Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

In July 2010, a great friend of mine gifted me with an antique photo album she has had for many years. She acquired it in an antique store and has no knowledge of who the people in the album were. I promised her that I would treat the album as though it were my own, and that these were my own family members.

The album is in very good condition considering its age. Most of the photos date from the 1880s and 1890s. It has a wooden front piece with a metal emblem that is held in place with tiny nails. At one point it was gilded or silvered. The emblem says “ALBUM” with vines and floral embellishments on it. The spine is worn down to the base of the fabric, and likely was velour or velvet at one point. The back is also worn down to the base fabric. It was originally red or orange. The clasp is still working. The album is about 8″ x 10″ by 2″, fairly standard for Victorian era photo albums. It has 15 pages. The first 13 each have an opening for a cabinet card, with the opening surrounded with tan floral embellishments. There are 26 cabinet cards. The last two pages each have openings for CdVs, totaling 16 more spaces, however there are only 4 CdVs in the album.

After about four or five months work, I have finalized my research in this photo album and summarized it here.  This is the Streeter Family album, likely owned by Grace Streeter Smith. Although there are many family members in the album, the sad fact of life is that many of the family lines may have died out. It was a tremendous honor to have been gifted with this album and to continue on as its caretaker. Learning about the family through research and networking has been quite fulfilling.

January 24, 2017 – quite a lot has happened with research over the ensuing years since I started this blog. Through dogged research and the contribution from readers and friends, we have learned so much about this family! To get just a glimpse into the family history, click the link in the paragraph above to go to the summary of information. I will be updating that in just a few minutes as well with some new details and answers to some nagging mysteries.

6 thoughts on “The C. Murray Album

  1. liz says:

    I have a red velvet album too. It has the word “album” cut out in metal and attached to the front with little nails. I’m trying to identify the family member in it as well. The inside pages are pretty much like you described. I don’t see any flowers, though. It’s a bit plainer.


  2. liz says:

    What is the best way to go about identifying the subjects of old photos? There are about 35 mostly cabinet photos in an album; a few are tin-types. Even if I can date them, there are so many possible relatives that that were alive at that time that they could be any of them. Further, it’s even possible they are my relativies next door neighbors’ photos that were handed out to everyone on the street during the holidays.

    In my album, One has my family’s facial features, but I don’t know which branch of the family we look most like. Another seems to match the description of my bi-racial GGGrandmother and two others look like her daughters. One had the first and last names of two children in it, which confirms that these are at least some of my distant relatives. Another has a name on it, but I don’t of any relationship to this individual.

    There are about 25 different photographers, which are mainly from NH and Boston, with one from PA and another from IL. Are photographers records ever kept in archives? If so, how would I locate such records? Suggestions?


    1. Mrs Marvel says:

      Hi Liz, being as I work mostly with photos that are not related to me, I hesitate to attempt an identification when there is any uncertainty. You could probably make a generalized ID such as “grandma So and so’s family” but unless you have some clues it can be very difficult. There’s also process of elimination if you know for certain that there are X number of children and some are identified, some not… make sense? I don’t think I helped on that aspect.

      Records for photographers are a mystery to me. Lot’s of these records went to the next person who bought the business, or to a family member. Very prolific or important photographers information could be housed with the Library of Congress, but I have never searched there.


      1. liz says:

        I assume that, when someone had their picture taken back then for a cabinet card, they could have requested several copies to give to relatives and friends as a gift. Was this a common practice? If so, I keep hoping a relative will materialize who also has a copy of a few of them with names written on the back. I’m sure that’s wishful thinking!

        I’m going to send a list of the 25 photographers to the local libraries where my relatives lived to see if they know of photographer’s records that may exist — or any local individuals that may have copies of some of the pictures. This branch of my family descends from town founders so they may be willing to dig around a bit. I guess I’ll just have to keep sticking out feelers to see what I can find out. If I get any good tips on how to proceed with this kind of project, I’ll post them here.

        Thanks for your ideas.


  3. Mrs Marvel says:

    Liz, yes, when a person sat for a photo they could request multiple copies. Often the backs of the photo will indicate something like “10 for 25 cents” or what have you. The smaller the photo the more likely it was cut from a large sheet – the tin type is an example of this. The tiny ones are called gems and were something like 12 or 20 to a sheet, then cut apart by the photog. I can’t recall all the details off the top of my head but I know I posted about this at some point.


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