Photo Dating Help Needed!

Who Is He?

Mystery Man

I would love to have some input from you. This photo was passed down to me from my in-laws, but there are no markings front or back to help identify this young man. I have numerous photos of the Stufflebeans from the 1800’s and this mystery person looks nothing like any of them.

However, he does very much put me in the mind of my husband’s Brasher family, both in the shape of his face and his ears jutting out slightly.

Dating old photos isn’t my strong point, but this type of picture with the embossing around the oval became popular around the time of the Civil War and continued into the 1870’s. The picture is mounted behind this frame and the whole thing only measures 2 inches by 3 inches. Its corners are squared off, not rounded, and it doesn’t appear that the picture has ever been cut to make it smaller.

A reference book that I own on dating 19th century photos states that in the 1870’s, men had less facial hair, shorter sideburns and hair was neater with a side part.

A photo in the book dated 1872 shows a young man with a very similar hairstyle to the young man here, down to the curl or crease or whatever that would be called on the side of his head.  The shirt collar on the example in the book is fairly deep and the man is wearing a bow tie, again similar to my mystery person. The collar style seems to be a change from the Civil War years when it was much thinner.

The young man in my photo looks fairly well-to-do because, to me anyway, that three piece suit looks to be in excellent condition.

My other question is, how old do you think this young man might be? I think he looks quite young – maybe 20ish? Do you think he might be as old as 30? I don’t think he is nearly that old, but again, this isn’t my strong point.

If this young man is a Brasher, then there are only two possible scenarios – Emsley Harrison Brasher, born 1841, or his brother, Joseph Addison Brasher, born in 1842 or one of their half siblings who shared their same father, Hampton, who died in the Civil War. Those half brothers were James T., born 1851, William L., born 1855, Oliver H., born 1857 and John M., born 1859.

I have no information on what happened to any of the half brothers, with the exception of Oliver H., who died in Hopkins County, Texas on Christmas Day 1901. Hopkins county is where Emsley Brasher lived with his family and Pearl Brasher Stufflebean was born there. An additional clue may be that Oliver and his youngest sister lived with Emsley in 1870 and Emsley was a well-to-do businessman, based on his 1882 will. He owned a mercantile store so would have access to new stylish suits of clothes.

If this photo is Oliver Brasher, then he would have been fifteen if this photo dates from 1872. I am leaning towards this conclusion.

Please share your thoughts. Is Oliver Brasher a good guess for this mystery man?

2 thoughts on “Photo Dating Help Needed!”

  1. Men are really difficult to date from photos. I would date this photo in the 1890s-1900s. The center parted, oiled down hair is from the 1890s. The vests in the 1870s had lapels and were cut much lower than this one. The bow tie is from the 1890s. The collar is the most difficult to date–I have seen photos of every imaginable collar from the 1890s, but I haven’t seen this one in any other decade; a high standing fold-down collar with round edges. As far as how old the subject is, I don’t want to venture a guess because I am really bad at determining ages. I would say this subject is younger than 40 and older than 20. Now you are more confused than ever! 🙂

  2. I am terrible at guessing ages, so I won’t, but I enjoyed the story. We all have many of these Un-identified photos. Sad to leave them without a name. I have a beautiful wedding photo that was with my husbands grandmothers photos and no one recognizes them, but I save the photo – in hopes one day I might discover their identity.

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