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An Introduction to the Photograph Album of Hannah Rich Peters

On 17 July 1861, her 23rd birthday, Miss Hannah Rich of South Kortright, Delaware County, NY, married Mr. William Blakely Peters of Bloomville, also in Delaware County, NY. Her relative Stephen Rich Struthers gave Hannah this picture album, as well as his photographic portrait on the first page. Stephen also penned what Hannah Rich described as a “suitable poem ending with ‘Henceforth you give up your Riches and live on Peters pence,’” a clever reference to the bride’s and groom’s surnames.

Hannah added to this album over some number of years. Here you will see members of the most notable families of Delaware County, NY; Hannah Rich Peters’ extended family and the prolific Riches and Southards; and William’s relatives, the equally prolific Blakelys and Peters. Also represented are business associates - the Buchans, for example, who became relatives by marriage - and the bride and groom’s friends.

John (J D) Gibson, D D, and his wife Catherine are here, too. The Rev. Gibson performed Hannah and William’s wedding and the weddings of countless others at the United Presbyterian Church of Stamford at South Kortright, NY. Every marriage solemnized in that church from 1845 to 1886 bears J D Gibson’s signature.

Open album index, or continue reading.

 
 
 
The World of Hannah Rich Peters' Photographic Album
Example of the back of one photo in Hannah's handwriting

Example of a tax stamp on back of photo

Sample of props used by photographer

Example of one of the 19 album pages

Many of the families represented in Hannah’s album arrived early in the history of the United States, some in the 1600s, and more than one of the women pictured here was born immediately after the American Revolution. Some of these people traveled amazing distances in migrations that fanned west- and southward, and at least one got himself all the way from New York to California — and back!

The accompanying map marks a few of the localities most often referred to in the text. (Click map to enlarge)

There are 38 portraits in the album, small photographs mounted on card stock 2 1/2 inches wide by 4 inches long. According to the Antiques Roadshow1 website small pictures, called cartes de-visite — or CDVs — were a rage that began in Great Britain in 1859 and quickly spread to the United States. The conferring of these visiting cards with photographic portraits on them coincided with the American Civil War. Because millions of these CDVs were made and given, there exist today an astonishing number of portraits of Civil War participants.

The backs of the photos in Hannah Rich Peters’ album are almost as interesting as the fronts. Here you will find information in Hannah's hand, as well as photographers’ trademarks and an occasional date or tax stamp.

In one case it was possible to identify three unknown people from these trademarks and stamps. An unidentified man, woman, and little boy went to the same photographer in New York City on the same day, the date indicated in the tax stamps as September 6, 1865. What were the odds (Hannah Rich Peters’ great granddaughter, who provided these pictures, reasoned) that three unrelated people would have taken an unrelated child — in this case known to be Belle Leonard — with them? It seemed more likely they were all members of the Leonard family.

It is also conceivable that the subjects of Hannah’s photograph album did not make the trek all the way to Broadway — or other points — to have their pictures taken. Because the average person did not own a camera, traveling photographers with “studio-wagons” were common. As Diane VanSkiver Gagel explains in her article “Historic Photography: Identification and Preservation” from Ancestry Magazine2, a photographer might stay in one location for a month or more and photograph buildings and scenery in addition to people. Such a photographer brought his darkroom, backdrops, and props—chairs, balustrades, and potted plants — with him and set up his paraphernalia in a large room, preferably with a skylight.

Mathew Brady, of course, took many cameras and assistants into the field with him and was responsible for thousands of arresting Civil War pictures for which he became famous.

As to Hannah Rich Peter’s photograph album itself, it is brown tooled leather with brass fittings front and back, and measures 2 inches thick, 5 inches wide, and 5 3/4 inches high. There are nineteen pages of an ingenious design that permits the album’s owner to insert 2 pictures inside each page by slipping them through the slot at the bottom. The edges of the pages are gilt.

While the pictures in Hannah Rich Peters' album are being presented in alphabetical order, in fact the pages in the book were found in a different order, with Stephen Rich Struthers’ picture first, firmly secured in the book. Several pages were loose and had at some time been fitted into empty spots; husbands and their wives were not necessarily in the same page or facing each other.

