Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

This photograph is a damaged mystery. For one thing, you can see how badly damaged the cardstock is. It has water damage as well as missing pieces. Important for our purposes though, the image is hardly damaged. The original card was approximately 7″ by 9″. The clothing worn is very “1850s” to my eyes. The gathered front bodice was more popular at the end of the 1850s and lingered on into the 1860s, and was popular with matrons and older women. But this photo is much larger in size than any other 1860s vintage photo I have seen. The photographer Chas. A. Saylor of Reading, PA was a known photographer of Civil War soldiers, and was one of “the most prolific photographers” during the CdV era.

Could this photo be a reprint? Even the contrast between her dark hair and light complexion suggests the older photographic methods. I don’t know enough about them to really say much about it, except if I didn’t have this card in hand, I’d have guessed at a daguerrotype or ambrotype. Or, am I completely misreading the photo clues here and is this a later vintage photo, even an 1870s image?

Also mysterious is that when I enlarge the image, I can see that the pattern of the fabric around her skirt on the right side is “different” as in she might have been sitting next to someone else with a different dress, AND it has the look of her image having been cut out of a larger image. The whole thing is odd, honestly!

10 thoughts on “A damaged mystery

  1. MAYBELLINE says:

    Looks like Mackenzie Philips.


  2. Very Interesting photo.. a checkered dress..I think she was sitting in a group with more gals ..one on the right and one on the left..and the photographer did some fancy cutting to make this appear like the person was all alone…for what reason ..who knows..the hair style is very much like what you see in the 1860’s and that scarfy tie around her neck:)


  3. Well with the edging around her she looks cut out, interesting indeed!


  4. IntenseGuy says:

    I agree with Farside – it is obvious the photo was cut out (or the negative doctored) – nowadays one would call this a really bad photoshop job. The big glass plate photo’s could take huge areas, say a train yard (several football fields) and resolve down to clear enough to read small signs in windows. Maybe this person was in a bleacher full of people – Only the “shadow” knows….



  5. Jethro says:

    As soon as I saw this picture, t triggered my memory of a memento mori photograph I had seen previously:

    Could this memento mori photograph be of the same woman?


    1. Mrs Marvel says:

      It is compelling but i don’t think it is the same person.


  6. Ruby Lee says:

    I see what you’re saying about the other dress pattern. You must be right that it is originally part of another photograph. She may also be leaning slightly to the right (her left).


  7. Sonya Showers says:

    I am very curious as to any information that you may have found regarding your photo. I recently came across a photo by the same photographer in it’s original frame. Would love to get as much information as possible.


    1. Mrs Marvel says:

      I’m afraid I don’t remember where I got the information on Saylor, but probably just did a google search. I might have also looked at Langdon Road or Cabinet Card Gallery, as they are great resources of information. Langdon Road is a pay-access site now.


    2. Lynn Saylor says:

      Charles A. Saylor was my husband’s great grandfather. What do you want to know? I would be glad to help you, if I can.


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