Monday, October 22, 2007

A Mention in the Wall Street Journal

The following appeared in the Weekend Journal section of the October 12, 2007, edition of the Wall Street Journal:

The Photo Detective
Does the shoebox in the attic hold family secrets?
Alexandra Alter on how one expert unlocks the past.

MAUREEN TAYLOR has dated a photograph to 1913 by studying the size and shape of a Lion touring car's headlamps. Armed with her collection of 19th-century fashion magazines, she can pinpoint the brief period when Victorian women wore their bangs in tight curls rather than swept back. Using a technique borrowed from the CIA, she identified a photo of Jesse James by examining the shape of his right ear.

With millions of Americans obsessively tracing their roots, Ms. Taylor has emerged as the nation's foremost historical photo detective. During a recent meeting of the Maine Genealogical Society, attendees lined up a dozen deep as she handled their images with a cotton glove and peered at the details through a photographer's loupe. One man offered a portrait photo and asked if it could be his great-grandmother who died in 1890. "It's not," Ms. Taylor said after about 15 seconds; she'd dated the hairstyle and billowy blouse to the early 20th century. When another attendee asked why her great-great-grandfather was wearing small hoops in his ears in a portrait, Ms. Taylor explained, "He was in the maritime trade."

Read the rest of the article at a library near you....
or the article can be accessed from Maureen's blog - visit

SOURCE: Alexandra Alter, "The Photo Detective," Wall Street Journal, 12 Oct 2007, pp W1, W10

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