SECRETS OF OLD PHOTOGRAPHS
Somehow it doesn’t seem right to throw away an old photograph—especially if someone went to a studio to have it made and then sent it across country to family members. Tom and I often rummaged through small antique stores in Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas where we would see boxes with stacks of discarded family photographs. Occasionally we bought a few that were particularly interesting. I have many unidentified family pictures that I can’t bear to discard. As they lie quietly on a shelf behind closed cabinet doors, I wonder if they whisper, “I have such an interesting story to tell!”
Today I’m looking at this image of a young man who inscribed his name—T.S.Dodd—on the back of this studio photograph probably sometime in the 1880’s. Andrew Rockstead was an Illinois photographer who had a Mount Carroll studio during the 1880’s.
Dodd sent his photo from Mt. Carroll, Illinois, to relatives in Tennessee—either to his cousin Evalee Ensminger Cate (my maternal grandmother) or perhaps to her mother. My mother only recalled two things about him—he was a first cousin of her mother’s and he once went to the Philippines, which she described as a journey of six months by boat.
The first surprise is that he was in Illinois. We had quite a few family members migrating from East Tennessee to Texas, California and even Kansas before 1900—but I’ve never heard of anyone going to Illinois. Yet T. S. Dodd apparently did.
T. S. Dodd looks quite dapper. Apparently bow ties were introduced in the mid-1880’s and he’s adapted the new style. The pattern on his tie isn’t clear—almost but not quite polka dots. And the top of his jacket seems very high—with a distinctive cross stitch in the buttonholes.
Now about that voyage to the Philippines. The Philippine-American War took place from 1889 to 1902, with about 4,300 American soldiers dying (1,500 from combat, the others from disease). Could T. S. Dodd have had this photograph made before he left for war in the Philippines? Something to remember him by in case he didn’t return? Did he come home? There doesn’t seem to be any other reason a young man from a small town in Illinois would travel to the Philippines at that time.
T. S. Dodd, I like your style! I hope you lived to have many adventures. If you did come home safely from war, I am sure you never forgot your experiences and those months at sea.