Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

Mounted Tin Types 13 W

Nice goatee and pink cheeks

Mounted Tin Types 11 W

Striped bodice and bow

These two tintype photos share the same scrolled border as our last photo of the middle aged woman, and for that reason I suspect they were made by the same photographer, and are family. I can’t decide of they are married or siblings, however. What is your opinion?

Mounted Tin Types 13 Back W Mounted Tin Types 11 Back W


Here are the backmarks of these two photos. T. M. Saurman at the corner of Main & Green Streets in Norristown, PA was a young photographer in 1870, just 23.

Thomas M. Saurman was a busy man! Born in about 1846, in 1860 he was living with his mother and family in Norristown, PA. One of the people living in the home was Frederick Spane, a painter, and someone who’s name comes up as an artist & photographer in the Norristown area. It is possible Saurman learned his trade from Spane or was inspired by him.

In 1870, Saurman was married to Eliza Davis (married in 1867) and they had a child Mary V born about 1870, as well as Eliza’s brother Charles Davis living with them.

The 1880 census is a bit sparse on information, showing Thomas living with his mother Catherine, along with his brother Othenel, aged 26, and they are both photographers. Also listed is Mary, age 17 and daughter in law to Catherine, as well as James, a 7 month old, listed as son of the head of household, which was Catherine. Maybe he was actually Mary’s child. It’s difficult to sort.

Finally, the 1900 census shows Thomas at age 55 still a photographer, his wife Eliza at age 53, daughters Mary age 30, Edith age 26, Norma age 15 and Mable age 12. Son Louis age 24 was a photographer and James age 22 was a druggist.

Here’s some more of the fun stuff. Thomas Saurman was awarded three patents. First was a print cutting apparatus in 1872. Next was a method to improve the drying of photographic plates in 1874. Finally was an improvement to a tobacco smoking pipe in 1902. Further, his son James was in the news for his pharmacology work.

Next time, another Saurman photo with a different card that will have you saying “awww.”

5 thoughts on “Scrolled borders

  1. I will guess siblings because their hair is similar:)


  2. IntenseGuy says:

    My home town. I was born in Norristown.


  3. Dan Moore says:

    Hello, this is very interesting. I am from St Joseph, Missouri and have been collecting examples of photographers from St Joseph, and of photographers connected to them. J S Saurman was a significant photographer in the latter years of the 19th century here in St Joseph. I probably have thirty J S Saurman images, perhaps more for not only St Joseph, but also Leavenworth, Kansas, Mound City Missouri and I have images for J S Saurman from 43 &1/2 Queen Street, Lancaster Pa. I have several images by Thomas M Saurman from his gallery at “Cor. Main and Green Sts, Norristown, Penna” Some of the images from the Main and Green are labeled Centennial Gallery. I recently obtained an image by O.S. Saurman, Norristown Pa. I have ran into a bit confusion which will lead me to more research, but will ask you if you have any thoughts about this. Findagrave has a listing for Thomas Martin Saurman, his wife Eliza Davis, his children including James S and this brother Othniel. James is listed as being born in 1877, which aligns with what you said above. He died in 1904. J S Saurman was a major photographer operating in St Joseph, but if we assume a twenty year span and probably more to get the age where he could even start a career in photography, it seems doubtful if the J S Saurman in St Joseph and surrounding area could be the son of T M Saurman. I also have entries from the St Joseph, Missouri City Directories showing a J S Saurman in 1883 operating out of the west side of sixth between Francis and Jules and by 1889 was at 311 Felix, the most common address on his images. Findagrave has a listing for a James S. Saurman who was born in 1860 and died in 1888. He is buried in the same cemetery as James S. Saurman, 1877-1904 and Thomas Martin Saurman. Its a quandry; the James S born in 1860 died in 1888 but there was a James S. Saurman working in St Joseph, Missouri after that. Then there is the younger James S. Saurman born in 1877. I seriously doubt if he were a working photographer in St Joseph Mo in 1883 when he would have only been six years old. It has become more of mystery since I started digging into this. Thank you. I enjoy your site.


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