Wednesday, August 10, 2016

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday ~ Is This Eliza May Wells?

I analyzed this daguerreotype yesterday. Today I will share my theory of who I think this may be.

As noted yesterday, there is a photographer's imprint in the lower left-hand side of the case:
A. H. Knapp
123 Wash. St.

There was a daguerreotypist (Sawyer or Knapp or Briggs) at 123 Washington Street in Boston from about 1853 to well past 1860, when I find the following in Boston City Directories at

1853: "Daguerreotype Apparatus: Sawyer, John & Co." [p. 78 (image 82)]
1854: "Daguerreotype Apparatus: Sawyer, John & Co." and "Daguerreotype Miniatures: Ellis, Lemuel" [p. 98 (image 97)]
1855: "Daguerreotype Apparatus: Sawyer, John & Co." and "Daguerreotype Miniatures: A. H. Knapp" [p. 76 (image 88)]
1856: "Daguerreo. Miniatures: Briggs & Knapp" [p. 150 (image 158)]; also "Photographs: Briggs & Knapp (ambrotypes)" [p. 194 (image 206)]
1857: "Daguerreo. Apparatus: Sawyer, John & Co." and "Daguerreo. Miniatures: Briggs, Jesse" [p. 112 (image 134)]; also "Photographs: Briggs, Jesse" [p. 153 (image 175)]
1859: "Daguerreo. Apparatus: Sawyer, John & Co." and "Daguerreo. Miniatures: Briggs, Jesse" [p. 120 (image 119)]
1860: "Daguerreo. Apparatus: Sawyer, John & Co." [p. 141 (image 128)] and "Photographs: J. Briggs" [p. 202 (image 189)]

By 1863, Daguerreotype was not a heading in the business directory; in 1864, there is a long list of "Photographists," and none are at 123 Washington Street.

This greatly narrows down the date of the photograph to 1855-1856, when Knapp is listed in the city directory at 123 Washington Street creating daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. This also agrees with my analysis of the woman's hair and clothing.

To narrow down who might be pictured in this daguerreotype (assuming an ancestor), I filtered my Family Tree Maker database to look for women born between 1830 and 1840 who could have been in Boston in the 1850s for a photograph, and the only logical result is my second great-grandmother, Eliza May Wells (20 Aug 1839 - 18 Sep 1880) who would have been 16 years old in 1855.

I blogged about her at Wordless Wednesday ~ Eliza May Wells and Matrilineal Monday ~ Eliza May Wells (which includes a physical description of her from a passport application).

Here is a scan of a print photograph of what must be a daguerreotype or possibly an ambrotype from about 1857. It is labeled on the back.

Eliza May Greeley
Wife of Samuel S. Greeley
almost 18 yrs. old

What do my readers think - could these photographs be of the same woman? Let me know in the comments.

UPDATE: See the comments from the previous post, as well as below: I now believe this is Anna Bronson Alcott, a second cousin of Eliza May Wells.


  1. It's hard to say, but I think not. The young lady in the top photo seems to have a longer, thinner face. Also, in the second photo, is that a mole on her face or a spot on the photo?

    1. Thanks for your input - I'm now exploring other photos I have from this family. I think that the nose is different. Based on other photos, I think it's a spot on the second photo (unless other photos I have of her were touched up in some way).

  2. I am not so sure either but definitely a relative.

    1. Yes it does look like a relative, but the labeled photo I found of her younger sister (born 1846) shows a woman with a much rounder face; this isn't her younger sister Louisa.

      Thanks for the comment.

  3. If the 1857 print of Eliza May Wells is reliably when she was about 18 years old, then your analysis of the daguerreotype being narrowed to 1855 - 1856 means the young women in the two photos who be of about the same age (18 years) IF they are both of Eliza May Wells. To me there are a couple of indicators to argue they might be the same young woman -- hair style and prominent eyebrows for example. But, the daguerreotype photo seems to show a young woman with slightly fuller lips, and longer, narrower face. The different angles of the photos make nose comparison difficult. However, the one big feature to me is what appears to be a prominent mole immediately to the right of her right nostril. IF these photos are taken of the same young woman within a year or two of one another, then one would expect the mole to be shown clearly in both photos. There are serious similarities between the two women that would argue for some relationship. Did Eliza May perhaps have a sister or first cousin of roughly similar age?

  4. John, thanks for your analysis. I'm not sure if that's a mole on her face in the second photo - I have other photos of her that don't have the mole, making me wonder if it's a mark on the photograph. Her sister is seven years younger and has a rounder face and I haven't found other possible cousins this could be. This may have to remain as a possible image of Eliza May Wells.

  5. Dear Cousin Elizabeth,

    I am close to certain this is Anna Bronson Alcott (married name Pratt). I put my reasoning in the comments to the earlier posting.

    Cousin Suzanne

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  7. Zooming into the picture of Anna, it does look like the woman in this image.

    Anna Alcott (and her well-known sister, Louisa May Alcott) were first cousins of my 2nd great-grandfather, Samuel Sewall Greeley.