Until last week, I thought I knew what my great-great-grandfather Arthur Webster McMurry (1854–1917) looked like throughout his life. But then Katy McMurry showed me a photo that I could have sworn was of Arthur W. McMurry later in his life, relaxing in a rocking chair.
There was one problem, however—Katy said that this person wasn’t identified as Arthur W. McMurry, but rather was his father. According to Katy, my great-grandfather Frank Ross McMurry (Arthur W. McMurry’s son) identified the photo as being of his grandfather Luke Robinson McMurry (1825–1913), not of his father Arthur. Well, dang.
Below are the photos I have that are almost certainly of Arthur W. McMurry. I don’t have access to any of these at the moment, so I can’t inspect the backsides of the images for additional detail. The first three are scans of color photocopies I made in the early 1990s from originals held by Arthur Edgar McMurry (1915–2001), and the fourth is a scan recently sent to me by Katy McMurry.
The next three images are scans of three prints of two different photos that I thought were of Arthur W. McMurry later in life:
If the inscription on the back of this photo says “Luke McMurry,” and if it’s in Frank Ross McMurry’s hand, I’ll accept it as a definitive identification. Frank was 27 years old when Luke died. Art McMurry, who earlier identified the man in the photo as Arthur Webster McMurry (his grandfather) was just 2 years old when his grandfather died. Art McMurry, who earlier identified the man in the photo above as Arthur Webster McMurry (his grandfather), was just 2 years old when his grandfather died. His identification of the subject of the photo might, therefore, have been based on someone else’s (mis)identification of the individual in the photo.The photo above was handed down from the collection of Frank Ross McMurry. I haven’t personally seen the inscription on the back of this photo, but if says “Luke McMurry,” and if it’s in Frank Ross McMurry’s hand, I’ll accept this as a definitive identification. Frank was 27 years old when Luke (his grandfather) died. He would have known Luke well and it’s hard to imagine he misidentified the grandfather he knew well into adulthood.
Below is the single image I think have of Luke McMurry, although identified only by a non-contemporaneous inscription on the mat inside the daguerreotype case. This seems likely to truly be Luke McMurry, as it’s one of a pair of him and a woman I believe to be Elizabeth Miller McMurry, that I think represent their wedding portraits from 1851, a date consistent with the use of the daguerreotype process (1840s–1850s).
What do you think?
I’ve made a table of the faces of all of the identified photos I have of Arthur Webster McMurry as a boy and a young man and of Luke Robinson McMurry as a young man, as well as the faces of the two uncertain individuals. The four photos in the top row are Arthur McMurry. The photo in the bottom row is Luke McMurry. The two photos in the middle row are variously said to be either Arthur or Luke.
On the basis of the noses of the men below (unknown is similar to Luke and dissimilar to Arthur) and the ears (unknown is not as similar to Arthur’s as I’d expect if these were the same man), I tend to think Katy is right—the unknown older gentle man may well be Luke McMurry.
What do you think—does the face of the older man in the middle row look more like an aged version of Arthur or an aged version of Luke? Please let me know in the comments section below.
I hope to one day be able to meet Katy and Glenn McMurry and see the photos in their collection, and to compare the handwriting of the inscriptions to a known sample of Frank Ross McMurry’s that I have on a piece of his letterhead.
I’d also like to take another look at the photos that Art McMurry once showed me, but the current location(s) of these photos is still uncertain. I hope to have the chance to one day see and work with this important collection of family photos once again.
NOTE: Be sure to read part 2 of this post, in which I figure out which McMurry this mystery man is!
A plea to family members—please let me know if you have any old McMurry photos in your possession. I’d love to see them, and if you’re willing, to come see them in person and take high-resolution images of them. Even if the photos are not identified, they could be of great value as I compare them to the photos in my growing database of old family photos to see who they might be. Please let me know in the comments section below.