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Early Oconto County Photographers
Dating Early Photographs
Using clues from old photographs of Oconto County residents
from the 1840's through 1860's
(more decades to come in future)

 to help date your family pictures
Researched and written by:
an ongoing project with your help

 Clothing for family members was sewn at home or by a local seamstress using patterns picked out and ordered from books. The frugal woman could change the sleeve sizes, neckline, trim, garment fullness, etc, of existing clothing to keep newer garments socially fashionable. These pattern books are used today to help in determining the time that early photographs were taken.

  Daguerreotype, using natural light called "sun printing" on silver washed plates, was first brought to the United States aboard the British Queen through the port of New York from France, and sold the technique through an official agent in 1839. Since the mysterious processes' beautiful, lifelike results were already known in this country, within weeks hundreds of new "photographers" were setting up shop all over the country. Even small towns had their own photographic practitioners within the next 5 years. Photographers were active in Green Bay by the mid 1840's, according to the holdings of the Neville Public Museum there.


Jonathan S. and  Sophia Hale

Lyda Ann Hall

Dr. Jonathan Cory Hall

  Dr. Jonathan Cory and Lyda Ann Hall were residents of Wisconsin by the 1840's using the birth date of their youngest child. They were natives of New York State, born in 1808 and 1809, and very early pioneers to northeastern Wisconsin, which became Oconto County in 1851. Besides being a doctor, Jonathan Hall was a successful lumberman. The family spent the warm months living in the village of Marinette, where they owned a saw mill, and wintered in Green Bay as did many other families.   

  Lyda Ann Holl wears a winter outfit, most likely made of very fine woven wool in a large plaid pattern popular in the second half of the 1840's. The shoulders are gently rounded and sleeves are set in just slightly below the natural shoulder. Front buttons are shiny and probably mother of pearl. The finely embroidered, scalloped white collar, that may have had "open work", is detachable and falls at the natural neckline. Attesting to the family financial success, the generous shawl is of matching quality material to the dress, meaning a sizable amount of material was purchased. The bodice beneath the shawl is tightly fitted and indicates of long boned front to the late 1840's corset. All this is set off by the gently puffed hair, over the top of the ears, on the straight center parted hairstyle. At this time, the long hair would have been braded and curled or twisted into a bun and pinned tightly, fastened very low at the back of the neck. Her pose is comfortable with a slight tilt of the head and the shoulders. This would have had to be held several minutes at least, for the photographic technology of the time.

  Dr. Hall is also the height of fashion with his very new style of separate turned down starched collar, which did not "catch on" rapidly, and traditionalwhite starched bib shirt tucked in under his patterned silk shawl collared vest. His tie is a wide, flat, square silk bow symterically shaped. The sack style coat is fitted and appears to be of woven wool with a moderate width lapel. His hair is worn naturally and ungreased, slightly longer over the ears in the latest fashion. His face is clean shaven as expected of fashionable men for that time.
Ransom Rice

Rice Family Page

   Ransom Freemont Rice was born July 21, 1827 in Vermont;
died January 19, 1878, Abrams, Wisconsin.  About the time this  photograph was taken, Ransom went from his native state of Vermont to Maine where he met his future wife. They came to Oconto County, Wisconsin in 1855.

   Ransom Rice sports very stylish hair for the mid 1840's, which differs greatly from what came in the 1850's. There is a part on each side with the top hair piled high; brushed well back above the forehead. The side hair is combed down just over the top of the ears, with a hint of a small puffed curl at the top of each sideburn. The back of the hair is cropped at the collar. He is clean shaven and well groomed.

   His stiffly starched shirt front is tucked into his wool vest, which has a partial lapel collar and open neckline. The high, stiff collar is circled by a silk, bowed necktie . His vest and woolen jacket have a New England nautical cut, using shiny metal buttons in double breasted arrangements. The jacket lapels are medium wide and the slim sleeves are set in tightly at the gently rounded shoulders. The jacket would have been cut long, probably reaching to the knees, with narrow waist.

