Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

This photograph of an older woman is placed directly over a duplicate of our earlier photo of William T. Mearns. The two subjects appear to be around the same age so I do wonder if this is Mrs. William Mearns, possibly Amy Mearns? The previous photos of Amy Lair and Mary Lair are on the opposite page from this. A family grouping? This lady’s dress is distinctly mid-century. She has the full skirt, dropped shoulder seams, boned bodice and round collar of the 1860s. However, we know the cabinet card was not around until the 1870s, so this is at least an 1870s vintage photograph. If she lived longer than that, she certainly held onto her favorite dress for a long time, but my guess is this is from the 70s based on the type of props and backdrop. The chair, table and curtain were typical props of the 1860s that lingered into the 70s.

The photographer’s mark is a bit difficult to read. It’s possibly Edw or Edm Draper, located at No. 1500 Columbia Ave at the SW corner of 15th Street in Philadelphia. The location is no longer existing in Philly, as the building numbers on Columbia end in the 1400s and Frankford Ave cuts off the end of Columbia. The old photographer’s shop might have been located where today exists Palmer Park or a Jewelry shop.

8 thoughts on “Is this Amy Mearns?

  1. IntenseGuy says:

    The 1880 US census shows Edw. Draper, Photographer, born about 1836. He and his wife Catharine named one of his sons Edw. too. Edwin? Edward? born about 1872.

    That is one stern looking woman…


  2. IntenseGuy says:

    In 1987, Columbia Avenue between Front and 33rd Streets was renamed Cecil B. Moore Avenue after the influential and often controversial Civil Rights leader. Present-day Cecil B. Moore Avenue is still largely impoverished and “not a nice neighborhood”.

    The photographers business would have stood on what is now the edge of Temple University. http://www.beechinterplex.com/ The Beech Interplex now occupies the lot that Mr. Draper worked from. Across the street is a 7-11.


  3. IntenseGuy says:

    While I stood in the cemetery in which the William Litchfield Mearns and family were buried, I pondered on how they got there… Zion, Maryland is a very rural area (even today) just beyond the urban sprawl of the northeast “megalopolis” that runs from north of New York City down to Washington, DC.

    This family moved from an area in New Jersey that is also very rural – Prallville (now Stockton, NJ), Kingwood, Locktown, and Rosemont, New Jersey… with one of the Rittenhouse family, Mrs. Asher Clugston moving to Larwill, Indiana… they might of felt a long way from “home” and from their sibling. And then it struck me – Not far from Zion, lies Amtrak’s high-speed Northeast Corridor line and in fact, two train lines – the Baltimore and Ohio and what was to become the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad run side by side a little north of Elkton and the town of North East, Maryland. The train station would have been a short “buggy ride”.

    The what is now Amtrak line runs from Washington DC, through Baltimore to Elkton and onwards to Wilmington, DE; Chester, PA; Philadelphia, and then Trenton and onwards to NYC.

    From Trenton, a branch line of the Pennsylvania RR called the Bel-Del ran along the Delaware River upto Lambertville (name sound familar?) and Stockton, and then on to Philipsburg (across the River from Easton, PA and Allentown, PA)

    So back in the day, they could have quite conceivably been able to get from their home/farm in/near Calvert or Zion to Stockton in less time than it takes today! So perhaps they didn’t feel so far separated.

    Finally, Columbia/Larwill, Indiana lie on the Pennsylvania Railroad (now CSX) tracks that go between Philadelphia and Chicago, Illinois. I bet they visited each other – they seemed to have the means to do so.


    1. Mrs Marvel says:

      You are probably right. I have read letters from this era from my family members and they took the train everywhere! My family lived in PA but traveled to Ohio, New Jersey, New York, etc. It was the modern form of transportation and after rail lines were restored and made uniform after the war, the train dominated. It’s still an enjoyable method of travel.


      1. Susan Burton Harlow says:

        I’ve been reading the comments related to the above picture as well as the previous 2 pictures with interest. My paternal grandmother, Amy Lillian Lair (1885-1975 daughter of Jeremiah Rittenhouse Lair) was named after her great aunt, Amy Thomas Rittenhouse Mearns (1840-1906 daughter of Jeremiah Rittenhouse), who is the subject of some of these pictures. Amy T. Mearns was married to William Litchfield Mearns (although I sometimes find them listed as Amy L. and William T., due to the confusion over the ways that “T’s” and “L’s” were written in those days.) But the correct middle initials are Amy T. and William L. Mearns. I believe that the above picture could be Amy T. Mearns due to the timing of the photo and place where it was found. There are 2 other Amy’s that I think could be getting confused here. Amy M. Lair (1870-71 daughter of Benjamin Rittenhouse Lair), who only lived for one year and Amy Mearns Lair Cook (1900-? daughter of William Atlee Lair). Although related, they aren’t sisters nor are they a sister of Amy T. Mearns, but are easily confused because of the similar names. It is hard to tell who is in the first picture that is identified as “Amy Lair”?. One comment said that it might be the Amy born in 1870, but that Amy only lived to be 1 year old. It couldn’t be either my Grandmother or Amy Means Lair Cook since they were born in 1885 and 1900. At first I wondered if it could be a younger Amy T. Mearns due to the resemblance and age of the photo. But, although Amy T. Mearns was definitely a member of the “Lair” family, her name didn’t have “Lair” in it. Her maiden name was Rittenhouse and married name was Mearns. I suppose it is possible that someone in original possession of the photo wrote Amy Lair because that is what they considered her to be. Otherwise, it must be another Amy Lair that I am not aware of since the names were so frequently used in those days. I hope that some of this might be useful.


  4. Loved the description of her dress, she looks a little cranky:)


  5. Janice Earliene Carr says:

    I have many letters of travels back & forth of My husband’s family on the train from N.J. & Penn. to D.C. many times – sounded fun! They must have had “good means” as one of the letters said “Don’t worry making rooms up for us” (or words to that affect?) – ” I will get a room at the ? for your sister & myself.” (It was an exclusive hotel as I remember?) I have forgotten the name of the Hotel. It was from my husband’s grandfather from Ridgewood, N.J… There were many post cards with Pictures of trains on them too..


    1. Janice Earliene Carr says:

      It was Gardner Johnson Snyder writing to his daughter, Olive Ida S. Carr ( my husband’s mother) in ref. to himself & other daughter
      Ethel S. Hardecoph. We have many letters from him about travels on the train, either in ref. To himself or family members! His wife, “LIZZIE” must have been a ” homebody” as she is barely mentioned when it comes to traveling. WOULD ANYONE KNOW WHY? He mentions her in other SITUATIONS. Also, he always signed the letters really fancy – FATHER. ( Not dad or Love, Dad & etc.) I know they were CLOSE as the letter show so! Could it be because he was a Principal of a school & commissioner of the Bergen County School System? ❤️
      For the INTENCE GUY especially! Would you know anything MORE about this family? You have helped me SO MUCH in the past that I cannot begin to thank-you & Mrs Marvel enough!
      – especially after 40 years of digging!
      Another thing I am still puzzled about is John Lair’s parentage? I have looked for his Birth Certificate, but can’t find it. I know it APPEARS THET PHILIP & MARY LAIR were his parents in the 1850 Census of N.J., It’s possible he could be a grandson instead, but I want the PROOF IF POSSIBLE TO FIND IT. Many Thanks to you & Mrs. Marvel!!!!!!!!!!
      Merry Christmas.❤️


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