We Need Your Help to Solve a Mystery 170 Years in the Making

Who is this man?

Who is this man?

Who is this man?

In truth, we don’t know. Neither does the Missouri History Museum, which has this image labeled as “Unidentified Man.” It was apparently taken by Thomas M. Easterly, a Vermont native who took up daguerreotyping. Easterly was an itinerant photographer until he settled in St. Louis in 1848, opening a studio that operated until the late 1870s. At some point, probably about 1850, this gentleman walked into the studio, sat down in front of Easterly’s camera, and had his portrait taken. Unfortunately, his name was not attached to the picture, a not-uncommon occurrence in the Easterly collection at the Missouri Historical Society, which includes 284 other photos of unidentified persons. With Easterly and the unidentified man both long dead, it seems unlikely he will ever regain his identity.

Then again, maybe he will. Does he maybe…look like someone familiar? Maybe like…Robert Campbell? Let’s make it so the images are facing the same direction, put them side-by-side, and see what that looks like.

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Is this Robert Campbell circa 1850?

 

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Robert Campbell, circa 1865

Is this the photo of a 40-year old Robert Campbell? Our staff and volunteers are pretty divided on the issue. For some, the eyes and eyebrows are the clincher, as they seem pretty Robert-like. Or maybe the distinctive spacing and shape of the philtrum. Others of us are less sure. Does the nose seem right? Is the unidentified man’s face too lean? If only Easterly had provided a name!

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The two images overlaid. (courtesy of Joe Kolk)

In this overlaid image all that was done was to flip the mystery image as noted above and then some simple proportional sizing on the Robert image once it was placed over the mystery image to better line them up. Other than those two things there was no manipulation.

This is why we need your help. Who do you think this man is? Is it possible to identify an unknown man’s photo 170 years after it was taken? One thing we want to avoid is wishful thinking. We want your honest opinion. Please use the poll below, the comments section, or take to Facebook and let us know your thoughts.


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Calling all servants…

bells

 

 

If you’ve visited the Campbell House before, or have watched any of Downton Abbey, you know that one of the most important features of a large house with servants are the call bells.

At Campbell House, the original bells still line the top of the kitchen wall, waiting to ring. Eleven of the house’s rooms had a pull on the wall, and each bell made a different noise, allowing servants to go directly to the room required. If you’ve taken a tour, you know all of this. But what you don’t know is what is in the basement.

For the Campbell bell system to work, it needed a long series of cords and pulleys. For instance, a bell pull in parlor would require around 80 to 90 feet of cord to reach the kitchen! And this cord would have to be protected in some way to prevent it from snagging on loose nails or becoming tangled with other cords and wires.

The covered passage on the basement ceiling

The covered box on the basement ceiling, showing part of the cover cut away.

At the Campbell House, the cords were installed on the ceiling of the basement inside a covered box. This covered box still sits on the ceiling of the basement.

Using the covered box created a problem, however. To travel from the wall to the box cords now had to pivot 90 degrees three times: from the parlor wall to the basement ceiling, from that spot to the covered box, and from the covered box up to kitchen wall. To facilitate this process, the workmen installed metal pivots. Two of these pivots are still nailed to the basement ceiling near the front of the house. One of them has two separate pivots, perhaps with one for the front door and the other for the front of the parlor. The Campbells undoubtedly made use of several more of these pivots.

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This system was probably used thousands of times, whether to call for tea in the parlor, to give instructions for dinner, or to inform of the arrival of a guest. Although the cords themselves are long since gone, the remnants of the system are still there, waiting to call the servants into action once more.

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New Campbell Booklet Available!

Campbell FamilyFINAL REVISED-1A new booklet about the Campbell family is now available in the Campbell House gift shop on in our online shop! Written by Maureen O’Conner Kavanaugh, The Campbell Family of St. Louis: Their Public Triumphs and Personal Tragedies tells the story of the Campbell family in a visually exciting way.

The booklet is organized topically, detailing Robert’s rise to prominence, Virginia and Robert’s courtship (see below) and the growth of their family, and the family’s trip to Europe. Also included is a list of the family’s famous friends and guests, a discussion of the servants (both free and enslaved) who were integral to maintaining the Campbell’s lavish lifestyle, and a timeline of the house and family. Every page is lavishly illustrated by photographs and contemporary imagery.

The new booklet is the perfect counterpart to our previously published The Campbell House Museum: A Pictorial Souvenir, which tells the story of the house itself. Be sure to get your copy of The Campbell Family of St. Louis, either in our online store or in person at our gift shop, which is now stocked with new items for the new year!

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