   The pose is formal but natural. Ransom Rice's face captures a  serious, thought filled look of the health, courage, interest and determination of youth.
Almira Ketchum Volk

VOLK Family Page 
  Born in 1810, Almira Ketchum had a New York family that could trace one branch of their lineage back to the Puritans arriving on the Mayflower voyage of settlement in North America.  She married John Volk in 1830 in New York City. He was a widower with one small son. In her many married years that followed, she gave birth to a number of children and followed her husband's dream of Nation Expansion from New York, to Illinois, to the rugged frontiers of Wisconsin and Missouri, then back to Wisconsin. Well educated, she taught her children when there were no neighbors, much less schools. In the late 1800's she wrote a biography of her adventures. These included covered wagon journeys; trips through forests so dense that animals could not be brought; Great Lakes boat trips with small children and no amenitiesthat landed on isolated, remote beaches; Indian Wars and the US Civil War. Her life saw her and her children bravely travel alone on foot, with their wagon of possessions and domestic animals, all the way from Missouri to northeastern Wisconsin at a time when local militia and government troops raided, burned and killed travelers they thought suspicious.  She buried her husband and several of her children, passing away at Oconto Falls in 1906, at the age of 95 years, 9 months and 8 days. 

 By 1850 the price of a Daguerreotype, which started out 10 years earlier, had come down considerably from a hefty $5.00 a sitting. An estimated 3 million photographs a year were being taken in this country. Being photographed appealed to all ages and incomes. There was increased pressure on adults to be in fashion for the making of their images. The process did not hold up well after a photograph was exposed to normal conditions of light and humidity for several decades, and few well preserved early example exist today. However, the originals were sometimes taken by descendants to later photographers for copying. These are primarily what are seen today.


Jonathan S. and  Sophia Hale
  In 1850, one year before Oconto County was organized, sawyer Jonathan Hale and his wife, Sophia, lived in town of Pittsfield, Brown County, Wisconsin, having moved from New York State. In 1852 he was the first elected chairman of the Board of Supervisors in Oconto County.

  The way that Mr. Hale has tied his necktie helps date this photograph to the early 1850's, when it became a widely used style to pull out one end resulting in asymmetry. He has a shawl-collored, single breasted vest over a white bib shirt, stiff high collar and fitted trousers. His hair is worn with a fullness over each ear that was the fashion. His jacket is long cut with natural shoulders and sleeve placement , also moderate width knotched lapel, correct for the late 1840's and early 1850's. There is no velvet jacket collar trim that is present later in the decade.

  Mrs. Hale is in a dark colored, expensive, silk, full length gown. In the 1850's the bell of the sleeves had gradually become very wide and fell above the wrist. A wide dark velvet ribbon trim at the upper and lower edge of the sleeves was the height of fashion in the second half of the decade.  The upper arm was closely fitted onto drop shoulders. The bodice is very fitted over a tightly waisted corset with a single set of velvet fabric covered front buttons.  The skirt has cartridge pleats rather than flat pleats at the waist and is over a full hoop, the edge of which can be seen a few inched from the bottom. Her center-parted hair covers her ears and is held in the back by a net. She is wearing very fashonable open lace, beaded "mitts". The fingertips were not covered by these formal, tight fitting gloves. She also has a full sleeved white blouse and a detachable white lace full collar with a center broach.

  Pose of the couple is formal and serious, each maintaining individualism and showing prosperity.

  There were no known photographers in the newly established Oconto County of the 1850's, but the Wisconsin State Historical Society holdings include photographs taken in neighboring Green Bay, Brown County, Wisconsin, dating to the mid 1840's. This photograph could also have been taken in New York.

Lyman and son AbramPlace

Place Family Page

   Lyman Place (left) was born about 1798 in Vermont, and died 9 April 1865 in Canton, Saint Lawrence, New York.

   Son Abram (Abraham) Place was born 20 January 1818 in Chittenden, Vermont, and died 27 November 1892 in what is now Grover, Marinette County (Oconto County until 1880), Wisconsin. In 1837, he came to Green Bay, WI. In the spring of 1838, he moved to Peshtigo, then Brown County, Territory of Wisconsin (statehood 1848). In 1851 Abram was living in the newly organized Oconto County after his marriage that year.

