“When you photograph people in colour you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in B&W, you photograph their souls!” Canadian photographer Ted Grant seems to be on to something with that quote. I take many photographs that tell a story to help me remember the moment. However, they seem to just capture the main object in the frame. When I look at black and white photos, I feel as if I can truly see the souls of the people looking back at me. Their eyes tell a story though their voices have been silenced.
I love digging through old photographs and ephemera at antique shops or searching online for missing genealogical links. My goal is to find a treasure; however, my idea of a treasure has nothing to do with jewels or money. My idea of treasure consists of locating items of local historical significance. My treasure might be photographs of people who lived in my community generations ago. My treasure could be a program from a 1921 estate sale which took place on the land I live on today. My definition of treasure is knowledge.
Last month, after perusing old photographs on eBay looking for interesting images, I came across a cabinet card of an unidentified man. His eBay title was “Mustache Man”, and that is what I called him. Mustache Man’s photo was taken in 1891 by photographer A. E. Dumble of Rochester, New York. Despite looking at hundreds of images, I kept returning to Mustache Man. He spoke to me. Thankfully, Mustache Man didn’t speak to anyone else, because I won the auction and Mustache Man returned home to Rochester. The image shows a young man, early-to-mid 30s, with dark blonde or light brown hair, a handlebar mustache, cleft chin and clear blue eyes.
After posting Mustache Man’s photo on Illuminated History Facebook, I asked for assistance in naming him. Our Facebook friends suggested some interesting names, including Kind Hearted Ken, Handlebar Harry and Antonio. The name that fit our Mustache Man was Samuel Everheart. Samuel seemed to agree, because I could swear his eyes twinkled when I called him by name.
I wish I knew Samuel Everheart’s true identity. Did he marry and have children? Did he live a long life? Who is this mystery man? If Samuel’s mother/sister/wife had only placed his name on the back of the photo, we would have answers to these questions. It is SO important to label your family photographs! If all you have time to do is write the name on the back, that is better than nothing. I like to include the photo date and place the photo was taken as well. Think of how much more we could learn about Samuel if only someone had recorded these important bits of information.
The moral of the story is this: Don’t allow your family members to become silent voices languishing in the bargain bin at the local antiques shoppe. Label your photos and preserve your family history for generations to come.