Saturday, July 21, 2018

Sepia Saturday-Mystery Woman In the Studio

Sepia Saturday-Launched by Alan Burnett and Kat Mortensen in 2009, Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind (they don't have to be sepia) become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images.

The theme of this week’s Sepia Saturday is STUDIOS : BACKGROUNDS : GROUPS : HATS.  With the following picture I figure I have 3 of the 4 items.  Now, if I could just figure out who this person is…

Some of what I see in the photo:
  • What a small waist she has!
  • in her left hand she’s holding on to a rope attached to the row boat and attached to a pier
  • trunks are stacked on the pier
  • detailed background looks like water and a boat off on the horizon complete with a cloudy sky
  • her right hand holding on to a rope attached to…
  • stylist hat (with perhaps a bow on it) and outfit (complete with piping along the jacket’s edges and a bow)
I wonder why the picture was taken?  Was it a special occasion?

Now is when I want to contact Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective to help me determine what time period the photo is from.  I am guessing it was taken in the late 1800s.  There is no information about the photographer but that may be because this photo may only be a copy of an original.

I really like this photo but I also really want to know who it is a picture of?  (see previous post Photo Friday-Who is the Woman in the Picture?) I believe it is on my Hughes or Rowan ancestral lines.  They lived in New York City so I believe they would have had more access to a photography studio with such elaborate backgrounds and props.  

Hopefully, someday, someone will recognize her and help me name her.

 If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,


  1. It's a very nice photo. The darkish tone makes me think it is a paper copy of an old ferrotype, aka tintype. That roughly dates to the 1865-1885 decades. Another reason I think it is a ferrotype is that the buttons on her jacket are wrong for a woman's garment, that is the buttons are on the right half of the jacket, like a man's garment is buttoned. The ferrotype records a mirror image on a metal plate, so there is no negative to make duplicates. If you use digital software to flip the image vertically and reverse it, you will see her true likeness. It looks like a photo typical of some boardwalk photographer at a seaside amusement park.

    1. Thank-you so much Mike! That is great info. With that time period and the idea of a seaside amusement park that gives me some more info. My guess is it might be my great-great grandmother Sarah Hughes Rowan's sister Susan perhaps?

  2. Good luck finding out who this is!

    1. Thanks! Just one of the many questions that keep us

  3. A lovely photograph, and yes, it was her tiny waist that first struck me,

  4. Great observations by Mike Brubaker on this mystery woman. I would highly recommend Maureen Taylor. I also have a mystery photo with no identification that was discovered behind a picture of my paternal grandfather. I showed a cellphone photo of it to Maureen at a genealogy conference and she was able to place it in a certain time period and provide other details that I would have missed. Although I still don't know who it is, she helped me narrow down possibilities.

  5. Thanks! Yes, Molly I was able to do the same thing in my post Photo Friday, Who is the Mystery Man.( I had an idea of the family line but needed her help to narrow down the time period and then I was able to figure it out. Guess I need to do this again but Mike(above) gave me some good info.

  6. So glad you posted this, and started a conversation with the photo sleuths of SS!

  7. Excellent observations. And what a sharp eye Mike has to notice her jacket buttons are on the wrong side. I had to go back and look and sure enough . . . ! Interesting picture. I hope someday you discover who she is.