When was my great grand­fa­ther Nathaniel pho­tographed?

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - Q& A -

QCould you give me some idea of when these pho­tos were taken? They are both of the same man – my great grand­fa­ther, Nathaniel Con­way, who was born in 1853 and died in 1923. He spent all his work­ing life with the Lon­don and North West­ern Rail­way Com­pany, mostly as a train guard. Ron­ald Jones

ATh­ese are both pro­fes­sional stu­dio por­traits, but with­out views of the card mounts or pho­tog­ra­pher de­tails to in­ves­ti­gate, we must date them from the vis­ual images – es­sen­tially, from your an­ces­tor’s ap­pear­ance. Nathaniel wears smart fash­ion­able dress in both pho­to­graphs, not his rail­way uni­form, so their con­text seems to be per­sonal, rather than work-re­lated.

In the close-up por­trait, his stylish three­piece lounge suit is typ­i­cal of the 1880s and early 1890s. Key dat­ing de­tails in­clude his jacket and waist­coat but­ton­ing high with small, neat lapels, and a starched winged late-Vic­to­rian col­lar ac­ces­sorised with a for­mal bow tie. He looks sig­nif­i­cantly older, thin­ner and with grey­ing hair, in the three­quar­ter-length pho­to­graph. Here he wears the more re­laxed lounge suit of the early 1900s/ pre-First World War era, with a mod­ern shirt col­lar and knot­ted tie. Unless other plau­si­ble oc­ca­sions oc­cur to you, wider pho­to­graphic ev­i­dence sug­gests that your great grand­fa­ther may have had these pho­to­graphs taken to record mile­stone birthdays.

Jayne Shrimp­ton

1LANDMARK OC­CA­SIONJudg­ing from Nathaniel’s ap­pear­ance and the date range, I would sug­gest that this pho­to­graph may have been taken in 1893 to cel­e­brate his land­mark 40th birthday.2FASHIONABLE AC­CES­SORYIn the 1880s and early 1890s, men’s suits were of­ten edged with silk braid bind­ing, as seen here; a white hand­ker­chief in the top pocket be­came a fash­ion­able ac­ces­sory.3MILESTONE IM­AGEIt is pos­si­ble that your great grand­fa­ther had this pho­to­graph taken in or­der to mark his mile­stone 55th or 60th birthday in 1908 or 1913, or per­haps his re­tire­ment from work.4AMOD­ERN LOOKBy around 1904–1905, this more mod­ern, turned-down shirt col­lar and long knot­ted tie were usual for day­wear, al­though col­lars re­mained heav­ily starched.5EDWARDIAN LAPELSJacket lapels grew pro­gres­sively longer dur­ing the early 1900s, and the shape and size of these lapels sug­gest a date in the mid-to-late Ed­war­dian era.

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