Spouse

Dating Photographs through their Photographers

Recently, my mother-in-law gave me a 19th-century album full of family portraits. She knew the portraits were of relatives from her father’s side of the family, but none of them were identified. Luckily, I recognized one of the photos from Ancestry.com. It was of my husband’s 3rd great-grandmother Elisabeth (Kline) Becker/Baker and her sisters Catherine (Kline) Hartman and Dorothea (Kline) Eberhart.

Original portrait from the album
Image from Ancestry.com user with their caption

Most of the portraits were from photographers in Owosso and Bay City, Michigan, Toledo, Ohio, and Danville, Illinois. In examining the Kline family, who came to the U.S. in around 1854, Elisabeth and Dorothea’s families lived in Danville, Illinois in 1860, and while Dorothea stayed in Illinois, Elisabeth’s families re-located back to northwest Ohio, where Catherine’s family had stayed. Meanwhile, other Kline siblings Frederick, Wilhelmina, Conrad, and John Nicholas moved to Bennington, Shiawassee County, Michigan.

While I had a general idea of the possible identities of the portraits, I thought finding out when the photographers were in business would help me date the images and (maybe) further narrow down the identities.

Michigan Photographers

The Clements Library at University of Michigan hosts the online edition of the Directory of Early Michigan Photographers by David V. Tinder. This resource was incredible helpful – arranged by city (including different address changes) and also by photographer. Here are the photographers contained in my mother-in-law’s collection:

PhotographerCityYears
Beebe & HorsemanOwossoca1893
Moore Bros.Owosso1884-1891
W. E. MarshallBig Rapids1886-1913
G. F. SterlingWest Bay City1886-1895
Harman & VernerBay City (914 N. Water St.)1884-1889
Miller / Miller’sBay City (710 Washington Ave.)1884-1887
DragoBay City1886-1897
C. B. ColburnBay City1869-1891

Illinois Photographers

I wasn’t able to find a source for Illinois photographers as good as Michigan’s, but I did find a website that mentioned “Early Danville Photographers.”

PhotographerCityYears
Phillips & BergstresserDanville1886-1888
W. BoyceDanville1884-1888

Ohio Photographers

In Google Books, I was able to search the 1998 version of Ohio Photographers, 1839-1900 by Diane VanSkiver Gagel.

PhotographerCityYears
BallToledo (205 Summit St.)1890
ChesebroToledo (61 Summit St.)1883-1888
ChesebroToledo (417 Summit St.)1890-1893
Arthur & PhilbricToledo (159 Summit St.)1888
Geo. FieldsToledo (57 Summit St.)1878-1886
Geo. FieldsToledo (113 Summit St.)1889
A. C. SwainToledo (205 Summit St.)c1891-1900

Indiana

I do have one photograph by Hutchinson of 110 Jackson St., Elkhart, Indiana but I haven’t been able to find any information on this one.

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