Friday, November 18, 2011

Another Photo Mystery

By now you've probably come to recognize the picture above which I have included in numerous posts on the Kuck side of my family tree. Written on the back of the photo in non-period ink were the words John and Mary Kuck with son George. No mention on who the fourth person in the photo is. Because of the tragic early death of Mary and five of her seven children, possible ages rule out that the older boy is my 2nd great grandfather George so I assumed he was the one in the dress sitting on father John's lap. The woman on the right looked Swiss to me though I would be hard pressed to define what that means and with the ink on the back informing me that it was my 3rd great grandmother Mayer Meyer Kuck, I accepted it as so. That is until I received the below photo from my new Kuck cousins who descended from Mary's brother-in-law Frederick Kuck. On the back of it is written, in more period looking pencil script, that this is John Kuck's first wife Mary Meyer and as you can tell, these appear to be two completely different people which leaves me with a mystery.

My inclination is to believe the picture above provided by my distant cousin because the writing was much older and the fact that my grandparents who gave me the first picture, have been confused often when referring to this side of the family. Then my cousin had an interesting theory that I hadn't thought about before. Perhaps the first picture is of my 3rd great grandfather John Kuck, his son and my 2nd great grandfather George Kuck, his wife Elizabeth Cogswell Kuck and their only son, my great grandfather Victor Kuck. A three generations of Kuck photo with George's wife thrown in to boot. Intrigued, I flipped back and forth through pictures but eventually created the montage seen below to help me do side by side comparisons with known photos of each on the right and clips from the first photo above on the left.

Starting with the assumption that the baby is my great grandfather Victor and is around two years of age, George would have to be around 29, his wife Elizabeth 23 and John aged 60. I guess I can buy the ages being about right to fit the theory. The pictures of the unknown lady whom I had been told was my 3rd great grandmother Mary Meyer looks very similar to my 2nd great grandmother Elizabeth Cogswell Kuck. However, the deep set eyes (or overhead lighting) of George Kuck in the known photo I have of him does't reflect the eyes of the unknown man in the first photo. The ears do match, definitely the jaw line does to and even the mouth but the eyes just look different. The eyes of the young man look more like those of George's older brother Henry Kuck seen below who would have been 34 years old at the time his first son was 2 years old. The eyes and jawline however don't look the same. I have no picture of his sons or his wife to compare.

So for now, I'm inclined to believe that the only picture of Mary that I had until recently is not of Mary. Whether it is actually of John Kuck's daughter-in-law Elizabeth Cogswell Kuck is up in the air. The good side to all this is the second picture from the top is probably Mary so I still have a picture of her and she is still a mystery to me but more about that in a later post.


Anonymous said...

Is it possible that the two photos you have marked John are in error and that the man holding the kid is holding his nephew. And the two men are brothers rather than father and son.
I would say the sepia is at least 25 years older than the group shot.

Ed said...

Vince - I have a number of photos of John and I'm pretty positive John is John in this photograph. Right now, the I feel that the other younger man is one of his sons but which I don't know. There is a third son from John's second marriage but he wasn't married or had any offspring before the death of John.

By the way this post was done for you. You seem to like photo anthropology and I figured if anyone could solve this mystery, it would be you.

Anonymous said...

The bottom first. Her style of dress is that of mid-reign of Victoria, so in or about the end of the civil war. But the first could be that old also. Especially given the face hair.
But for that hand on the woman's shoulder I might be tempted to say the pair sitting were the parents of the other two.
Photographically though, the sepia should be the older. But that is only general for the very early prints were of excellent quality. But for certain if the bearded man is the same in both the group is the older by a good 20/25 years or he became VERY ill.

P.S is Victor your grandfather. You seem to have a few GGF's here.

sage said...

I am amazed that you have so many photos from ages past!

Ed said...

Vince - John would be my 3G grandfather, George my 2G grandfather and Victor my great grandfather.

Sage - And a handful of years ago when I started out on this venture, I had absolutely zero! I've come a long ways.

Ed said...

Vince - If the photo is of the people whom I suspect, it would make John about 60 in the group photo. The sepia photo that I put along side for comparison is of John probably around the time of his second marriage which would put him around 31 years old.

Ed said...

Vince - I got to thinking more about the actual dates of the photos. I'm guessing the group photo date would be around 1897 or 1898 based upon my assumptions. Victor was born in 1895.

The sepia one, if of Mary, would have been taken somewhere between 1860 and 1879 when she died.

Ed said...

Vince - Another thing that I forgot to mention is that several sites have said that women's hair in the 1860's was often parted straight down the middle because that was the fashion of the time. In the 1890's, curly hair was one of the "in fashions". Also, the style of suits that the men were wearing in the group photo seem to point out late 1880's to early 1890's according to several sites I have read.

By adopting your way of looking at things Vince, I am becoming more and more convinced that my theory of the group photo being a 3 generation Kuck photo seems more and more likely. I'm also thinking that the bottom photo being my 3rd great grandmother Mary is also more and more likely.

Anonymous said...

The fellow standing might well have some connection to the church. But more likely Law or teaching. If it was the church it would be the Bible under his hand. But at the very least he had a gra for learning.

Oh have a look at this. This is a propaganda shot and would have been replicated across the world.

Ed said...

Vince - John was a founding member of the German M.E. church in that part of Iowa and evidently held a lot of weight from what I have read so if it is a bible, it would surprise me if it is one from that faith. George, John's son, started off in his father's leather trade but soon branched out to general retail and was quite successful with it judging from the dozens of articles I have found on him and the various parties he and his wife Elizabeth threw.

Yessir Whypanek said...

Hi, I came across this while researching about the maker of a couple old saddles I have. Don't know if you are interested in my two cents worth, but this is interesting from a physical anthropology point of view.

Not knowing the age of the group photo, nor the folks in it, nor the identities of those persons even according to your family members, this is quite a puzzle!! However, by looking at the individual photos, who do have names known at later dates,we can compare features.

I believe the seated older gentleman is George, because of the eyes. I think you are correct, the seated lady is his wife Liz. I believe the standing young man is their son Victor, for several reasons; first, he looks very much like the woman. Then, when you look at the later individual photo of known Victor, the jaw-line is the same, the same long nose, the eyes are the same, and even the hair style is consistent.

The mystery then is the seated child wearing the dress. I believe this is a girl, because this child is old enough to be walking, and if a boy should be in short pants by this time. Is it possible this couple took in another child for a time? Perhaps a relative, or neighbor down on their luck, someone from church? Did they have a child but lose her? Also, adoptions happened without name changes or even courts being involved back in those days.

That's all-- just the in-put from an outsider!! Hope you solved your mystery!!

Ed said...

Yessir - Thanks for taking the time to read, analyze and comment on this post. I have a couple things that keep me from believing your analysis. The first problem I have is that by studying the styles of clothing worn, they are consistent with the time frame of late 1890's which fit my analysis. Finally, the original picture is a cabinet card which peaked in popularity in 1895 which is just a few years before I think this picture was taken (1897-1898) and by 1906 when Victor was still only 8 years old, had largely disappeared from use.