Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Victorian-Era Memorial Photography in the Ypsilanti Archives

It was an era without digital cameras, much less cheap snapshots or even Brownies. Death was prevalent. One early 20th-century census had a column in which to record how many children a woman had had and how many were yet living.

Sometimes families memorialized their departed loved ones with an expensive photo with which to remember them, before consigning them to the grave. The Ypsilanti Archives has examples of such photos. Most are of children. One shows the common method of arranging the child on a bed as if he or she were sleeping. Another shows the child surrounded by flowers in its small coffin. An examination of these poignant artifacts will be published in the Ann Arbor Chronicle tomorrow, assuming they run it.

For now, here's the most ambiguous one in the set. Is this an example of a memorial photo? It was labeled "Mrs. Chas. Woodruff and Tully." Note that I have not yet done the tiniest bit of research on these people; that, and the others, are my afternoon project, plus the mindful effort to write them up in a respectful manner.

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