   Dressed in the turn of the decade style this 1850 father and son duo struck a comfortable pose.  Lyman, on the left, is clean shaven in the 1840's fashion, with natural ear length hair. His son Abram, probably on a trip home to New York from his fronteer home in the new state of Wisconsin, wears a short beard and moustach. His hair covers his ears and is long at the back. Both wear what appear to be readymade work shirts of unstarched cotton with attached collars and no neckties. 

    Lyman has more formal
posture and attire, which includes a silk, shawl collar patterned vest and fitted wool jacket that is cut long. Trousers are difficult to see but appear to be made of matching material to the jacket. His hat is called a "wideawake" and is black. This style had a broad, stiff brim, that he has turned up at the sides, and a deep crown that could be shaped at the top to suit the wearer. His shirt is buttoned at the neck and the collar is pressed. His hands are held comfortably together and his head is tilted up toward the camera with a direct look. His posture is upright but not rigid. There is a hint of a smile, projecting contentment and wisdom.

Abram is more casual in posture and style, with his shirt collar unbuttoned and unpressed. He had a plaid patterned fine wool vest and a dark wool long jacket with softly sloping shoulders and naturally set sleeves. His working style trousers are of corsely woven wool blend fabric, untailored fit, rolled at the cuff and look new. His hat is well worn wool felt, with a once flat crown that is now domed from use. The medium width brim is stiff and rolled up at the edges all around. Abram's hands are placed, extended separately, at his waist. He sits back with his chin down and head tilted slightly to one side;  eyes looking up at the camera. He leans comfortably toward his father. His face is serious and unsmiling as if studying what he is looking at. There is a more youthful tension and energy to his pose.

Luhn Couple

Luhn Family Page
Anna Bitters, age 27,  and Gottfried Luhn, age 34, were married in 1854. Anna had been born in Hessian Cassel and Gottfried had been born in Prussia. Since no wedding rings are visible, this may have been their official engagement photograph. Census records show that they were living in Oconto County with two children by 1860 and continued farming there during the births of their next 4 children into the 1870's. All their children were born in Wisconsin. The last 5 were known to be born in town of Oconto. By 1880 they were farming in Pottsdam, Webster County, Nebraska.

Anna Bitter's attire is right in fashion for her age. Her dark, silk covered bonnet is spoon shaped, being higher and wider at the top and closer to the face on the sides.  It is tied beneath the chin in a perfectly pressed wide ribbon bow, slightly to one side. The ends of the ribbon rests well down the front of her bodice and there is a light colored feather trim at the upper brim. There also seems to be a bit of dark, ruffed fabric trim inside the brim of her bonnet, against her hair, which would be consistant with the early 1850's. Her fashionable hair is combed straight with a center part and pulled back over the ears. It would have been worked into a bun or pinned up braid at the base of her neck.  Her neck is encirled by a light collar above the velvet trim on her dark silk dress.  She has the fashion highpoint of the 1850's, with the velvet band  near the edge of her wide uncuffed sleeve. She does not seem to wear a hoop beneather her straight hanging skirt.  Her ample plaid, woolen, fringed shawl is well woven and of high quality and style.

Gottfried Luhn's clothing is new, and is in a fine silk jacket with double breasted, large buttons. The knotched lapels are moderate in the style of the early 1850's and are missing the velvet collar trim of later in the decade. The sleeves show the beginnings of increased width. There is a matching silk vest just visible. The necktie is in a smaller silk bow. His hair is appropriate length with a slight fullness over each ear, side part and combed smoothly to the side. He has a short European style fringe beard that runs from temple to temple at the jawline. His face is otherwise clean shaven. The trousers are of different fabric and color from his jacket and vest, appearing to be a wool blend. They are also showing the beggings of the oversized, loose fit.

Peter Joseph Kurz Sr.
   Taken at the time of his immigration to Green Bay, Wisconsin from Kastellaun, Rhineland, Europe (now part of Germany) in 1854, this copy of an original Daguerreotype was made years later by his wife for their children. He was 34 years old on this photograph.

