View Full Version : Help me date a photo, please

04-22-2013, 09:18 PM
No, I don't need "pick up lines" but was wondering if folks could help me establish an approximate date these photos may have been taken. I don't have the originals, just scans, so can't give informatin about the photo itself except to say that they are in B&W. The only information I have is that the elderly lady died in late 1915 at 95 years old. Some suggest that the younger lady is her at an earlier age but that seems unlikely. Any suggestions or speculation will be appreciated... including hte age of these ladies, if you dare!

04-22-2013, 09:19 PM
p.s. I'm guessing about 1900.

04-22-2013, 09:23 PM
I assume by the dress of the younger woman quite an exact dating should be possible.

But this still would not say anything about the date the other portrait was made... Here the frame should be the best indicator.

Photo Engineer
04-22-2013, 09:48 PM
Try contacting Mark Osterman at GEH (George Eastman House). He is a true expert.


04-22-2013, 10:11 PM
I have pictures of some relatives taken when my great-aunt (maybe great great aunt?) was a baby and some clothing is similar to that of the older woman of your pair. That was 1902.

Dr Croubie
04-22-2013, 10:47 PM
I'd say you might need to ask an antique-clothing forum more than a camera forum, but here's my ponderings.
The one on the left is in all black with a bonnet. Looks to me like a 'mourning dress', which (depending on ethnic-origin / religion etc) was probably worn permanently after her husband had died (though not always, my gf's grandma with bavarian origins got married in a black dress like that).
The one on the right also looks like you'll have more luck with dating the dress. Although i think I see a signature on it? How much do you know about photographers who might have taken it, chase it that way?

04-22-2013, 11:06 PM
No, I don't need "pick up lines"...!

damn, ruined my fun

04-22-2013, 11:42 PM
I'm gonna go with the left one being about 50yo therefore 1915 - (95-50) = 1870ish.

No idea about processes or print appearances at that time.

Worker 11811
04-23-2013, 12:03 AM
I'd say you might need to ask an antique-clothing forum more than a camera forum...

I was going to say the same thing. Date the photo by the clothing.

I know somebody who might know. If I get a chance, I'll ask.

My guess would be late 1800's to early 1900's but that doesn't give us much more information than we already know.

04-23-2013, 12:11 AM
Does the embossed text in the lower right corner of the folders yield any clues?

04-23-2013, 06:44 AM
I was going to say the same thing. Date the photo by the clothing.

With the younger woman that would work. She is young, dressed refined, thus one expects her to follow fashion.
With the old woman I would not apply that fashion idea to that extend. It may be the clothing typical for an old or widowed woman when she was younger and she might have kept to that for the rest of her life.

04-23-2013, 08:23 AM
they both seem to be wearing clothing from "around" 1900 ...
my guess is to make a google search of the studio whose name is on the bottom right
of the folders ...

04-23-2013, 09:15 AM
The photo of the old woman could be older, based on the style of the mount - possibly the late 1880s/early90s? Also, she doesn't look near 95, perhaps 75. So if she died in 1915 at the age of 95, then that would argue for this being taken before 1900. I would agree that the younger woman was photographed after 1900.

04-23-2013, 09:36 AM
Thanks very much folks. Not having the physical object is making this a bit more difficult than I had hoped.

Regarding the older woman... I saw a picture of her in her 90s (not a very goodpicture) but could agree that this is about 20 years before that... 1890s makes sense to me. I have other pictures that I know are 1885 - 1890 in similar mount. The black dress is indeed mourning garb. Her husband died in 1879. She wore black every day thereafter. This lady lived in rural New Brunswick Canada.

The younger lady was born in 1889 and I'm guessing that hse is about 20 years old. But I'm often a lousy guesser of age. I don't know the circumstances for her being so well groomed and fancy dressed. She lived in Bangor Maine. I know she married about that age but don't know if htat is in any way connected with this photo or not.

I'm going to try to obtain more information about the markings on the mount, if possible.

Thanks again... you insights and suggestions are very much appreciated!

Worker 11811
04-27-2013, 06:37 PM
I asked my wife to look at the pictures. She's curator of the local historical museum. One of her specialties is vintage and antique clothing.

Judging by the "puffy" sleeves, the collar and the pattern of the dress, 1890 to 1910, plus or minus two years.
Younger women wore more up-to-date styles. She could have been between 16 and 20 years old at the time of the photograph.

Looking at the older woman's dress, the style dates approximately twenty years sooner.
Older women don't often "style shift" and are more likely to keep wearing the same kinds of clothes that they wore when they were younger.
The picture could have been taken at approximately the same time period as the younger but it is hard to tell.

For an example of this style difference, think of the TV show, "Downton Abbey."
Maggie Smith's character wears styles that date more to her younger years, compared to the more modern styles worn by the younger family members in the house. (e.g. Maggie Smith doesn't "style shift" and wears clothes that date from a previous generation.)

My wife did notice the embossed seals on the photos. She also suggests you run that down. A local historical society can assist.
The pictures, themselves, do appear to have been made in the late 1890's to early 1900's. No later than 1915, she says.

That's pretty much all she can say from looking at a digital copy on my iPad.
If you need more, you can look for a professional archivist. An archivist is probably going to want to see originals, though.

If you need an archivist, she can probably get you in touch with one but, it's not going to be a free lunch.

04-27-2013, 07:47 PM
Thanks very much, Randy... and many thanks to your wife!

Worker 11811
04-27-2013, 11:58 PM
You're welcome. :)

One thing I forgot to mention.
The old woman's black clothes are not necessarily mourning garb. They could be but it wouldn't be true in all cases.
If a woman's husband died when she was older, she might wear black for a longer time. If she was young, she might only wear black for a short time.

Queen Victoria wore black for the rest of her life after Prince Albert died. Many others followed her and it did become tradition in some circles so it's not out of the question.