Friday, September 15, 2006
The Tin Type
The above photo is of my Great Grandmother Laura, born in 1871. When Laura was seven her family traveled by wagon from southern Pennsylvania to Kansas to become wheat farmers. In those days the Homestead Act of 1872 provided free land to farmers. Kansas had undergone a period of abnormally wet years. The farmers of that day had a theory that rain followed the plow. Shortly after her family arrived the wet years ended and Kansas became a dust bowl. According to family legend the crops failed and there was no wood for heat. They gathered buffalo chips for fuel. When the chips ran out parts of the house had to be sacrificed for heat. In a few years the once affluent family had no other choice but to load the wagon and return east. On the return trip two of Laura’s brothers became ill and were left behind with a distant relative in western Maryland. One version of the story has one brother dieing but another has both surviving. Perhaps someday we will be able to verify which story is correct. Upon their return Laura’s father again set to farming, becoming quite successful.
This photograph is a scan of a tin type. Considering the age of Laura in the photograph I would date it in the late 1880’s to early 1890’s. Laura went on to marry and raise a family of seven children.
I find the choice of studio props of this era to be interesting. The chair, table and books serve to support and steady the subject as well as add to the photograph. With the slow films of the day I would expect it was quite challenging to keep a subject still long enough to get a sharp image.