Friday, October 12, 2007

The Photo Detective

An article in today's Wall Street Journal entitled The Photo Detective , describes the work of Maureen Taylor, formerly the Library Director at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. It begins:

Maureen Taylor has dated a photograph to 1913 by studying the size and shape of a Lion touring car's headlamps. Armed with her collection of 19th-century fashion magazines, she can pinpoint the brief period when Victorian women wore their bangs in tight curls rather than swept back. Using a technique borrowed from the CIA, she identified a photo of Jesse James by examining the shape of his right ear.

and ends

Ms. Taylor gives about 20 lectures a year, has a column in Family Tree Magazine and writes books, including "Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs" (2005). Her latest quest may well be her most ambitious. Using census records, Ms. Taylor and a colleague, David Lambert, are tracking down photos of Revolutionary War veterans who lived to see the photography era in the late 1830s. So far, the researchers have found 100 images. They've also found photos of Revolutionary War families, including widows, by searching public and private collections for 1840s-era photographs of elderly people.
"We're looking for pictures people don't know they have," says Ms. Taylor, who's working on a book about the topic. "The majority of photographs from that period are still unidentified. They're lost."

A fascinating read!