Sunday, April 6, 2008

This Week's Photo - 7 April

The word for this week is Smile. It started with a scantily dressed smiling baby that Chris Dunham, the Genealogue, wondered, "What would The Photo Detective have to say?"

So I took a look at my own collection to see if I have any smiling babies and found that I have several. The result is this week's Photo Of The Week - Walter Lian - a very happy baby. He isn't 19th Century, but I believe he's just a few years off. His smile is almost a look of surprise and you have to wonder if he has made a noise with the bell in his hand that wasn't expected.

What The Photograph Tells Us:

(1) The card mount measures 6 in. X 8 in and is 1.55mm thick. The photograph measures approximately 4 in. by 5 1/2 in. The edges of the card are beveled, the corners are rounded. The card stock is textured, the original color appears to be a darker brown (matte finish) front, lighter tan back, and a creme colored bevel.

(2) The photographer’s imprint on the front (recto) of the photograph lists the photographer as Holand, Grand Forks, N.D.

(3) Handwritten in ink on the verso is William Lian (under year old). Barely legible at the bottom of the card is Viola Hansen.

(4) Walter is wearing a white eyelet long gown. His hair is bowl cut with no part. The chair he is sitting on is a wicker and bentwood chair in a sled or chaise form. He holds a bell. The background is well done and of a high quality. Care and attention have been taken to the cropping of the photograph and its mounting on the card stock.

Card Analysis:

The card is consistent with mounts of the early to mid-1900s in both size, thickness, texture, bevel, and color.

Photographer and Imprint Analysis:

The card lists the place of business as Grand Forks, N.D., not territory, but the state of North Dakota. North Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889. The oldest the card could be would be the year 1889.

An Albert Holand/Holland is found in Grand Forks, North Dakota, owning his own photographic business in both 1900 and 1910. Holland immigrated from Norway in 1884 and is listed in the 1910 census as 44 years old. I find no Albert Holand and no photographer listed for that section of Grand Forks in 1920.

Conclusion: Holand could have been in business as early as November 1889 (North Dakota statehood - he would have been 18 years old) and as late as December 1919 (1920 census enumerated in January). This is a thirty year span of time and not particularly helpful to dating the photograph.

At this point Grand Forks' directories and newspapers should be researched for further information on Albert Holand.

William Lian Analysis:

Lian is a fairly uncommon surname. There are only 131 Lians listed in total for the 1880 - 1920 census. No Walter Lian is found in the 1900 or 1910 census for Grand Forks or for anywhere in the United States. A Walter K. Lian is found in the 1920 census for Sheridan, Montana. He is the step-son of twenty-eight year old Edward Corey, a coal miner, and Corey's thirty-seven year old wife Laura. According to the census Walter was born in North Dakota and is thirteen years old as of January 17, 1920.

We have absolutely no proof this is the Walter Lian in the photograph. Assuming it is, Walter would have been under a year old in 1907. Birth certificates as well as the Ancestry census for 1900 and 1910 should be explored for further information on Walter.

Clothing and Furniture Analysis:

The long white eyelet gown worn by Walter is consistent with what was called a day gown and was worn by both boys and girls in the early 1900s. His bowl cut hairdo is not significant, as babies' hair was what it was, conforming only to what the child was born with.

Most photographs during this period of history were taken to commemorate one of life's passages or a special occasion. We have nothing here to indicate a passage or a special occasion.

Before the turn of the century, Victorian-style wicker became extremely popular. The Victorian style was highly fanciful with an abundance of curves, curlicues and intricate patterns. However, early in the 20th century, public taste veered toward straighter lines and more simple designs in wicker.

This wicker piece, which looks like a small sled or chaise, is much less ornate than the Victorian style of the turn of the century and is consistent with other furniture pieces I have found dated between 1900 and 1910.

Conclusion: The clothing and furniture are consistent with the period 1900 - 1910.

The photograph in relation to the mount, photographer, clothing, and furniture is consistent with the period of 1900 - 1910. If the Walter Lian of the 1920 census is our pictured baby, then the photograph could be dated 1907.

This is far too much supposition and too little proof, but does show the process of analysis.

Tomorrow in Twice Told Tuesday I will recount the trials and tribulations of photographing children in the late 19th Century.



Darrah, William C.
Cartes de Visite in 19th Century Photography. Gettysburg: Darrah, 1981.
MacPhail, Anna.
The Well Dressed Child. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer, 1999.
McCulloch, Lou W.
Card Photographs, A Guide To Their History and Value. Exton, Pennsylvania: Schiffer 1981.
Mace, O. Henry.
Collector's Guide To Early Photographs.Iola, Wisconsin: Krause, 1999.
Mautz, Carl. Biographies of Western Photographers. Nevada City, California: Carl Mautz Publishing, 1997.
Palmquist, Peter.
Pioneer Photographers Of The Far West A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2000.
Severa, Joan.
Dressed For The Photographer. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1995.


1900 U.S. census, Grand Forks County, North Dakota, population schedule, Grand Forks, p. 169, dwelling 35, family 98, Albert Holland (Head); digital images.
Heritage Quest ( : retrieved 1 April 2008); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 169.

1910 U.S. census, Grand Forks County, North Dakota, population schedule, Grand Forks, p. 183, dwelling 99, family 154, Albert Holland (Head); digital images. Heritage Quest ( : retrieved 3 April 2008); citing NARA microfilm publication
T624, roll 1142.

1920 U.S. census, Sheridan County, Montana, population schedule, Sheridan, p. 140, dwelling 29 , family 29, Edward Corey (Head); digital images. Heritage Quest ( : retrieved 1 April 2008); citing NARA microfilm publication
T625, roll 975.


Lian, Walter. Photograph. ca. 1900 - 1910. Digital image. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Preston, Washington. 2007


Blogger Lidian said...

Oh fM, I enjoy your posts so much - this sort of mystery, plus your great detective work, plus a wonderful photo, equals a treat indeed.

April 7, 2008 at 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Si supieran que en Perú hay un Walter Lian, pero es un mujeriego chino horrible

April 23, 2009 at 7:32 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home