Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Victorian Photo Album Makes Way Back to Decatur

There are two things that don't happen often enough.  First, finding pre-1900 photographs with identification as person & place.  Usually, these interesting faces go unnamed and will likely remain so forever.  Second, having the photographs be affordable enough to purchase them for the Local History Collection. 

Ackley Family Album
Not long ago through a listing on Ebay, we acquired a partially filled antique Victorian-style photo album, mostly identified with names, specifically the Ackley and related families of mid to late 19th century Decatur, Van Buren County, Michigan.

Victorian albums are beautiful in and of themselves, the covers typically made of leather or velvet and often, as in this case, adorned with one or more clasps at the side to help secure the contents.  The pages are made of a card stock firm board, sometimes lined with gold color on the edges.  Each page has space to insert photographs of a specified size on either side.  In this case, the photos are mostly carte-de-visite style and a few tintypes.  The carte-de-visite photograph, measuring 4 1/4 by 2 1/2 inches, was introduced in the United States as early as 1859, which supplies us with some clues as to dates.

On the inside cover of the album is handwritten: "Presented to Willis F. Ackley From his Mother To Her Precious Son"

Some of the names written on the photographs include:
  • Gertrude Miller
  • Mr. & Mrs. B. F. Carson
  • Mrs. S. C. Reed of Monterey, Allegan County
  • Thomas B. Woodburg, Fruit Port, Mich "to my daughter Mrs. Sarah Jane Ackley"
  • Sarah Jane Ackley
  • Emmet W. Ackley
  • Willis J. Ackley
  • Lucinda M. Bent
  • Cousin Jennie Wood
  • William Bent
  • Ella Bacon
  • Jessie Reed, Monterey, Allegan County
  • Grace R. Ackley, South Wales, Erie County, New York
An added bonus to this album is the inclusion of some death and marriage dates handwritten in the covers and margins.

Regrettably, some of the photographs were removed from the album before we purchased it.  These were predominantly military-related as I recall seeing these individual photographs being auctioned separately on Ebay before the album was listed.  The hand-written names remain, however, allowing for clues to association to others featured in the album.

The Local History department has acquired a few other albums over the years, sometimes with little identification as to the individuals, but with connections to Southwest Michigan families.  Visit the library's online index to its Photograph Collection to search for names & subjects. 

Anyone interested in viewing the Ackley family album or other photographs should contact the Local History department in advance of their visit to find out access times and policies. 

Nameless Picture(s) of the Day

 Unknown woman
Ackley Family album, Decatur
  Unknown woman
Carte-de-visite photograph
dated July 29, 1880 
Photographer - J. O. Converse, Morenci, Michigan 
Ackley Family album, Decatur
 Can you identify the women in these photographs, part of the Ackley Family album of Decatur, Van Buren County, Michigan?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.

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