Monday, January 3, 2011

Mystery Monday - Help With Afro-American Man Photo

This photo was found among the belongings of my gr-grandfather's sister, Daisy Belle Dyer, b.1869 d.1945. She married 1) Lucas Kerr, and moved to Crosby, Ontario, Canada where Lucas was the town butcher; and 2) Hilliard Thomas, Smith's Falls, Ontario, Canada. Daisy Dyer was born and raised in Madison County, NY and Daisy and the Dyer family lived a short while in Redwood, Jefferson County, NY where they ran a hotel/boading house in the late 1800s/early 1900s.

The Dyers were from an early New England family, arriving in America in the 1600s. Daisy's father had fought in the Civil War for the Union and unsubstantiated family stories say that her father and grandfather had aided in the underground railroad, providing refuge on their farm as a stop on the route to Canada.

Daisy left a trove of many photos behind, many of which are unidentified. But one unidentified photo stands out - the only photograph, much less a studio portrait, of an African American in her collection! Who was this man and his connection to her families? The photo was taken at Sprague Studio in Walton, NY. There are serveral other unidentified photos in her collection that were taken at the same studio, but they are all fair haired and very light skinned Caucasian men and women.

Who is this man? And what was his significance to my family that they would have his photo saved?

Look at this picture please and tell me what you see. Are there any hints or items of interest in the picture that might date it or shed some light in general about this man? I'm open to any and all input and help. This has really piqued my curiousity!



  1. I would check the city cirectories to see when that studio was in business. You should at least be able to pin point a span of time from the first listing in the directory to the last. He's a dapper little fellow isn't he?

  2. Dapper - that's exactly the word I thought of the first time I saw him! I like his straw boater hat that he's holding.

    Goof idea about the city directories, I didn't think of that. Thanks!

  3. Goof = good. Must remember to spell check in 2011.

  4. Is there any possibility that one of the family members worked for Sprague? Perhaps they gave your grandmother this photo because there was a story behind it. He is obviously very short in stature, almost dwarfed. Just a thought.

  5. Don't know if this will help you but Sprague photography was in operation in Walton, NY from 1887-1894. It was owned by Frank Sprague and sold in late 1894 to Harvey Kinch when the name was changed (I believe) to Kinch & Son.

  6. Amy, thanks for that info about photo studio history, that is very useful in narrowing down the time frame.

    Leaves of Heritage Genealogy, I haven't found any evidence that any relatives were employed by Sprague or was involved in any way with the photography business in general