McIvor Family History

Graham, Howell, McIvor/McIver, Schnurr, Steen, Williams…& related families

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Unidentified Graham & Howell Photos #3: Cabinet Cards

Howell & Graham Cabinet Cards_15

Most of the images in my collection of unknown photos are cabinet cards. Although introduced in England in 1866, cabinet cards did not become popular in the United States until the late 1870’s. If my dating estimates are close, the cards in this collection date from the mid 1880’s and later.

Photo paper in the late century was thin and subject to curling, so the photographer would mount the picture on a stiff card measuring usually 4¼ by 6½ inches, considerably larger than tintypes andThe cabinet card’s name probably derived from the fact that these larger cards could be displayed on a cabinet and seen from across the room, unlike their smaller predecessors.

The card itself evolved over time from very plain to quite elegant and included different colors, edges, borders, and fancy artwork advertising the studio. These attributes are used to determine the approximate dates the photos were taken. I estimated the dates attached to the photos in this gallery using the card designs and the guidelines in 19th Century Card Photos Kwik Guide by Gary W. Clark. Hair styles and clothing fashion are also used to date photos, but I found this difficult and confusing. That method I will leave to the experts. The date of one photo however I am sure of because someone took the time to write it on the back. Continue reading

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Unidentified Graham & Howell Photos #2: Tintypes

Howell & Graham Tintypes_03w

The tintype photograph, patented in the United States in 1856, was the first photographic process that nearly everyone could afford. It was hugely popular during the Civil War and photographers in their covered wagons would follow military units and provide these inexpensive pictures for the soldiers to send home to their families. Their loved ones also would reciprocate and sent their sons, husbands and fathers tintype photos from home.

While most popular from the late 1850’s thru the 1870’s, tintypes continued to be produced into the early 20th century.  The tintype photo is a direct positive on a thin sheet of iron (not tin!) coated with a dark lacquer. These were very resilient, did not need drying, and could be handed to the customer just a few minutes after the photo was taken.

Tintypes are difficult to date precisely. Clothing, hair style and props are one method to get an approximate time frame. There were 20 or so tintypes in the mysterious box of unknown photos of my Howell and Graham ancestors from Cecil County, Maryland. For more about these photos please see Unidentified Graham & Howell Photos #1. I think most of the photos in my collection are from the 1860’s and 1870’s. Continue reading

Unidentified Graham & Howell Photos #1

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Occasionally totally awesome and unexpected good fortune occurs while researching family history. This happened to me this past summer, but as you will see, this particular good fortune is both sweet and bitter. Earlier this year I met Mr. Charles Murphy on and we exchanged a few messages. Charles sent me a box of old photos of my Graham and Howell ancestors.  It was an amazing experience to open and look through the approximately 125 photographs including cartes de visite, tintypes and many cabinet cards, most dating to the late 1800’s.

That’s the very “sweet” part. The “bitter” part is that very very few are labeled! I have no idea who they are! Charles said that a number of them had originally been rubber banded together and labeled “Howell” but the rubber band disintegrated over the years and those cards are no longer distinguishable from the others. View the pictures →

This gallery contains 29 photos