Search This Blog

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Goodson-Bales Family Photo Album


I have worked in the museum's archives for 21 years and am still making discoveries. Of course, there is always something new to be learned, but there are also mysteries that need solving. The mysteries often lie in the fact that when some items were donated, insufficient information was collected from the donor.


One such mystery came to my attention several weeks ago in the shape of a small photo album donated in 1964 by Mrs. Arthur Bales (nee Lucy Jane Crosby) of Zion. Though most of the photos are identified, there is no information in the donor file to ascertain if these individuals lived in Lake County. Much research would need to be done to assess the connection to the county. (The Goodson-Bales photo album appears to have been heavily used by the family as evidenced by the wear on the cover and the effort to mend it with a hand-stitched seam along the spine. LCDM 64.23.8).

Archives volunteer, Al Westerman, took on the task of researching the stories of the individuals in the photo album. Since the donor had long since passed away, census records and genealogy sites would be a great source.

After hours of research, Westerman determined that the Bales family lived in Davis County, Iowa, and only one family member lived in Lake County, the owner of the album, Arthur Bales. Arthur moved to Zion, Illinois, circa 1900, probably to join John Alexander Dowie's Christian Catholic Church.

Being so far away from his family would have made the photo album a precious possession to Arthur. Arthur Bales, photographed as a child, circa 1873. LCDM 64.23.8

Of the twenty-seven photographs in the album, three are unidentified. One of the unidentified images is of a handsome young couple. It is very possible that they are Arthur's parents, Martin and Juliet Bales (nee Goodson).


There are several reasons to think this is a tintype of Martin Bales & Juliet Goodson Bales (circa 1880): 1) The man holds a strong likeness to photos of Andrew and Albert Bales (Martin's brothers), 2) the woman holds a likeness to photos of Polina Goodson Miller, Juliet's sister, and 3) the opening in the album for Martin & Juliet's photo is empty, while this photo was placed in an opening without identification, possibly having been removed for viewing and put back in the wrong page. Sadly, we can never be 100% certain.


Album page for Martin & Juliet's photo. The page is empty though it is apparent that a photo of Arthur Bales' parents was once held within.

In addition to the striking tintype of the couple, the album holds other image treasures.

 Tintype (above) of Martin Bale's older brother, Andrew,
with his woodworking tools, circa 1880. Andrew moved his family
from Davis County, Iowa to Harper, Kansas about 1880.
Carte-de-visite photo of Juliet's sister,
Polina Goodson Miller (1837-1900).
 

This lovely tintype of a young man was simply identified in the album as "Juliet's half brother killed in the Civil War." Without a name it was especially difficult to research him. He is probably Samuel R. Payne, Juliet Goodson Bales' step brother. In 1856, he was a member of the Iowa State Militia. No record of his Civil War service has yet been located.

The open album shows the page at left missing a photo, and at right a photo of
Reverend Jacob Peck Goodson (1822-1895), Juliet Bales' uncle.
Goodson was a minister with the Methodist Episcopal Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
 
As part of the care of materials in the museum's collections, it is important to properly identify and research them. With more information and understanding, items can be more fully utilized in exhibitions and by researchers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very nice and thoughtful examination. Especially appreciate the attention given to the hand-stitched seam and how this kind of specific detail can show the importance of a piece to its original owner(s).