Sunday, November 27, 2011

Using Indirect Evidence to Identify a Photo - Part 2

In Part 1, I hypothesized that the woman in this photograph is Mary Ann Woods.

Reader Brett Payne of Photo-Sleuth blog left a comment on yesterday's post stating that the size of the sleeves on the woman in the photograph indicate it was taken in the mid 1890s. What a great clue!

The Denver Public Library has many Denver City Directories digitized and on its website. Brett's clue allowed me to hone in on the directories published in the 1890s. The photographer, G. R. Appel of 1529 Larimer, is first listed in the Denver City Directory in 1892! He continued at that address at least until 1899. I stopped searching at that point.

It seems logical that Mary Ann Woods might have stopped for a portrait in Denver on her trip to Boulder from Telluride in December of 1893.

Tomorrow we will get back to the provenance of the photograph. Today was a short but necessary detour. Thank you again Brett!

Ballenger & Richards, …Annual Denver City Directory…(Denver: Ballenger & Richards, 1892), p. 114, for “Appel, Gustaf R, photographer.” See also Gustaf’s entries under “Appel” in Denver City Directories for subsequent years with varying subtitles, specifically:  ( 1894) 120, (1896) 121, (1899) 123.

Walt Woods mother. Photograph. Original, privately held by Michelle Goodrum, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE]. 2010.

“Returns After Many Years,” Boulder Daily Camera (Boulder), 7 December 1893, p. 1; digital images, Colorado Historical Newspapers ( : accessed 28 September 2007).

© 2011, copyright Michelle Goodrum


  1. I agree with Brett about the 1800s date. Those huge leg o' mutton sleeves are a dead give-away. Jayne Shrimpton's 'Family Photographs & How to Date Them' is particularly good for dating costumes, but is based on British fashions. According to her, the sleeves were at their widest in 1895/6 and were fashinable between 1893 and 1897, so maybe we can tighten up the date a little.

    There are some other clues as well. How big is the photograph? It looks like a carte-de-visite which should measure about 10cm X 6.5cm, but could be a larger cabinet print (ca. 16.5cm X 11.5cm.

    Is the photo yellowish in colour with a glossy sheen? This would suggest an albumen print. These prints were mounted on card to stop the thin paper curling. Later examples were pasted onto thicker card, so and 1890s print should be on a chunky mount.

    Spot on following up the photographer.

  2. Thank you Sue!

    This is an area where I need to develop some skills (another item for the education plan).

    The photo is the larger cabinet print measuring 16.5 X almost 11 cm (or 4.5 X 6.5 for us backwards countries that measure in inches).

    The picture has a glossy sheen and is on very thin paper. It is mounted onto a card. I would say the photo has more of a greenish gray coloring than yellow but I should look at it more closely in the daylight tomorrow.

    Thanks for your help!!

  3. A pleasure to be able to help, Michelle. The cabinet card design is appropriate for the early to mid-1890s, in my view. Good work on the photographer. This cabinet portrait, probably taken slightly later, say 1895-1898, has a different address: Iron B'LD'G Cor. 17th & Arapahoe St's, Denver Colo.

    Gustave R. Appel is also known for having taken photographs of mining towns in Colorado.

  4. Good idea to look up information on the photographer. A photographer in my family had his studio in Stanton, NE but traveled around the area. Thanks for the link to Denver Library :)