We have some information about the Agnew family in Pennsylvania. We see an older boy with his baby brother. The children are Carson and Mc Agnew. A reader related to the children and interested in geneology has provided some information about the family. He has also provided portraits that we see here of their parents when they were children with the grand parents. Thus we have a range of clothing types and hair styles ranging from the mid- to late-19th century. Here we see Carson and Mc's father and grandfather. Their father was William Chalmers Agnew and the portrait was taken about 1850.
Our reader has forward portraits that he beieves to be the father and grand parents of Carson and Mc. There are two portraits. The two portraits face each other.
The first is a portrait of Mc and
Carson's father as a child, sitting on his father's knee (figure 1). It would therefore date from the early 1850s. The portrait is one of a pair, in wooden frames about 14"x 11". The images themselves are paper, about 8 1/2 x 6 1/2" ovals. One portrait is labeled on the back: David Agnew (1811-1894) ..... William Chalmers Agnew (1849-1923). The pose is clearly that of a Daguerreotype. Given William's age, it was probably taken about 1850. Notice the fabric table cover in the lower right corner. That was characteristic of Dags.
The second portrait is labeled, in the same handwriting: Ellen Carson McNaughton (1825-1881)
..... Mary McNaughton Agnew (1848-1934). In other words, these are supposed to be pictures of the future mother and father of Mc and Carson when they themselves were children. The boy sits on his father's knee and the girl sits on her mother's. Grandmother's outfit abnd hair is consistent we think with the 1850s, but the 60s as well. Given Mary's age in the portrait, it can be fairly accurately dated to about 1850.
These two families lived in two Pennsylvania towns about 10 miles apart (Mercersburg and McConnellsburg). Both families were staunch Presbyterians and storekeepers. So, they might have known each other from an early age.
Our reader writes, "Could some itinerant photographer really have just shown up and taken these pictures, with complementary poses?" If the family were store keepers, we rather suspect that the portrait were taken in town. They look professionally done, probably in a studio. We are not sure abolut the matching poses. This could be just luck, but then again the images could have easily been reversed in the printing process. Then there is the fact that the images are on paper. Albumen paper prints were not made in the 1850s. This did not become common in the United States until the 1860s. So we are guessing that these are copies of Dags or Ambros taken in the 50s and enlsrged so that thy could be hung on the wall. Presumably a grown up Mc or Carson had this done so he could hang up portraits in the wall. Such detailed inscriptions are usually accurate and the hair styles seem appropriate for the early 1850s. Our contributor writes, "I agree with your conclusion that these are copies of Daguerreotypes. Accepting that these were studio portraits, the studio could have been in Mercersburg, or in some town where both families did business --
Chambersburg, Harrisburg or even Philadelphia come to mind. It is still quite a coincidence, but perhaps that is exactly why the pictures were copies and preserved." [Agnew] Here HBC thinks the coincidence id not the poseing, there are substantial differences in the poses. Rather a portrait with one parent and a single child seems a little unusual. At least itc was not a real common choice in the Dags that we have archived.
Agnew, Carson E. E-mail message, July 16-19, 2008.
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[Return to the Main Agnew page]
[Return to the Main ordinary bio A page]
[Return to the Main ordinary 1850s bio chronological page]
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