Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mystery Photo No. 1

I am titling this post "Mystery Photo No. 1" because I have many old photographs that are a mystery to me.  I plan to share more of these pictures in the future and hope that readers will post comments to help answer some of my questions.

I will begin by admitting my ignorance of rural life.  I have always lived in the suburbs and have spent over 20 years working in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio.  So, please forgive me if I am unable to identify some objects in this photo that are obvious to you.  Just roll your eyes at my ignorance and post a comment to help me out!  Enough about my shortcomings; here's the photo:



We are almost certain that this photo is from my maternal grandmother Mary Jane Dudley Donaldson's family.  The photo is printed (not mounted) on cardboard and there is no photographer's mark.  The photo as it appears above has been cropped, but there is a white border of approximately one-half inch above the picture.  The picture is not a postcard.  It is 6 3/8 by 4 1/4 inches in size, but the top and right side edges appear to have been trimmed by hand.  "TAKEN-64-YEARS-AGO   1958" is written on the back of the photo.  My mom doesn't recognize the handwriting, but does not believe it is her mother's. 

An older man, two younger women, and a dog are pictured.  The man is holding a violin or fiddle.  There is a rake and a shovel leaning against the building.  My guess is that the photo was taken in either Highland or Clinton County, Ohio because that is where the Dudley and Shaper families lived.  That's about all I know.

Here are my questions about this photo:
  • Who are these people?  If I had to guess, I would say they were my second great-grandfather John Shaper, his daughter Emma (on the left) and his second wife Lydia Williams Shaper (on the right).  If this photo was, in fact, taken in 1894, John would have been 58, Emma 16, and Lydia 22.   I have other photos of Emma and this could certainly be her, but I can't be sure.
  • Is the building a house?  There is no chimney and no windows are visible. Granted, there could be a window in the rear, but I would expect to see one on the side as well.  As I recall from a visit to a living history site several years ago, back in the old days, windows were usually placed opposite other windows or doors to create cross-ventilation and cool the house.  If it is a house, how was it heated and how did they cook without a fireplace?
  • What is the object that appears to be a box made of wood slats on the left side of the building?
  • What's up with that piece of wood sloped against the front left side of the building?  I thought perhaps it was used to collect rainwater coming off the roof, but there is no receptacle in which to capture it.  Also, would you divert the rainwater to accumulate right next to the door?
  • Why are there big hoops hanging on the building and for what were the hoops used?
  • To the right of the house, in front of the man and the dog, is a log propped atop V-shaped wood legs.  I kind of looks like a sawhorse missing a couple of legs.  Is this a sawhorse or something else?
  • I am completely perplexed by the thingamabob in the lower right side of the photo.  It appears to be something store-bought rather than homemade.  It looks like a little horizontal ladder-shaped object with wooden dowels running through it vertically.  What in the world is it?
I would love to solve the mystery of this photo.  I can't tell you how much time I have spent puzzling over it.  Can you help?


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