Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

This young man sat for his photo with two curly coated labs. I think. I’m not a total dog expert, but they look like labs to me. It was considered a specialty to be able to capture children and animals with no visible blurring of the subject in a photo. In this instance, there is some distortion around the area of the boy’s mouth, but I can’t tell if it was on the original print, or due to the various damage to the photo. You can see many marks, scratches and other faults. The dogs are focused to the right of frame while the boy is looking toward the viewer. On the very far right, you can see what looks like the arm of someone reaching into the frame – perhaps to hold the dog’s leash? I’m really not sure what’s going on there.

The photo is on a black card and identified Mrs. K. E. Mummey, dated 1888. (I had to tilt the card side to side to get the light just right, so it is of course possible that’s incorrect.) In such a situation, I would venture a guess that this was a memorial card after the child died – but it’s confusing why it would be titled Mrs…unless the mother had never been photographed? Memorial cards were sometimes used to send to family far away so they could see what the deceased person looked like. This is not a post mortem photo, but it is considered a memento mori photo, as that classification simply means “death memento.” A post mortem photo would actually show the person after death. There are many people who might think this is a post mortem due to a lack of understanding of the Victorian photographic process and misunderstanding of exactly what can be done with a deceased body. Because of that, I suspect there are far fewer true post mortem photos on auction sites than one would think based on search results.

The front of the card had the location at some point in history, but due to the damage to the lower right corner, the city name is gone and we can only see it started with an H or an R. Argonia claimed to pay special attention to children. There is a city named Argonia in Kansas. It is possible the studio was named for the city, of course. It’s nearly impossible to search though because of the many photographers in modern Argonia, KS.



5 thoughts on “A boy and his dogs

  1. sallysmom says:

    I got a notice that you had a new post up named Little Brother. However, when I click on the link, it is not there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mrs Marvel says:

      Sorry, I made a mistake and unpublished it. It will come out next Monday.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Mrs Marvel says:

      Thanks for adding to the story – and deepening the mystery! Looks like Kate Mummey died in 1907. She would have been 36 at the time of this photo, so that seems more likely to me that this was her son. To complicate matters, there are two Kate Mummey’s listed on Ancestry, both born in 1852. However, Kate E Mummey, born 1852 in Pennsylvania is the most likely candidate. She lived in Eden, KS, which is about a 15 minute drive from Argonia, KS. The 1880 census shows Kate as having 3 children – Herbert (age 5), Grendoline (age 2) and Cora (age 4 months). The boy pictured does not look 8 years older than 5, so it could be an older photograph. Later census records only show Grendoline (probably Gwendoline) & Cora, or really “Edna” and Cora.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Robin says:

        Fascinating! If the son is not mentioned later it’s sadly probable little Herbert Died young and the photo was a grieving mothers memento

        Liked by 1 person

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