By Kay

Recently we received a rather large donation full of wonderful treasures. Let me introduce you to two of these treasures: Elias and Cynthia Goodenow. How do I know these people are Elias and Cynthia? Well, I’ll tell you. Their names are on the back of a photograph. I found myself asking some questions: What kind of photograph was this and just when was it taken? Let’s look at some of the clues in front of us and arrive at some “sort of” answers. Why sort of? While it may be possible to figure out the kind of photograph we are looking at, we probably will never be able to have the exact date – only a close proximity.
Zywock_Tin_001a
Zywock_Tin_001b
Now for the clues. When trying to date photographs you need to look at everything – front and back. We will start with the back. On the back of the images in the upper right hand corner, written lightly in pencil, in squiggly cursive, are the names “Mr. Elias H. Goodenow, Clarendon, Orleans Co. NY” and “Mrs. Cynthia Goodenow, Clarendon, Orleans Co. NY.” But we are not done with the back yet. On the back of Elias’ image there are more clues. We have “At E. Parker’s Gallery Only. Opposite Village Hall, Brockport, NY.” Now, we know who the photographer was (sort of). In the 1863 Rochester City Directory there is a Mrs. E. Parker listed as a photographer at 64 Main, Brockport, NY. But that’s not all that’s on the back. There is also a declaration: “Made with Wing’s Patent Multiplying Camera.” The name Simon Wing is famous in the world of historical photography buffs. Besides being a Socialist, Simon loved to take out patents for cameras, renew those patents and file infringement lawsuits. I found an article online stating June 1862 as a date for his patent on the “multiplying” camera. I was not able to confirm that. What I did find was a request for a patent renewal in 1860 which I believe was responsible for an infringement lawsuit. In 1847, Albert Southworth had patented a multiplying camera for daguerreotype processing. He allowed that patent to expire. Then along came Simon. In 1855 he purchased that patent and refiled on December 4, 1860. Southworth sued, but Wing won. So, at some time after 1860, Wing started selling his Multiplying Camera. This camera could take up to 72 little images on one metal plate – they were called “gem tintypes.” We have a number of dates revolving around this camera, but I’m going to pick the date which has Wing’s name on it – 1860. Remember that just because Wing had a patent for the camera in 1860, doesn’t mean that’s when the photos were taken. What it does mean is that the photos probably cannot be older than 1860. I also found another patent filed by – guess who – Simon Wing in 1863, for a better photographic mounting paper. I believe this is the type of paper used in the Goodenow images. I’m also adding the photographer’s directory date of 1863 to our clues. We now have 1860 and 1863 added to our bucket of clues.
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Now to the front. First of all, the tiny images are “gem tintypes.” It is matted with thin foil and mounted on a CDV (Carte de Visite).  The CDV was at its most popular between 1863 and 1877, although it made its first appearance in 1859. There is a design around the photograph called a “cartouche.” These were popular between 1862 and 1864. These two images are also tinted; the better tinted images were made during the Civil War.  Let’s add another date, 1864.
Tint

Last we will look at the people themselves. The problem here is that we are limited as to what we can see. Cynthia’s hair is so dark in the image it’s hard to tell just what style it is, but she either has a large bun or her hair is contained in a snood. There is also something – a ribbon maybe – circling a portion of her hair. She is wearing a broach which has a touch of gold-leaf added to it, and that makes it hard to tell what the broach is. It’s hard to tell what kind of shoulders or bodice she’s wearing, but I would guess that if we saw the entire dress there would be a big puffy crinoline.  If we could see how full the crinoline was, we could arrive at a more accurate date. Elias has on a wide lapel jacket with a vest. It was hard for me to see if the shirt had a collar and whether he was wearing a tie or a cravat. When I zoomed in, the tie/cravat appears to be tucked into the shirt.  Of course, Elias has facial hair and that had also gained popularity during the Civil War, but then, my husband has facial hair and he wasn’t in the Civil War. Cynthia and Elias also show up in the 1860 census. Their approximate ages at that time were 32 for Elias and 26 for Cynthia. Because I think this photograph was probably taken around the Civil War, I’m adding 1865 and 1866 to the group.

After all of that, we still do not have an exact date, we only have a guess. We know that the multiplying camera was patented in the 1860s, the photographer was in business at least in 1863, we know that Cynthia was 26 in 1860, though she and looks a few years older in this image, and we know that the gem tin-types were popular during the American Civil War. So, here’s my guess – 1863/64/65/66.

You never know just what path research will take you down or what pieces of information you will pick up as you go. I don’t know too much more about Elias and Cynthia. What I do know is that they were captured by a camera for a brief moment in time and I find that fascinating.

And just so you can bore your friends at parties I have included some of the sources I used:
* 1860 and 1880 Federal Census records for New York
* PhotoTree.com
* Photo-Sleuth.com
* Langdon’s List of 19th Century and early 20th Century Photographers
* 1863 and 1864 Rochester New York Directory
* Library of Congress
And I also found the Goodenow Family Association.