Oh, The People We Don’t Know! Part 2
The Hagenbuch Family Archives have a large number of unidentified photos, and many of these could be featured in future articles. Numerous ones are portraits—people with identities lost to time. Some are interesting to research in detail such as the previous photos about the Hotel Haag. Some are just interesting to look at.
Tintypes were most popular during the 1860s and 1870s. Two tintypes found in the Roberta (Hagenbuch) Buck collection display people we don’t know. They could be relatives of that family or they could be photos of non-relatives taken by Henry W. Hagenbuch, who was a photographer in Watsontown, PA during the 1800s. Both of the photos are taken in the same studio since the back drops are identical.
The first shows a man and woman dressed to go on a trip. The lady is carrying a package—white paper tied with string. The man seems to have a newspaper or something scrunched up in his hand. Their clothing is neat, tidy, and looks to be fashionable for the time period.
The second photo shows two ladies playing cards. Like the first photo, it is staged in the photographer’s studio. On the lap of the lady to the left is a newspaper. She has tightly curled ringlets of hair on her forehead and seems to be concentrating on the cards. The lady on the right is mugging for the camera and showing her hand which includes a heart card and a king. The other cards are not discernible.
Both photos remind us that, at this time, folks would go to a photographer to get a picture taken knowing that he was also an artist with backdrops and props. I can hear the photographer tell the first couple, “Let’s make it look like you are going on the train to Williamsport for the day. Here, put these traveling clothes on. Ma’am, hold this package. And, you sir: take this newspaper and crumple it up. Now, a bit of a smile as you want to appear to be happy to leave for a day’s adventure!”
Or, for the two ladies playing cards: “Ladies, we’re going to set up a comical photo for your beaus. Miss: hold these cards and look down at them in deep thought. Let’s put a newspaper on your lap just to add some interest. And, you Miss: look straight into the camera holding the cards up as if to show the viewer that you have a winning hand. A bit of a smile, and don’t move!”
A mystery surrounds another photo in the archives. In about 1968, Homer and Irene (Faus) Hagenbuch, my parents, had attended a school reunion of my mother’s at Delaware Run Lutheran Church near Dewart, PA. This church would later become very important to our family. In 1969 Roy Gutshall, my future father-in-law, was installed as minister. His daughter, Linda, and I were married in that church in 1974.
Anyway, it seems that someone at the reunion had an old photo that was marked on the back in writing: Hiram Hagenbuch. It is stamped W.P. Wheeland, Milton, PA. Since my father’s grandfather was Hiram (whom he never met), my father asked if he could have the photo and it was given to him. I remember my father comparing the small photo to the large portrait of Hiram Hagenbuch that, at that time, hung in the house of Julia, Bruice, and Andrew Hagenbuch. They lived in the William Hagenbuch (b. 1807) homestead near Oak Grove Church. However, the two likenesses of Hiram Hagenbuch did not match the one given to my father at the Delaware Run reunion. So, who is this person?
Several years later, now an adult with means to do better research, I found out about Roberta (Hagenbuch) Buck’s family who were the Hagenbuchs from Montgomery, PA. Her grandfather, like my father’s grandfather, was named Hiram Hagenbuch. My first thought was that the photo from 1968 was Roberta’s grandfather, Hiram. In the collection of photos that Roberta showed me at that time (and eventually came to me) was a photo of her grandfather and grandmother taken about the same time as the mystery photo marked “Hiram Hagenbuch.” They are not the same person. And, this photo was taken by Henry W. Hagenbuch, brother to the Montgomery, PA Hiram Hagenbuch.
The simple explanation would be that someone marked the mystery photo with the wrong name. For sure, the person in the photo is not Hiram Hagenbuch (b. 1847) nor is it Hiram Hagenbuch (b. 1842). Who knows. It might be a Hagenbuch or might not be. My belief is that it is a Hagenbuch male and the photo was taken about 1870 when photographer Wheeland was doing business in Milton.
The mystery may never be solved. However, further research will be done on the Hagenbuch males around the age of the man in the photo who lived in the Milton area during the 1870 period. And, one must remember—all the efforts to research one photo may be wasted on identifying a photo of a man who is not even a relative! In the meantime, we have interesting photos and stories to go along with them.