My project involves historical photos (the date range is 1860 to 1930) from Scioto County, Ohio, where I was born and where my parents still reside.
The project started with an album my mother found at an estate sale – a leather bound book with ten tintype images of an African American family. I’ve scanned all of the photos and cleaned them with a photosafe cleaning agent. Here’s a link to the exhibit.
I’ve requested books from the library for more information on identifying the photographer and coming to a better date range, based on the clothing, props and backgrounds in the images. I’m learning that there is very little information about identifying specifically African American historical portraits.
I’ve also contacted the National Portrait Gallery’s research staff, and they’ve given me information about some further databases and resources for searching.
I know the name of the woman whose estate these came from, and i’ve attempted to “friend” her adopted daughter on facebook for more information. Through county-specific facebook history group pages, I’ve been able to find some people that knew Mrs. Cavanaugh, and I’ve learned some about her life. I plan on using the university’s Ancestry.com account to maybe identify the names of the subjects in the photos.
While researching the Facebook forums, I uncovered a wealth of information about my home town, including some gorgeous portraits from around the area. I decided to expand the focus of my project to historical portraits from Scioto County, not just the Cavanaugh tintypes. My favorite part of this side of the project is the Millbrook Park page – you’d never know it if you visited now, but the Portsmouth area once was home to a beautiful amusement park with a half mile roller coaster – these photos are from that area.
I also had some people mention they had photos that “looked similar” to the Cavanaugh tintypes, so I’ve included a section for comparison of these images, and also of a friend’s family – all taken around the Scioto County area.
I am going home next weekend, and plan to spend a few hours in the library, checking out their photo archives for more source material.
This is the most fun I’ve ever had researching a project!