A tintype photo of Frank Scott

This post is about a photo I didn’t even know existed until last August, when I found it among some old photographs in my grandmother’s house.  I never saw it displayed when I was growing up (and my grandmother displayed a lot of photos throughout her house), which makes me think she received it rather recently from a relative (presumably Eva Scott) in Minnesota.

An identification as well as the source of the identification are written on the back of the photo: “Frank Scott said Myrtle Soule, April 5, 1953. Died Nov. 1937.”

The photo is a tintype of a young man with short, straight, neatly combed hair. He’s wearing a collared shirt, a horizontally knotted tie, and a narrow sack jacket that is buttoned only at the top. He has a handkerchief in his chest pocket, and his leather belt and metal belt buckle are barely visible toward the bottom of the photo.

Detail of belt buckle

The boy’s eyes appear dark, but on closer inspection, it appears that they are merely reflecting the photographer’s camera and dark floor (see detail of eyes below).

Detail of eyes

This tintype appears to have been lightly hand-colored, with traces of pink still visible on the cheeks, lips, and forehead.

Frank Scott was born on September 24, 1869, to Civil War veteran Horace L. Scott (ca. 1842–1870) and Carolyn A Woodruff (ca. 1848–1898). Frank’s father Horace died when Frank was only 10 months old, so he never knew his father. Ten years later, Frank’s mother Carolyn got married again, to another Civil War veteran, Nathaniel A. Peck (1841–1910).

If I estimate that Frank was about 15 or 16 years old in this photo, then this photo would have been taken around 1885. My initial thought about this estimated date was that this doesn’t sound right. First of all, this is a tintype, a mode of photography popularized in 1856, and which began to be replaced by paper prints in the 1860s. According to Wikipedia, however, tintypes “continued to enjoy significant use throughout the 19th century for inexpensive portraits, particularly by street photographers.” Next, the fashion of his clothes didn’t fit my idea of men’s fashions from the 1880s. After leafing through my copy of Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans & Fashion, 1840–1900, I confirmed that Frank’s dress, while unusual for men of that time, was not unusual for young adolescent boys of the mid-1880s.  In particular, photo C 77.8.6 from the American Museum of Natural History (on page 371 of the book, but copyrighted, alas), taken in May, 1885, pictured a boy of the approximately same age; with the same hairstyle; the same sack jacket style, collar style, and top-button-only buttoning; and the same high-cut trouser waist as Frank is wearing in the photo.

The identification of the subject as Frank Scott was made by Myrtle Soule, Frank’s first cousin. Myrtle was the youngest child of Charles Soule (1845–1910) and Emily C. (Woodruff) Soule (1849–1940), and Emily Woodruff was the sister of Caroline A. (Woodruff) Scott, Frank’s mother. Frank lived from 1869–1937, while Myrtle lived from 1877 to 1959. As Frank’s contemporary and close relative, she would have been well-placed to accurately identify Frank Scott.

I’ve rotated the backside of the photo below, to make reading it a bit easier:


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