Wednesday, June 20, 2018

When Clues Pop Out

Sometimes, when details are not readily noticed by the unaided eye, there are devices which can enable us to see the very plain in a much better light. As it turns out, simply scanning a photograph and then blowing it up to view in greater detail can bring out valuable hints.

In this last of the mystery photos rescued from abandonment in a northern California antique store, that very technique allowed me to notice something I hadn't seen before: the imprint designating the photographer's identity and the location of the studio for the picture I shared yesterday.

Face it: my eyes aren't the best set on the block, so it might be understandable that I missed something like this. After all, the photograph is likely over one hundred years old, and it isn't in the best condition. The embossed lettering is the same color as the entire background for this cabinet card. And my mind was so taken with the enigmatic inscription on the back of the photo that I really wasn't paying attention to all the detail on the front.

Once scanned, though, there it was: the name of the studio and where it was located. What had looked to me to be an ornate flourish to the right side of the couple's portrait turned out to contain, in the midst of all those swirls, the name "Burgess & Son" and the word "Guelph."

Now, anyone who is Canadian will realize there is only one Guelph in the world, and that is in the province of Ontario, a nice commute-sized drive to the west of Toronto. In fact, if you had been fortunate to attend the Ontario Genealogical Society's conference this year, you would have been treated to a venue at the University of Guelph, the host facility for the 2018 conference.

More to our purposes for this mystery couple, though, is the fact that, at the turn of the last century, the city of Guelph claimed a population of only eleven thousand people. Would it be possible to identify who our mystery subjects were, say, from the 1901 census?

The reverse of the photograph does include some name information. It depends on just how common those names might have been in Guelph at the time that photograph was taken at the studio of Burgess and Son. We'll take a look tomorrow at what hints we've been given to help figure out who those two people were.

Above: Border of a cabinet card found in an antique shop in Jackson, California, bearing the inscription of the photography studio of Burgess & Son in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Photograph currently in possession of the author until a family member can be found to claim the picture.


  1. Oh, I hope we have success with this one!

    1. I hope so, too, Miss Merry, but wait until tomorrow to see the only hints we have been provided. Not much, unfortunately.


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