Monday, March 25, 2013

5. Photographs of Dennis and Catherine Buggy

Several pages in the back of Dennis Buggy’s bible (see "Where Exactly Did You Come From, Dennis Buggy?" 24 March 2013) are fitted with cutouts to hold photographs.  All are empty but one.  It’s intriguing to think that the portraits may be of Dennis and Catherine (Phelan) Buggy.  It was their bible, after all.

Cabinet cards mounted in the back of Dennis Buggy's 1880 bible

Examining the photos and the clothing and correlating this information with what is known about Dennis and Catherine may give a tentative identification.

Cabinet cards like these (6 ½" x 4 ¼") were produced in the U.S. from 1866 through 1890.  They were called albumen prints for the egg whites used to develop the picture.[1]   That gives a time period to work with, and we know Dennis (ca. 1830-1915) and Catherine (ca. 1828-1906) were both living then.

Catherine (Phelan) Buggy photograph, ca. 1870, privately held by a descendant who prefers anonymity.  The original passed from Catherine to son Richard, then to his son Edward, and to Edward's son Charles.

The woman wears her hair plain, parted in the middle and pulled straight back, a style typical of 1866-1868, but likely worn well after that time, too.  The high neckline with a small stand-up collar and ruffles and the armholes over the shoulder place the costume between 1869-1874.[2]  If this is Catherine (Phelan) Buggy, she would have been about 37-45 as suggested by the costume.  Her face is consistent with this age.  She is simply dressed, not ostentatious.

Dennis Buggy photograph, ca. 1878, privately held by a descendant who prefers anonymity.  The original passed from Dennis to son Richard, then to his son Edward, and to Edward's son Charles.

The man’s wide necktie and narrow lapel on a coat buttoned high, along with his chin whiskers and ear-length hair, place his portrait later, about 1874-1880.[3]  He also appears to be older than the woman.  If it is Dennis Buggy, he would have been about 45-50, a reasonable age, maybe even young, for the sitter.

The photographer’s imprint, “Iver I. Floe, Photographer,” the same on both photos, suggests that they were taken at the same time.  There are two problems with this.  First, if it is Dennis and Catherine, the man and woman are of different ages, while Dennis and Catherine were about the same age.  In addition, Iver I. Floe immigrated to the U.S. in 1880, the latest year identified by the clothing.  He was about eighteen at that time and would not likely have had his own business as a young, recent immigrant.[4]

By 1895 Iver I. Floe was thirty-three, lived in Blue Earth, Faribault County, and worked as a photographer.[5]   If he had been in business during the previous decade, he would have created the albumen prints then.  This late date suggests that the portraits were reproductions of earlier photographs, printed on identical cardstock and appearing to be a matched pair.  This explains the different ages of the sitters, very likely Dennis and Catherine (Phelan) Buggy as photographed at different times earlier.

Comparing these photos with pictures known to be of Dennis and Catherine could solve the sitters’ identities.  Do you have a photo of Dennis or Catherine?

Reader and Dennis Buggy descendant Michel Ann Dobyns shares this photo that confirms identification of the bible portraits as Dennis and Catherine:
Dennis Buggy Family
Dennis and Catherine seated
Standing: Kate, Richard, Nellie, and John

Next time: The search for a marriage record

Pending, on order
Microfilm of Freshford parish registers

[1] Karen Frisch-Ripley, Unlocking the Secrets in Old Photographs (Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1991), 133.
[2] Dating Old Photographs 1840-1929 (Toronto: Moorshead Magazines, 2000), comparison with photographs reproduced on pp. 22-27.  See also, Maureen Taylor, Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs (Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2000), 67.
[3] Dating Old Photographs, 22-24, 26, and Taylor, Uncovering Your Ancestry, 70.
[4] 1900 U. S. Census, Hancock County, Iowa, population schedule, Crystal Lake [ca. 40 miles SE of Blue Earth], ED 117, sheet 3 (penned), dwelling 48, family 48, Iver I Flo household; digital image, (accessed 23 March 2013); from NA microfilm publication T623, roll 434; FHL microfilm 1,240,434.
[5] 1895 Minnesota state census, Faribault County, population schedule, Blue Earth, p. 3, family 384, Iver I. Floe household; digital image,; from Minnesota Historical Society, microfilm V290_57.

© 2013 Judy Kellar Fox, CG,


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