Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past



I like to think of this photo as “composed” not just in the sense that the subject appears calm and collected (i.e. composed) but also that the photographer took the time to compose the image. Recently I was reading about the process of setting up a photograph and was reminded that the view inside the camera (under the black cloth) was upside down. Just imagine that you were planning a photo to look just right, and then imagine that every time you checked to ensure it looked good, it was upside down! The early photographers really did need to have some artistic ability to not only create a compelling image, but also to just see everything upside down. The mind can process an image upside down, but it takes some getting used to. The photographer in this case was Darnell (T. L. Darnell / Thomas Darnell) of Cumberland, MD.

This is also the only photograph in the album with a full name: Milton Hendrickson. I found quite a lot of information on him. Milton C. Hendrickson was born April 25, 1849, and had at least two brothers – Finley C. and Somerfield. In the 1870s he married Laura Smouse (August 31, 1850 to June 6, 1887). Together they had seven children – Harry in 1873, Earnest in 1875, Jessie in 1878, Myrtle in 1879, Clark in 1881, Lulu in 1883 and another child I can’t find a name or date on. Milton was a farmer and school teacher who lived in and around Cumberland and Gross his entire life. After Laura passed away in 1887, Milton apparently continued with his life of farming and teaching school. Sometime in the 1910s, he married Ella (born 1893). One account indicates that they had two young children together which is impressive as Milton would have been in his 60s at that point. He died August 26, 1923 at the age of 74. Perhaps a family member will be searching on Milton or his family and find this blog!

16 thoughts on “Composed

  1. mousleyka says:

    Son – Clark Smouse Hendrickson (b.11 Mar 1881) was a paper hanger in McKeesport, PA. He later moved with his wife Bessie and family of at least 5 children to Dayton, Ohio (1930 US census). Clark’s son James C. was also a school teacher like his grandfather.

    Maybe I’ll be able to find someone. :)


  2. postcardy says:

    The man looks composed, but I think the composition is unbalanced.


  3. Brett Payne says:

    Great research Mrs Marvel, on a typical early to mid-1870s studio portrait. Thanks for sharing it.


  4. Your post reminds me what a shame it is that so many photos go unlabeled. Look how many details you were able to learn about this gentleman simply because his name was on the back of the photo. During the past ten years, I’ve tried to help older relatives in my family identify all of their photos while they can still remember, so later on we don’t end up with a box full of unidentified people, who may be relatives.


  5. With this weeks theme it becomes clear that there are quite number of excellent private investigators among us. I always love reading these stories! Thanks.
    O, and I wholeheartedly agree to the comment of ‘beeskneesdaily’.


  6. Bob Scotney says:

    Great detective work from just one photo. How are people going to track the digital photos of today if we do not tag them. For the want of a name what you’ve done would not be possible.


  7. Karen S. says:

    One thing is certain- I’m glad photography came to be, and that we can look back!


  8. Wendy says:

    You make such an interesting point about early photography and the care a photographer took considering he was viewing the subject upside down.


  9. Jo says:

    Milton looks very composed. Here’s hoping this photo can make it’s way “home” at some point :-) Jo


  10. Alan Burnett says:

    What an interesting post. People tended to take much more care over things like composition then, there was not the same opportunity to take multiple images or correct things in the darkroom.


  11. Oh if the photographer had only moved him a bit to the right. He does look at ease. I wonder how many poses were taken?


  12. You are so right about the composition. The camera plays such a major part of how the photographer achieves results, good or poor. The twin lens reflex was also a popular upside-down camera, but held at the waist. This change in the viewpoint i.e. subject seen from waist height, chest height, head height, due to the viewfinder really changes the image perspective. And lately with cell phones held overhead, we get a new modern style photo.


  13. Kathy Hart says:

    You gave me something to consider as I look at my old family photos – thank you!


  14. Your post is so very interesting! I bet that someday you will be contacted by one of his relatives. That is one of the fun parts of blogging for me.


  15. Mary Burke says:

    Thank you! My father in law Bryan O Burke Jr , was the son of Grace Anna Hendrickson Burke, she was the daughter of Orion P. Hendrickson, who was the son of Oliver Perry Hendrickson. I have email the photo to myself. If anyone has any more related photographs I would be thrilled to hear about them. Bless you!! Mary Burke


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