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 Mary (Rich) Struthers
   
Mary Rich Struthers is undoubtedly the mother of Stephen Rich Struthers, Agnes Struthers, and Mary Struthers Robinson, all of whom appear in this online album.

The second section of the Delaware County Biographical Review gives us a great deal of information about Mary’s parents, Stephen Altgelt Rich and his wife, Jane Oliver, though this passage does its best to obscure the Rich family’s lineage.

“He [Stephen Rich] was married May 6, 1869, at the mature age of forty-five, to his cousin, Sarah Rich, a native of New York City, the daughter of Stephen Altgelt Rich and his wife, Jane Oliver, who was born October 22, 1788. These parents were married May 12, 1812, by the Rev. Robert Forrest. Stephen A. Rich died August 29, 1858, and his wife on February 25, 1868. They had ten children, half of whom survive. Charlotte and Rachel are both widows in New York City, the former having married William Patterson, and the latter Mr. Buchan, of the firm [James Buchan & Co., manufacturers of soap and candles]. Jane Rich lives with her sister Sarah on the homestead. Elizabeth Rich is the wife of James Rintoul, of New York City. Sarah Rich married her kinsman, Stephen Rich, as before stated. The five deceased children are as follows: James B. was born on the first day of March, 1813, and died in Alabama, August 12, 1844. Mary Struthers Rich [sic] was born March 18, 1815, and died January 28, 1892. Robert Forrest Rich, born January 3, 1820, died November 11, 1872, in New Jersey. Hannah [Rich] Thomson was born November 19, 1822, and died March 27, 1852 in New York City. Andrew Mather Rich was born December 23, 1823, died August 17, 1826.”

Here the Biographical Review makes a mistake: this Mary—the Mary in this picture—cannot be Mary Struthers Rich: as the child of Stephen Altgelt Rich, her maiden name would have been Mary Rich, her correct married name Mary Rich Struthers, as Hannah Rich’s notation on the back of the picture states.

Mary Rich Struthers married merchant, James Struthers who was born in New York in about 1801. Tracing the children from the census records to the New York Birth and Christening Records, it has been determined that at least seven children were born to this union. All but daughter Jane, who was born in New York City on 10 Sep 1836, were listed in the consecutive census records. The death of baby Jane, only eight months of age, appears in the New York Spectator in 1837. The 1850 census finds the family residing in the 9th Ward where James is listed as a merchant and the two older sons (Robert and James), are listed as clerks. The New York State Census of 1855 lists James Struthers as an insurance broker, and living one house away from Mary's sister Elizabeth, who was the wife of James Rintoul, an accountant. It is most likely that Mary was widowed in October of 1857 as her date of burial coincides with a burial for a James Struthers in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Also buried in the same section and plot is Agnes Struthers who died in March of 1909. Unable to locate Mary and the children in 1860, it seems most probable that she was living with family. She was then located in the 1870 census residing in the 21st Ward of New York City in a home situated on 28th street between Madison Avenue and Fourth Avenue with. Mary is listed as head of household with son Stephen, daughters Agnes, Fannie, married sister Charlotte Patterson, and her sister Jane Rich. By 1880, Mary Struthers has removed to Jersey City, Hudson County, New Jersey where she is enumerated as a widow on Oak Street. A death notice appearing in the New York Herald for William Patterson in 1885 indicates the family was still residing at 113 Oak Street. According to the aforementioned biographical review and burial records of Green Wood Cemetery, she was interred next to her husband on 30 Jan 1892.

About the photographer: the only information we have about the person who took Mary’s photograph is at the bottom of her picture: he was “Brady, New York”. The first Brady one naturally thinks of is Mathew Brady, the famed Civil War photographer. But how likely is *that*?

John S. Craig’s excellent Daguerreian Registry lists four men by the name of Brady engaged in the photographic enterprises of the day. James Brady was active in Baltimore, Maryland, until 1864. John Brady was the brother of Mathew and might, Craig says, have been involved in New York City in the manufacture of cases for daguerreotypes in the early 1840s. Joseph B Brady is described as “a possible daguerreian, probably in New York City, NY, c. 1853.” The existence of this daguerreian is deduced from a lithograph of Little Cordelia Howard, who played Eva in Uncle Tom's Cabin; the lithograph was based on a photograph by a "Jos. B. Brady," and copyrighted 1853.

The preceding makes us think that, if Mary’s photograph had been taken by this same Joseph B, it would bear the same “Jos. B. Brady” trademark. On the other hand, master photographer Abraham Bogardus, whose pictures appear over and over in Hannah Rich’s album, used a variety of logos over a short period of time. Might not “Jos. B.” have done the same?

But let’s throw caution to the winds for a moment and declare this picture to be by Mathew Brady himself, or one of his associates. Stephen May tells us Brady was hampered by failing eyesight all his life, and did not necessarily make all the exposures himself: many were taken by assistants working under his supervision: he trained them, arranged the poses, and told his assistants when to click the shutter. All this produced “the Brady look.”

