The Mysterious Mr. Hyde


I purchased a lot of 15 photos in order to get this one tintype of Charles P. Hyde taken in January 1870. I  love the composition, the stack of books, the table covering, the pinky ring and the purple hand colored cravat.  Basically, I love it all!

Before I hit the buy it now button, I did a quick search on and found just one Charles P. Hyde that fit the approximate age of this sitter, which I estimated to be the early twenties.  I realized it was very probable that there were more Charles P. Hydes that didn’t use their middle initial on the census, marriage, and death records.  However, since it’s a rare occasion when I can identify someone with 100% certainty and I truly loved the image, I bought the lot.

Once I spent more time researching I discovered two more Charles P. Hydes that fit my sitter’s age. The tintype doesn’t provide the photographer’s information, and the seller didn’t have any insight as to the photo’s origins so I couldn’t use location to narrow the field.  Interestingly all three Charles’ followed in their fathers’ career footsteps.

Let’s begin with Charles P. Hyde who was born in March 1846 in Trumbull County, Ohio.  He would have been 23 years old at the time this photo was taken.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find documentation of his middle name. Perhaps it was Parker, his paternal grandmother’s maiden name.  Charles and his father, Ira, were farmers.  In 1871, Charles married Clara Hunter and the couple raised five children.  He lived a long life, passing away at the age of 78 years.

1924 Aug 29 HYDE Charles P OBIT Akron Beacon Akron OH
Akron Beacon (OH)  Aug 29, 1924

Then we have Charles Pelham Hyde, born in October 1848 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, making him 21 years old in January 1870.  He, and his father, Edward, were dry goods merchants.  I was surprised to find that Charles’ marriage, in 1874, took place in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, almost 1000 miles from Cambridge.  His wife, Jeanette Breckenridge, was from that area.  I’d love to know how they met.  Sadly, in 1877, Charles Pelham died of consumption at the age of  28.  It was the same disease that claimed the life of his younger brother, William, two years earlier.

1877 Feb 24 HYDE Charles Pelham OBIT Cambridge Chronicle Mass
Cambridge Chronicle (MA) Feb. 24, 1877

The final possible match I’d like to discuss is Charles Palmer Hyde, born in January 1847 in St. Lawrence County, New York.  Did he visit the photographer in January 1870 to mark his 23rd birthday?  Charles was the son of Ezra and Julia (nee Palmer) Hyde.  Ezra owned a woolen mill.  Charles’ occupation is reported as a wool carder and cloth dresser.  Carding mills prepared wool for spinning.  The wool could then be spun into yarn or woven into cloth.  A cloth dresser’s job was to cut the cloth after it came from the fulling mill where it was cleansed of oil and dirt.  Charles Palmer married Eva Greene in 1881, and he passed away at the age of 47, in 1894.

1894 Jun 27 HYDE Charles Palmer OBIT The Daily Journal Ogdensburg NY
The Daily Journal (Ogdensburg, NY) Jun. 27, 1894

Do any of these men stand out to you as being a better match than the others?  Personally, I think Charles Pelham Hyde of Massachusetts is the most likely sitter of the three. Why?  I can’t imagine a farmer or a woolen mill laborer being dressed in such fancy clothing.  However, with Charles Palmer’s father being the owner of the woolen mill he was employed by, he may not have had as labor intensive a job as I’m picturing.

One thing is certain, I will treasure this photo of the mysterious Mr. Hyde.

Census records
Indiana marriage records
Ohio county marriage records
Massachusetts Town and Vital records
Massachusetts death records
New York death index
Find A Grave
North American Family Histories (ancestry)

3 thoughts on “The Mysterious Mr. Hyde

Add yours

  1. If this were a British photo, I’d say he’s a public school boy. Even though he’s not, it tells me that he’s almost certainly not a farmer or farmer’s son.

    What does it say on the photo below his age (18 y o)? Is it a name?


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