portrait.  That places their birthdates, more or less, around 1850-1853. I think it's reasonable to assume that this picture was taken for their wedding or engagement.

In the 1860 census, a 23 year-old Sarah "Maine" was a domestic servant in the Decatur County household of William Warder Hamilton, the brother of Thomas George Hamilton. Also in the same household with Sarah were William's two sons, Robert Cassius and William Brutus Hamilton. With further research, I found that William Brutus was born in 1847 and was married in December of 1870 -- just the right time frame to fit this photograph.  His wife, Catherine Cunningham,was born in 1851 in Ohio. The part that doesn't quite fit the puzzle is that they were married in Mason, Ohio ... over 100 miles from Columbus, Indiana. However, William and Catherine lived in Greensburg, Indiana after they were married, which is only 30 miles from Columbus.

Of course, much of this is speculation.  If you can help me identify anything about this photo or if you have any idea who the couple might be, please leave a comment -- I would love to know!

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