Brady .... New YorkA way to prove that the Brady who took Mary Rich Struthers’ picture was *the* Mathew Brady would be to find photographs by all four Bradys, and compare their logos with that on the front of Mary Rich Struthers’ photograph. Note the unusual style of the notation: the word “Brady” is on the far left, followed by a comma and a long blank space, then the words “New York” on the far right.

On the Dickinson College website about Mathew Brady and his photographs there is not only a photograph of Brady himself, but on the card to which the photograph is affixed are the words ”Brady” and a comma on the left, a long blank space, and the city name, “Washington,” on the right. The font, however, is different: an elegant cursive.

For further examination there are many of Mathew Brady’s cartes-de-visite in the Smithsonian’s Portrait Gallery. Most of the cards in The Comprehensive List of Sitters have no visible attribution, but check out the portrait of Abraham Lincoln’s son Tad! On this card the print reads “Brady” in an upright typestyle, with the comma to the left, the space, and then “Washington” to the right. Brady photographed Lincoln and his family a number of times, and Lincoln said that Mathew Brady’s photograph made him president.

There are other pictures by Brady on the National Gallery site; these have the same style of attribution as Mary Rich Struthers’ picture, and varying typestyles: General Hooker, actress Maggie Mitchell, and scientist Joseph Henry.

It seems safe to conclude that Mary Rich Struthers’ picture was, in fact, actually taken by Mathew Brady. As to when it was taken, her ensemble points to sometime during the Civil War.

Victorian dress detailMary’s dress bears all the hallmarks of victorian mourning: the fabric is dull, rather than shiny; the collar of her dress—collars were very fashionable during the Civil War—is black, not white. Even extremely high magnification does not reveal the detail of her neck broach, but the sentimentality of the era would have suggested a tiny portrait of her lost loved one. In fact, Mary is probably in “deep mourning,” the 2-year period following the death of a husband during which one was expected to wear black.

Victorian sleeve detailOther details confirm a 1861-1865 dating: the hairstyle, parted in the center and severely pulled to the back, the absence of any jewelry other than the broach, the hair covering (indicating a married woman), the fullness of the skirt, and the high waist. The sleeves are unusual: there appear to be fabric bands wound around the tops of the sleeves, and at the cuffs as well. The other unusual detail in this photograph is the mysterious item in her hands. Could it be a tiny purse?

It seems likely that Mary Rich Struthers lost her husband in the same conflict which brought her photographer such fame, and then such calamity. Brady’s graphic images brought home the horror of the Civil War. Stephen May tells us: “[He had] poured $100,000 into equipment, supplies, travel expenses, salaries and other costs involved in documenting the war. Even after he used up all his investments and savings, debts from the great Civil War project continued to plague him.

“After the war, Brady faced increasingly stiff competition and his finances, already precarious, declined. He spent much of the remainder of his life fending off creditors. In 1872 he closed his New York gallery and filed for bankruptcy.

“After his beloved wife, Juliette Handy Brady, died in 1887, advancing age, despondency and heavy drinking eroded Brady's health and reputation.

“Back in New York in 1890, he opened a gallery where the main attraction seemed to be Brady himself, the grand old man of American photography. Severely injured in a street accident from which he never fully recovered, he died penniless in New York in 1896.

"Appropriately, the funeral was financed by New York's Seventh Regiment, of which he was an honorary member. ‘In the end Brady was best loved by the soldiers he immortalized,’ observes Panzer. Brady was buried in Washington's Congressional Cemetery, where his grave can be seen today in what has become an endangered historic site.”

 
Please Note: In 2005 this album came into the loving care of Hannah Rich Peters’ and William Blakely Peters’ great-granddaughter, Carolyn Flanders McPherson, and is presented here for the first time. For more detailed information on the photo album and its contents you may view the introduction here.

Patricia and Carolyn have attempted to identify all persons in the album and learn more about them through research of various records. If you can help us identify or add further information to this photo, please contact:
Email Carolyn

 

Additional Links-

 
Next Photo - Mary (Struthers) Robinson
Index of Hannah's Photo Album
Delaware County Biographical Review
Craig’s Daguerreian Registry (An outside link)
Antiques and the Arts Online (Outside Link)
Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA (Outside Link)
Antiques Roadshow
The Comprehensive List of Sitters
----An outside link to Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Thomas "Tad" Lincoln by Mathew Brady
----An outside link to Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
General Joseph Hooker by Mathew Brady
----An outside link to Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Actress Maggie Mitchell by Mathew Brady
----An outside link to Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Scientist Joseph Henry by Mathew Brady
----An outside link to Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Struther Burials at Green-Wood Cemetery
----An outside link at Find A Grave
PDP's Roots & Branches Blog
 
 
Updated June 01, 2014
Album photos provided by Carolyn F. McPherson 2005
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