Monday, August 6, 2012

Dating an Old Photo - Part 2

Readers never disappoint! I've received some great feedback on my request for help in Dating an Old Photo. Thank you Wonderful Readers!

I didn't give much information because I didn't want to bias anyone and I still don't. The suspicion is this picture may have been taken in the early-mid 1890s. We are trying to determine when the woman, Lucinda Ballenger, died and dating this picture may help.

Here are some other questions regarding this photo:
  • How old do William and Lucinda look to be?
  • Is it possible the picture was taken years earlier and reprinted?
  • Input on dating their clothing would be appreciated (I'm terrible with that).
Again, thanks for all your input! Hopefully we can get a final answer as to when Lucinda died. I'll present more information in future posts.

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© 2012, copyright Michelle Goodrum


  1. Portrait photographers are notoriously protective of their negatives, and I'd doubt they'd give those to the customer. So, unless the Dudley studio took over from another photographer and reprinted from one of their negatives, it's more likely that they took that photo themselves. The only other possibility is that they used an earlier photo and took a picture of it (search "photo copy stand" if you want to know more) in order to make copies, but I don't know how common that was back then.

  2. Thanks E! That gives me one more thing to investigate - whether Mary Dudley took over for another photographer or if she was a new startup.

  3. I was going though some of my Google Reader posts and found this post by Maureen Taylor:

    Apparently photos *were* copied in that period, so that's a possibility with your photo.

    As far as what age everyone looks to be...I am horrible with determining age, but Lucinda looks like she might be in her late 50s or early 60s? William's facial hair is throwing me a bit, but he looks like he is a bit older, so maybe mid-60s?

    I am not gonna even give a guess with clothing, since I have little experience with it, but as a previous commenter stated, they might have not worn the latest fashion.

    I guess tombstones, newspaper obits, and probate paperwork has turned up a big fat zero with Lucinda?

    1. Thanks for the link and the age estimates.

      Still working on finding evidence of death. Lots of big fat zeros have turned up but eventually I'll find something - being optimistic.

      What I have been able to do is find lots of evidence that she didn't die in 1870 or 1872 as so many have claimed. She was kicking around for a long time after 1872. Of that I am sure!

  4. Before the introduction of celluloid roll film in 1889 and 1895 for film that could be loaded in daylight, negatives were on glass or gelatin plates coated with collodion (a gel) impregnated with photo-sensitive chemicals. Although photographers might choose to keep the plates, they could be reused, so the negative would be destroyed.

    We can’t know what the attitude of an individual photographer to keeping negatives without some evidence. Advertisements that offer further copies after the initial sitting would be a good indicator that negatives might be kept. The type of clientele would also influence whether negatives were kept. Photographs of royalty, high society and celebrities stood a good chance of being preserved, unlike cheap mass market photos. Sadly, the degree of fading suggests this photo may have been at the cheaper end of the market.

    The couple are certainly mature, but it is very difficult to be precise as health and lifestyle can make quite a difference. I would say 50+ for William and 40+ for Lucinda.

  5. Thanks Sue for yet another great evaluation. You are so knowledgeable in this area!!