Tag Archives: Daguerre

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.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 11.11.37 PM

Is this Robert Campbell circa 1850?



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!


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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This Week in History: July 6-13

Letter of Virginia Campbell to husband Robert
Mt Carbon July 7, 1856
Dear Husband
I received your telegraph yesterday. Mr Tucker had been so kind as to write a message the day before announcing your  telegraphic message. I was sorry to hear you did not get there on Sunday as you expected you must have been obliged to lie over at some place for some hours.

Our blessed children are well and the baby’s flesh is so firm and he improves every day perceptibly, if you could hear ^him [^]  talking in his way – you would be surprised to hear what a loud  noise he can make and it is to my ear the sweetest music. Hazlett was so pleased with your Daguerre he said “Lady is laughing at  me” Mama talk to Lady” and makes me take it out for him to see,  he seems to take a pleasure in looking at it, as if you were  present.

[Page 2] The tableaux came off very successfully the other day -I never saw any as good Hughy & Tommy had their full share of the  fun I assure – Tommy officiated as “a washerwoman” at a big tub  with cap, petticoats, etc etc – and Hugh was dressed as a “page”  and he gave it as his opinion that he was the prettiest one there the innocence of
childhood! I like to prolong it as long as possible.  You will be surprised to hear that I was at a party last night. We were at  that handsome house on the hill near Pottsville where the  Monument stands. Mrs Banan came and invited the whole Campbell  party as well as some other ladies in the house – we had a very  nice tea, and ice cream etc etc after tea – they had been at the  tableaux here the
evening before – Cousin Mary & I ordered ice cream and cake as  refreshments considering that as our part in the necessary

[Page 3] preperations. I met at Mrs Banan’s at Capt Simmons of  the army and his lady we had a good deal of talk together She  knows
all of our army friends in St Louis, she had a very startling  occurrence to spoil her evening, a young son who has just been a  month at West Point and is about to be physically examined as  to his qualification for that profession had a hemaraghe from the lungs and with the blood coming from mouth and nose came up the  hill on foot to
find his Mother & father who were sitting playing whist Their  pleasure was soon destroyed. I’m told she has lost maybe t??  before in that way as soon as they come to maturity. I  sympathized with her very much. Sister and Betty seem to be very  happy here. I intend to write to Mother very soon. I want Sister  to write her own version of Betty’s love affair

[Page 4] Betty is not forward in her ways at all she seems to  love fun
and dancing and is a very cheerful talkative happy disposition I  think in a month she will not care a ??? for her dandy dancing  ?eau. I have not said a word to her about it, ??? she to me.  Brother Hugh is going down to the city tomorrow – there is some  little business doing and I think he tires of the monotony here – to us it is very pleasant and our sewing and gossip occupies us. dear little Hazlett is company for us all with his sweet tongue  – he is the dearest child ever was – he enjoyed the tableaux very much – but said “I wont keep still” I will talk” when Mr  Whitaker was reciting a long programme he made every
body laugh.

The widow Mrs Bryan with her family

[Page 5, on Page 1] are here – I should rather be at
home – (not sure which sentence is next} They all think the  Daguerre good, but older than you a good deal. I like it pretty  well. I do not think it is a very good one, but the children  think it is just like you, so it is better than none.

Hugh sends his good love he reads a good deal to me I had a very  nice letter from Cousin Missouri saying many kind things of you  your kindnesses to aunt Betsy. {} if l were She -I suppose she  thinks it will do her children good

Dear husband I feel so sorry to think you are out in St Louis  alone -I feel anxious to hear what you do with yourself where you eat and so on Give my love to Mr Branch and Mackenzie & Woods if you see them

Your affect wife
VJ Campbellletter

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