Today I present the last part of this series focusing on dating the photograph of Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner. My aim was to take the reader through the process of dating a single photograph by using clothing cues. Stay tuned for addition posts on specific fashion trends like the evolution of the sleeve, skirt shapes and hair styles. My goal is to make this a weekly post.
At the end of part three in this series, I said that we would look specifically at the clothing worn by the “granddaughter” in the photograph because it is easier to gauge the styles of the young. Before I do that, I want to focus on Elizabeth. I am lucky because I have several identified pictures of Elizabeth. I want to make a point about using hairstyles to date pictures.
Elizabeth Over Four Decades
The earliest photograph was taken in the 1880s. Elizabeth is standing while her husband, Christian Yegerlehner, is seated. The photograph is a fairly typical of the times.
The next photograph was taken in 1890-1 in front of the Yegerlehner farmhouse. The baby, William Otto Yegerlehner, was born on 8 March 1890. Elizabeth is standing behind the fence. Her two youngest daughters, Matilda and Sophia, stand with their niece, Bertha (the littlest girl with the doll who was about 4-5 years old).
The next photograph of Elizabeth was taken with one of her sisters, possibly Sevilla. It was likely taken in the late 1890s.
Here again is another photograph of Elizabeth. This time her daughter, Sophia, as well as another un-named sister are in the picture.
A few years later, Elizabeth took another photograph with Sophia. This time Sophia’s son, Russell, is in the picture. Russell was born in 1905 so this photograph was probably taken about 1909. Sophia lived in Indianapolis and she was very fashionably dressed for the times. Her hair is a wonderful example of the style.
During the 1910s, Elizabeth sat for a photograph with Elizabeth (Krieble) Schiele. Both grandmothers lived with John Henry Yegerlehner and his wife, Lovina (Schiele) Yegerlehner, near the end of their lives. Both women died in 1922.
Elizabeth posed with some of her great grandchildren around 1919. She had only one granddaughter (with three children) by 1922. The only candidate is Mary Anna (Wolfe) Snedeker. Her oldest three children were Walter, Mary and Charles. The youngest was born in 1918. Elizabeth is wearing a white shirtwaist which is very a-typical of her! at least in comparison to her other photographs.
The one thing I want to point out about Elizabeth in these pictures is that her hair style did not change for 40 years – a part in the middle with a bun in back. Judging a photograph based on hair alone is NOT a good idea!
Back to the Photograph!
So far, I have written down every noticeable detail about the clothing in the photograph. I created age ranges based upon the possible candidates for Elizabeth’s grand-daughter. To recap, there are seven possible women:
- Emma’s range (1899-1908)
- Mary Anna’s range (1901-1910)
- Bertha’s range (1902-1911)
- Minnie’s range (1904-1913)
- Pearl’s range (1911-1920)
- Sophie Grace (1913-1922)
- Bertha Steuernagel’s range (1902-1911)
Around 1910, fashion began moving away from from the trends of the 19th century. The women’s silhouette became more columnar, and excessive curves of the late 1890s and early 1900s became straighter. One result was skirts became less full, using less fabric. Instead of being triangular (narrow at the hips, wide at the base), skirts were more rectangular. The hobble skirt, a short lived fashion trend from 1910-1913 was the epitome of the straight and narrow. While I doubt that my unknown Indiana farm girl indulged in such fashion, it is important to know what was happening in the fashion world. Another result of the shift in fashion was the elevation of the waist line.
On the other side of Indiana in 1913, my great grandparents, Robert and Sara (Troxell) McGraw, celebrated their 50th anniversary. They had a large family and many friends came to celebrate the occasion. They all posed for a photograph. I am showing this photograph because they were of a similar socioeconomic status as my Yegerlehner relations. They also lived within 150 hundred miles of each other. Notice the waistlines on the women – young and old. The majority of the women are wearing dresses or shirtwaists and skirts that are higher than the natural waist.
Our mystery Wolf woman is wearing a dress that sits at her natural waist. I would deduce that my photograph was taken before 1910. Therefore this eliminates Pearl and Sophie Grace as likely candidates for the mystery girl. The earliest date in their ranges occurs after 1910. I would also point out (based upon the photograph of Elizabeth with her great grandchildren) that the mystery woman does not look like Mary Anna (Wolfe) Snedeker. So Mary is probably not the mystery girl either. So we are left with Emma, Bertha Wolfe, Minnie and Bertha Steuernagel as possible candidates. The remaining girls have ranges that are virtually identical so I am not likely to determine who the mystery girl is. My only hope at this point is to find a relative from the Wolfe or Steuernagel branches who can identify her.
The Years 1900-1910
Our mystery girl’s silhouette reminds me very much of the Gibson girl. Charles Dana Gibson was an illustrator from the 1890s onward. His illustration “Love in a Garden” was published in 1901.
In 1901, fashionable women were still piling their hair on top of their heads. Our mystery girl’s hair is not. She has fullness at the side of her head instead of on top. Here are some factory workers in 1908 in Indianapolis with some more realistic hair styles:
Lewis Hine Collection. Library of Congress. Young People in An Indianapolis Cotton Mill, Noon, Aug., 1908
I would also point out that several of the young woman are wearing half sleeves and their shirtwaists are collarless, in particular the woman in the front row with the checkered pattern.
Ultimately, we can only do our best to date photographs. Fashion is not static. We can learn the trends but we can not always account for all the variables. While I would estimate that this photograph was taken mid decade, I could be off by a couple years in either direction. There are many resources out there and many are free! If you are interested in honing your photography skills, check out Mauren Taylor’s website: http://www.maureentaylor.com/ She covers additional photo identifying techniques beyond clothing.
Come back next week to find out more about a specific fashion trend! If you have a topic that you would like me to cover, leave a comment below.
If you missed the first three posts in the series:
©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/23/identifying-everyday-clues-in-photographs-part-iv/