 
 
Note: The page numbers here refer to each cardboard frame with the front of the frame containing one picture, the back another. The pictures, then, were arranged this way:
   
page 1: Stephen Struthers | reverse: Stephen Rich #1 page 10: James Mitchell | reverse: Blakely Murvin
Here there appear to be one or possibly two pages missing page 11: Rev. J D Gibson | reverse: Belle Rintoul Davenport
page 2: Jane Oliver Rich | reverse: James Buchan page 12: Unknown #2, a gentleman | reverse: Hannah Clark
page 3: Unknown #1, a woman | reverse: Father Leonard page 13: [a loose page] Thomas Rich | reverse: Jane Southard Pudney
page 4: Mother Leonard | reverse: Son Leonard page 14: [a loose page] Ransom Mitchell | reverse: Mrs. J D Gibson
page 5: [a loose page] Belle Leonard | reverse: Lockie Oliver page 15: [a loose page] Sarah Blakely Mitchell | reverse: David Crofoot
page 6: Mary Rich Struthers | reverse: Maria Oliver Rich page 16: William Blakely | reverse: Moses Tallman
page 7: Jane Rich | reverse: Agnes Struthers page 17: Jerusha Peters Tallman | reverse: Anthony Marvin
page 8: Mary Struthers (Mrs. Robinson) | reverse: Stephen Rich #2 page 18: Gailey McLaury | reverse: Elizabeth M. Blakely
page 9: [loose page that does not seem to belong in available space]
Charlotte Clark | reverse: Samuel Blakely
page 19: Rob Buchan | reverse: Nancy Blakely Bowers
   
 

In spring 2005 this album came into the loving care of Hannah Rich Peters’ and William Blakely Peters’ great granddaughter, Carolyn Flanders McPherson of Michigan. The pictures and text are presented here for the first time.

Afterword: As you read the information accompanying each of these pictures, please remember the following. First, in NY state the word “town” refers to what are called “townships” in most other states. To assist those who reach a page from an outside link and bypass this explanatory page, “township” has been used throughout this text instead of “town.”

Second, there are no guarantees as to the accuracy of the genealogical information presented here, though Patti Davidson-Peters and Carolyn Flanders McPherson have taken the greatest possible care to insure all names, dates, and place names are well-substantiated.

Names, too, present problems. Most of the families represented in Hannah Rich Peters’ photograph album were widely scattered and amazingly fertile. Unlike today, when parents strive for one-of-a-kind names for their children, in the 1700s and 1800s it was common for parents to name their children after themselves, their parents, their cousins, and their distant ancestors. The result is numerous people with the same names and similar birthdates—any genealogist’s nightmare.

 
 
Adding to the difficulty of tracking down particular family members was the frequent practice of burying women under their maiden names - resulting in some puzzling tombstone readings - and the vexing issue of alternate spellings. As William D. Ainey in his book Blakeley Genealogy3 wrote, "Many of the Clerks of parishes and Courts [of New Haven] have spelled this name so badly as to confuse all those bearing the name in their efforts to trace their ancestors back to the Emigrants who came to New England in 1635 to 1647, as they are found in early records of New Haven Colonial towns."

Finally, there are many instances when the people pictured in these photographs vanish from local histories. In large part this is due to the lack of online records in counties other than Delaware County.Delaware County has been blessed with a remarkable number of gifted, hardworking researchers and transcribers, including Joyce Riedinger, who established the Delaware County, NY Genealogy and History Site in 1996. The information appearing on these webpages about Hannah Rich Peters’ photograph album was assembled by Patti Davidson-Peters and Carolyn Flanders McPherson during the winter and spring of 2005 and updated in the spring of 2014. Patti researches, designs and maintains the pages, and Carolyn provides the photographs, additional research and the much of the text. It is their hope that soon other New York and New Jersey counties will be able to weigh in with answers to some of the puzzles presented here.

If you have information about the people featured in Hannah Rich Peters’ photograph album, feel free to contact Carolyn McPherson. She will do her best to respond, but she may not be able to answer your mail or include your information in future versions of this website. For broken links or corrections, please email Patricia Davidson-Peters.

Email Carolyn
Email Patricia Davidson-Peters
 
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Outside Links & Sources
Antiques Roadshow

“Historic Photography: Identification and Preservation” from Ancestry Magazine

 

Updated June 02, 2014
Album photos provided by Carolyn F. McPherson 2005
Web Pages Designed & Maintained by P. Davidson-Peters 2005 All Rights Reserved.

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