Sultana Disaster Survivor

blog MATTHEWS without sleeve

I donated this tintype to the Bedford Ohio Historical Society, so that it could be united with the book, Loss of the Sultana and Reminiscences of Survivors by Rev. Chester D. Berry, published in 1892, which belonged to Orlo and was in their collection.

This tintype features the Mathews’ brothers: Alden H. is standing, Orlo C. is sitting on the left, and James A. on the right. The tintype is housed in a sleeve which identifies each sitter by initials on the front and by full name on the back.  I’ve included those images at the end of this post.

Orlo C. was witness to what is known as the greatest maritime disaster in American history, the explosion of the Steamboat Sultana, which happened 151 years ago today.  Read on to learn more about the Mathews’ brothers and the Sultana!

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The Piercing Stare


I found this tintype photograph in an antique shop in Markle, Indiana.  The writing on the sleeve identifies two women; Lois (nee Hart) Robison and Lois’ daughter-in-law, Anna.  It seems the person who wrote the names was giving a family history of sorts.  How can we know which woman is the sitter?  Since I am by no means an expert in Victorian fashion, I consulted with Ann Longmore-Etheridge, a historian and expert in early photography.  Using the details of the clothing, jewelry, and hairstyle, she dated the photo to the mid-1870s with 1878 as the latest possible date. She felt that the sitter was about 13 years of age.  Anne wasn’t born until 1887, so she could not be the sitter.  However, Lois was born in 1865 and was 13 years old in 1878.  Bingo!  Click the link below to learn about Lois’ life! Continue reading