Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Are Your Family Photos From a Studio or a Home Camera?

N.B. "Bonie" Pierce (1880-1964) and Julia Moody Pierce (1886-1965) of Wilmer, Alabama, seem to have frequently taken their children to Mobile for formal portrait photos. Clearly they valued having photos of their family and had the money to pay for studio photographs.

Julia and her son Cecil Alvy Pierce (1907-1975) appear in this series of portraits.

Note the photographer's imprint on the front of the card: Boyle, The Kodak Man, 155 Dauphin St., Mobile, Ala.

Photography was only for professionals or the very rich until George Eastman started a company called Kodak in the 1880s. In 1889, he introduced the first Kodak camera with the slogan, “You push the button and we do the rest,” and began the era of amateur home photography.

Yet not until the 1940s did home photography really become affordable for most families.

What type of photos are in your family collection?

Monday, April 28, 2014

How Important Was the Car to the Lives of Your Ancestors?

One way to tell how important the car was to your ancestors is to see how often they included it in family photos.

In the above photo, Charles Pierce (1934-2008), son of W.T. Pierce (1910-1983) smiles proudly while perched on the hood of his father's car. They appear to be visiting at the Wilmer, Alabama, farm of W.T.'s parents, Napoleon Bonaparte "Bonie" Pierce (1880-1964) and Julia Lavinia Moody (1886-1965).

We tend to forget how much the coming of the automobile changed life in rural America. Before cars, any travel to major markets took a lot of time and effort.

Cars were symbols of freedom of all kinds.

No longer did you have to take the time to hitch a horse up to a wagon. You could jump behind the wheel of a car, turn on the ignition and be off. Trips to the local stores could be made faster, providing more free time for having fun.

Cars were easy to operate and reliable. And fast. With speed came excitement.

Is it any wonder that even the old family jalopy often was included in the family photos?

Photographer's imprint on the back of the photo is McGill, Mobile, Alabama, Dec. 20, 1935.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How Much Can You Learn From a Photo?

How much information can you get from a photo? You have to combine what you know with what you see. Look at the above photo as an example.

This photograph may have been snapped after a church service. How can I tell? The sailor is holding a cardboard fan typical of those used while people were seated in the pews on warm Sundays. Certainly the church would not have been air conditioned at this time period. Another sign that they may have just left church is that all of the women are well dressed.

The fan, the white sailor's uniform and the women but one in light-colored, short-sleeve dresses point to it being either spring or summer.

Beatrice Pierce (1921-1993) is fourth from the left and her oldest sister Ina Mae Pierce (1903-1977) is next to her, fifth from the left. The names of the others in the photo are not known. Ina Mae married in February 1928, so this photo was taken sometime before then.

The photo may have been taken on one of the unpaved streets of Wilmer, Ala., where the Pierce sisters lived. Or it is possible that the group had driven to the Port City of Mobile and it was taken on one of the city's unpaved streets. A large building can be seen at the end of the street in the background.

Have I missed any clues?