Among the interesting things I inherited from my parents is this stereoscopic picture, a picture that presents me with a mystery to solve.
First a little history about stereoscopic pictures: Stereoscopic pictures are any set of photographs that gives the viewer an illusion of depth to the photo by presenting a slightly different image to each eye. According to Wikipedia Charles Wheatstone invented the stereoscope in 1840 and stereoscopic pictures were produced until the 1940’s when motion pictures became popular. I remember having a “View-Master” when I was a girl… it was a gadget into which you inserted a circular cardboard disk with the pictures imbedded around the edge and when you pulled down on the little lever were treated to a 3-D picture of The Grand Canyon (or whatever).
But back to the (possible) Shane picture. The Shane’s youngest child, John, was born in 1878. The youngest boy in the picture looks to be about seven or eight years old (as a guess) which would mean the picture would likely have been taken about 1885-1886 a period when the stereograph images were mounted on cardboard much like a cabinet card. Indeed, my photo is about 3 3/4 x 6 3/4 and mounted on what looks like cabinet card stock. If you look closely at the photo it seems to be a picture of two photos placed side by side and attached to a background by strips of fabric. The actual photo is glued on to the card which is orange on the front with a pink back.
But there are two problems with my theory that this is the Shane family: (1) The Shanes were parents to eight children, four girls, four boys, but the photo includes four boys, and only one girl… where are the other daughters? (2) According to the obituary for Bridget Shane, her husband Robert died in 1884!
So here’s a list what I know and need to do.. assuming that this is, indeed, the Shane family:
1. The picture would have to have been taken prior to Robert Shane’s death, reported to have been in 1884.
2. The picture includes four males and one female (plus the parents) so where are the other three female children?
3. The adult male and the young man behind him to the right of the picture both bear a strong resemblance to my dad, Frank Shane.
4. Robert Shane would have been about 60 years old in 1880… Bridget would have been about 50. The adult male looks more like he could be in his late 40’s or early 50’s.
5. The picture is taken by F.A.Coyle, a photographer in Monticello Iowa where the Shane’s lived.
6. Clothing suggests a time frame of 1880-1885 for this photograph.
7. The picture was handed down from the Shane family so it must have had some significance to them.
Conclusion: Keep an open mind: is this the Shane family or another family entirely?
In order for me to pin down the facts I need to:
1. Confirm Robert Shane’s death date.
2. Look for other photos known to be Shanes that could show facial similarities to this picture.
3. Look for information about where the three Shane girls were during the approximate time frame the photo was taken.
So there you have it… my interesting mystery picture. When (not if) I solve the mystery a second installment will be posted.
Susan J. Edminster, Granite Falls Washington, April 23, 2009, All rights reserved.
Photograph is the sole property of Susan J. Edminster, Granite Falls Washington.