Fridays Faces From the Past – Summertime Croquet, 1870s style


This tintype photograph was in the possession of Cornelia K. (Horn) Ingram and passed down to her daughter who graciously gave it to my sister-in-law to ensure it stays in the family.

The walnut frame has a gold gilt inner border and is made in the carved criss-cross style that was very popular in the 1870s. The four intersections of the beautiful, antique frame each have 3 hand carved walnut leaves. The back of the frame is wood, which is held in the frame by nails. The glass is original to the frame. This tintype has a chocolate varnish rather than a black varnish, which helps date the photograph as chocolate varnishes were not used prior to 1870. The photographer has hand-tinted the image adding a little rose color to their cheeks. The size of the photograph is about 6″ x 8″. Tintypes usually show a reverse image and this one is no exception. In order to see it correctly we had to flip the scan horizontally. Once we did that the orientation of the picture made more sense.

The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. Published 1868.
The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins.

Careful observation of a higher resolution scan (in the flipped mode) allowed us to read the title of the book being held by one of the women in black. We thought at first it would be a prayer book or bible, but in fact she is reading the very popular (at the time) Wilkie Collins detective novel The Moonstone published 1868. So much for first impressions. She obviously did not want to put the book down while she waited for the photograph to be taken!

Just like folks do now at family gatherings, someone has organized a game so the younger crowd can have some fun while the older folks catch up on family news.  Croquet parties were very popular in America during the 1860s and 1870s. In the photo, several people are posing holding croquet mallets.  One lady (who looks like she is thinking of throwing the ball at the photographer) and a young girl are holding croquet balls although the remainder of the balls have been placed under the wickets.  While the game that afternoon may have been quite fun, the youngsters look completely bored sitting still for the photograph. It has obviously been a long day and some of the ladies appear to have had “quite enough” of this posing. In contrast, several of the younger ladies appear to really enjoy having their photographs taken no matter how long it takes! Everyone of them has such expression in their faces that I find myself staring at them for long periods of time, wondering what they are thinking. 

Everyone is fashionably attired, even the ladies in black, whose dresses appear to be of good quality material, adorned with lace. The younger ladies’ dresses are of lovely flowered or festively striped materials. All of the ladies’ accessories; rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces and flower covered hats are quite stylish. Everyone is decked out.  Even the men are suitably attired for a lovely summer gathering.

Remarkably, only two men and one young boy are in the photograph. It may be that the other men in the family were not able to come along due to work commitments.   The handsome gentleman standing in the back is holding what might be the croquet game score cards.  The lady sitting behind the other gentleman sitting in front has her hand on his shoulder and her finger crooked around his croquet mallet, suggesting they have a close relationship.

While we are by no means 100% certain, we think that this tintype photograph is of the Heal & Barrett families. During the 1870s the families had businesses in and lived in the “Factoryville” (later West New Brighton) area of Staten Island, New York.  We are trying to identify everyone in the photo and also find out exactly whose house this was.

We think one of the ladies is quite possibly Caroline Augusta Hosmer (b. Camden Maine, 1826), wife of Nathan Minot Heal (b. Hope Maine 1824).  The first picture below is a detailed crop of the tintype. The second picture is known to be of Caroline later in her life.  Do you think these photos are of the same woman?

Caroline August (Hosmer) Heal
Caroline Augusta (Hosmer) Heal
Possibly Caroline Augusta (Hosmer) Heal. Circa 1870s.
Possibly Caroline Augusta (Hosmer) Heal. Circa 1870s.

Friday’s Faces From the Past is a blogging prompt suggested by Smadar Belkin Gerson of Past-Present-Future to help identify people in old photographs.  This blogging prompt is featured on one of our favorite genealogy blogs, Geneabloggers, copyright Thomas MacEntee.

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