A Hell for the Sick


Jessie Calhoun’s cabinet card photo was found in an album that belonged to Jessie Sylvester.  I believe the girls were cousins, as there are shared surnames in their respective family trees.  However, I was unable to find a direct link.

Born in 1867, in Ashtabula county, Ohio, Jessie’s father, Porter Calhoun, was a farmer, and her mother, Carrie (nee Stillman), was a milliner.  It appears that her parents separated when she was a child.  Jessie never married, and from what I can tell, lived with her mother throughout her life.  Both mother and daughter ended up in the Cleveland State Hospital for the Insane, described as a hell for the sick.

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Would the real John Pease, please stand up.

blog paper frame

Recently, I happened upon a tintype of a gentleman posed next to a small, decorative table.  Written on the front of the paper sleeve frame is “Mr. John Pease.”  I immediately recognized the table as one in a photo already in my collection.

In an earlier post, I featured a carte de visite of Sophia Germann.  The photographer, J. F. Rank of Van Wert, Ohio, seated Sophia next to the same unique, stag head table!

table GERMANN Sophia

In the larger scan below, you can better see that the table detail matches the one in the carte de visite of Sophia.  Look at the chain that dangles from the table top, and the etched lines on the legs.

blog PEASE John

The tintype of Mr. John Pease does not provide the photographer’s identity or location, but, could the table provide the missing link? Continue reading

From the grave

blog COOK Pat and family

Pat Cook’s family portrait wound up in a sale basket in Archbold, Ohio. While the cabinet card shows a lot of wear, and the mother and daughter on the left appear ghostly pale, the overall depth and detail of the sitter’s images held up well.  The balloon-like sleeves of the daughter on the right helped me date this photo to the 1890s.   And although the boy isn’t sporting the long hair and ringlets that accompanied the Lord Fauntleroy craze of the mid 1890s, his wide, white shirt collar fits the fashion.

As I was preparing to admit defeat that I would never identify this family, I got the answer I had been hoping for…from the grave.

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Sophia’s Snap Shot

Not every photo find yields a fascinating, or even a slightly interesting, story.  This isn’t to say that the sitters led uneventful lives.  It just means that I’ve not had the pleasure of discovering their full history.  This is the first in my Snap Shot series, which will showcase those photos from my collection.

Sophia Germann Schmid

Look at the table detail in this carte de visite.  The sitter is Mary Sophia (nee Germann) Schmid.  The photographer was J.F. Rank & Co. in Van Wert, Ohio.  Sophia was born in 1855 and shares my birth date of March 5.

Sophia Germann Schmid cdv back


Census records
Find A Grave
State of Ohio death certificate


Wedding Bells

What better time than Valentine’s Day to feature photos of couples from my collection. These first two cabinet photos were found at an antique mall in Auburn, Indiana.  The previous owner removed them from an album and noted on the back what was written on the discarded album pages. The photos, individually, are not identifiable, as one cabinet card supplies a location, but only a first name and the other provides first and last names of the couple, but no location.  Luckily, I’m quite thorough when looking through bins of photos, and recognized that they featured the same young woman.

I believe this photo was taken during their engagement or possibly as a wedding photo.  Granted, the young man does not look as if he’s excited to be there.  In fact, I see him as looking quite dejected.  But, Rosa May McKnight and Robert Eldred Wright wed on April 14, 1898 when they were 19 and 24 respectively, and they had forty-three years of wedded bliss (at least I like to imagine it was more bliss than not)!

Rosie & Robert Wright

Robert was the owner of the Nebraska Salesbook Company, a print shop business, which he founded in 1895.   To Robert’s credit, he grew his business from that of three employees, including himself, to that of one hundred when he retired in 1933.  The couple made their home in Lincoln, Nebraska, where they raised four children; William, Lillian, Laverne, and Mildred.  One child, whose name is unknown, died very young.


about 1895

The next photo is a bit later than I normally like to collect, but just look at that dress, with all of lace and the drooping bouquet in her hand!  And it’s probably just me, but I’m getting a Mark Pellegrino vibe from the gentleman sitter.  Beginning in the late 1890s, cabinet cards were replaced with stiffer mounting cards that were constructed of multiple layers of dense pressed cardboard that produced a matte textured appearance.  These mounting cards came in gray, dark green, bronze and black and also in many different sizes, unlike cabinet cards which were traditionally 4 1/2″ x 6 1/2″.  For example, this card mount is 6 x 7 3/4″.  If you’d like to see the photo as it is mounted on the card, you can find it below, after sources.

John Goller and Mary (1st wife)

In addition to the names on the back of the photo, the writing also identified John and Mary as “Grapa (sic) Art’s Mom & Dad.”  This additional bit of information was a great help, as there was another John Goller living in the same area.

Miss Mary Thieroff, 23, married John Goller, 33, in 1899 in Defiance County, Ohio where they made their home and had three children; Alma Laurine, Clarence John, and Arthur Henry.  John’s parents immigrated to the US from Germany, as did Mary’s father.  I wish I could say they lived happily ever after, but I can not.  Mary died in 1913 from complications of a surgery and John married a second time to Miss Cora Greenler.  He died in 1934.

Census records
Ohio death records
Find A Grave
19th Century Card Photos Kwik Guide, by Gary W. Clark
The Lincoln Star, Lincoln Nebraska
Lincoln Evening Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska
The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska
Defiance Crescent News, Defiance, Ohio





In Mourning


This is a carte de visite, also known as a CDV, of a woman in mourning.  During the Victorian era, mourning clothes were a display of one’s sorrow.  Note the black veil she is wearing. On the back of the CDV is the photographer’s information which reveals that the photo was taken by Baird on 13 Fifth Street in Zanesville, Ohio.  Based on the photo’s border of two different width lines and the square corners, as well as the fashion, I date this image as being produced in the mid to late 1860s.

Catherine was born in 1836 in Adams County, Ohio, and grew up on a farm with her parents and her twelve siblings.  She married Daniel Wymer in 1855 and they settled in Union, which was about twenty miles from Zanesville.

As with the vast majority of American citizens who lived during the Civil War, Catherine’s life was greatly impacted by the sectional conflict.  She was left to care for their four small children while her husband fought for the Union in 1864.  She lost her brother, Samuel, to the war; he died in 1862, of Typhus, an intestinal infectious disease caused by poor hygienic conditions that were commonplace in military camps.  Samuel’s regiment, the 97th, lost a total of 254 men, and 161 of those deaths were from disease.

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Criminal Cowardice


This cabinet card was found in an antique mall in Maumee, Ohio.  Judging by the woman’s hairstyle and fashion, I date it to be from the mid to late 1880s.  On the back is written Mrs. Sarah Oberdorff, and in pencil above someone added Sarah Ecrement.  A quick search and I located the sitter and with further sleuthing discovered her story.

July 4, 1889
Canton Repository; Canton, Ohio; Pg. 2

When Sarah Ecrement’s soon to be husband couldn’t venture into the city and procure their marriage license without falling drunk and ending up in jail, that should have been enough to make her run the other way.  But, Sarah was pregnant and this wasn’t her first pregnancy out of wedlock, so I imagine she felt pressure to go through with the marriage. Of course, it’s very possible that she was head over heels for David Oberdorff and as the old saying goes, “love is blind.”  They were married July 11, 1889 and welcomed a son, John, on December 29th.  John lived just 21 days.

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