all the pictures in Hannah Richs photograph
album, the portrait of young Mary Struthers is
the most perplexing and the most touching.
This Mary Struthers is
almost certainly the sister of Agnes and Stephen
Struthers, and the daughter of Mary Rich
Struthers; all four appear in Hannah Richs
album. Hannah, who may have been Mary, Stephen,
and Agnes Struthers aunt (though they were
all roughly the same age) wrote Marys name
on the back of the picture in ink; at some time
she added Mrs. Robinson.
The drama appears
in Hannah Richs penciled addendum:
Uncle Stephen paid $20.00 to send a
telegram to South Kortright telling of her death
by messenger from Hancock. Most novelists
would be justifiably proud of themselves if they
could compact so much intriguing material into
one short sentence.
And this is where
the mysteries begin. Who was Mary Struthers
Robinson, and when and where was she born? When
was she married, and who was the Mr. Robinson who
became her husband? When and how did she die?
Furthermore, who was Uncle Stephen, who paid the
exorbitant amount of $20.00 for a telegram
bearing the news of her death?
It seems likely
Mary was born in the early 1840s. The photograph
itself contains one clue: her dress. While we
tend to think of large round hoop skirts as the
style throughout the 19th century, in fact the
dress Mary is wearing, with its tight fitting
bodice and slightly elevated waistline that make
the waist appear tiny and the skirt immense, was
high fashion for only about 5 years, until 1865.
If we guess that
this picture is of a woman aged 22? 23? 24? in
1865, then she would have been born in the early
We can further
narrow the date of this photograph with help from
Dave Rozzanas Tips for Dating Old
Photographs." According to Rozzana, special
taxes were levied on photographs from August 1864
to August 1866. (See the photograph of William Blakely in this album to see what
these stamps looked like, and for further
information about this special Civil War levy.)
So this picture was takenand Mary was
aliveeither for the few years before August
1864 or after August 1866.
*Where* was Mary born? The 1850 Federal
and 1855 New York
State census both indicate she was born in New
York in about 1844. Thus far, no online records
have been located for a marriage between Mary
Struthers and a Mr. Robinson, though there were
numerous Robinsons in early Delaware County, NY,
where Hannah Rich and her groom William Blakely
Peters lived, and where Mary died. Since we know
Mary died in Hancock township, one would assume
there would be some record of her death there, or
at least a grave marker. Again, the online
records shed no light on this.
*do*, however, reveal the existence of a number
of Mary Robinsons, all too young to be the Mary
Struthers Robinson shown here, though one of them
might have been her child: it was just as common
for daughters to be named after their mothers as
it was for sons to be named after their fathers.
And that leads to an interesting possibility:
that the woman shown in this picture died in
childbirth, leaving a daughter named Mary
Robinson. It was an all-too-common scenario.
itself: twenty dollars was a huge sum of money
for any commodity, let alone a telegram.
According to the Economic History Service, if one calculates the
value of $20.00 in todays money using the
unskilled wage index, this telegram cost over
Finally, there is
a mystery about the telegrams sender. Who
was Uncle Stephen? Yes, Hannah Rich, the owner of
this album, had an uncle Stephen, Stephen Altgelt
Rich, born 1790. According to the second section
of the Delaware County
Biographical Review, this Stephen A. Rich died in 1858,
which makes it impossible for him to have been
the sender of the telegram in the 1860s. There
is, however, at least one error in this section
of the Reviewmore about that laterso
perhaps this date for Stephen A. Richs
death is also wrong.
photographers: Rintoul and Rockwood at 839
Broadway, New York City, took this picture, as
well as the picture on the preceding page of
Agnes Struthers. Presumably Mary and Agnes went
together to the studio of Rintoul and Rockwood to
have their photographs taken. Note that the
balustrade in the background is the same in both
According to John
Craigs wonderful online Daguerreian Registry, Rockwood was George
Gardner Rockwood, born in Troy, New York. Craig
writes, Rockwood reportedly began his
photographic career in St. Louis, Missouri, in
1853. Another report advances that date to 1855.
While in St. Louis, Rockwood reportedly produced
the first carte-de-visite in the United States.
[A carte-de-visite was a photographic calling
card; such cards were the rage in England and the
United States during the Civil War, and millions
were sold. For more information about the
carte-de-visite craze, go to the Antiques Roadshow site].
Rockwood arrived in New York City, NY, in either
1857 or 1859, and opened a photographic gallery
with his brother at Broadway and 13th Street. In
1860 he was listed at 839 (possibly 841)
Broadway, corner of 13th Street, in partnership
as Rintoul (JA) and Rockwood. The firm advertised
they employed five artists for coloring
photographs, and included one member of the firm
to take outdoor views. After a long career,
Rockwood died in Lakeville, Connecticut.
For more about
George Gardner Rockwood (1832-1911) and to see
his portrait, visit Picture History.
Craig also tells
us the Rintoul of Rintoul and Rockwood was John A
Rintoul, listed in 1860 as Rockwoods
partner. Before 1860, Rintoul worked at 841
Broadway and lived at 159 East 84th Street.
pictured in Hannah Richs album lived in
overlapping social circles. The Rintouls of
photographic prominence, for example, were
connected to the family of our bride, Hannah
Rich, by marriage: Hannahs Aunt Elizabeth
Rich was married to James Rintoul, a railroad
company auditor born in Scotland, possibly in
Glackmannanshire [link: www.familysearch.org] and
living in Manhattan at the time of the 1880
Another Rintoul, Belle Rintoul Davenport, appears
in Hannahs album as well.
See also the
pictures of Agnes Struthers, Mary Rich Struthers, Stephen Struthers, and Belle Rintoul