   Peter Joseph Kurz is wearing a new wool suit, tailored in the very latest fashion of oversized jacket and trousers.
The jacket appears to be cut long. The material is of good quality.  He has the velvet collar and wide lapel. His vest is made of the same material, with a shawl collar, and he has a starched white bib shirt tucked into it. These had one or no buttons in the front and were secured at the back of the neck. The separate, stiff, white, high collar is turned down and he has a small bow tie with one side longer, as style dictates. His watch chain is worn on his vest.  Hair is trimmed in the European style and his face is clean shaven. Peter Joseph Kurz was a college professor in his homeland and this suit reflects the refinement of a working professional. His pose is relaxed, yet alert and thoughtful. He invested in farming in Wisconsin and passed away in 1898; buried in St. Michael Cemetery, town of How, Oconto County, Wisconsin.


Cyrus and Lois Thomas

   Brothers Samuel and Cyrus Thomas families were among the very earliest pioneer commercial fishermen in Oconto County. Northeast Wisconsin was still a dense forest and distant wilderness, before lumberjacks, when these brothers established their homes on the north shore of the Oconto area. Samuel Thomas is found well established in Oconto County on the 1860 census with his wife, children, younger sister and several crew members boarding in the household. White fish, trout and herring were caught, cleaned, salted and packed in wooden barrels (kegs) for shipping to Great  Lakes' markets in the east. There was no market in the 1860's for plentiful perch or sturgeon, which were tossed aside and used later in the year for furtilizer on the fisherman's family farms that helped sustained them.

   Here Cyrus and his future wife, Lois, pose for their engagement photograph. They were married in in the mid 1860's. Cyrus and his brother were born in Pennsylvania, in 1840 and 1838 respectively. Lois was born in Michigan in 1846.

 Lois Thomas is lightly corseted with a very popular Zouave jacket made of dark silk and trimmed with matching braiding at the neck, front and cuffs. The jackets were often cut and sewn from larger outdated skirts for ecomony. She has box pleats to ease the great fullness of the large sleeves into the dropped shoulder and small pleats at the wrist to accommodate the tailored cuff,  which is more like a Garibaldi shirt. These styles became popular in 1858 and were worn well into the early 1860's.  She has a small, separate, straight white collar set in at the throat and held in place by a broach.  Her full, patterned dark silk skirt is pleated simply at the waist and appears to have a moderate hoop beneath. Her hair is center parted, and pulled gently back just above the ears and gathered into a net at the back of the nhead. This is a modest but up tp date and youthful turn of the decade outfit.

Cyrus Thomas features much of that was high style for men in the late 1850's that carried over to the 1860's.  This is seen in the purposeful mix of patterns in vest and trousers, considered "sporty" and appropriate for young adult men.  Oversized checked trousers were made of wool and these appear saved for "dress." The vest could be patterned velvet or a very fine knit and hugs the torso. The jacket has the much seen dark velvet collar but is more tailored in fit than the oversized ones of the previous decade, with a more narrow lapel. This looks like it was a ready made rather than a home made jacket. He wears the moderately high stiff  upright collar and the asymmetric bow tie with one horizontal side. He has the 1860's beginnings of a moustash and beard on what looks like the clean shaven face of the 1850's. His curly hair is naturally worn and full but not long.

Adam Prinz and Mary A. Simons

   Adam Prinz and Mary A. Simon were both born in, what is today, Germany. Mary Simons was the first to immigrate at age 6 in 1846. Adam Prinzimmigrated in 1853. They were married in Wisconsin in 1862. Shortly afterward, Adam served in the Army of the North during the American Civi; War (1861-1865). He was a veteran in the Oconto County GAR (Grand American Republic). The couple farmed in town of How, owned a sawmill and raised a family.

    Mary Simon has a hand made dress of new striped polished cotton or silk. The pattern is right in fashion for the time of their marriage. This may have been an engagement picture, which was the custom of the times. She is softly corsetted. Shoulders of her dress are round and dropped down over the arm where the sleeve is attached with pleats. The sleeve is not as full as the pattern would have called for and the cuff shows little gathering where it attaches. Economy and practicality were no doubt the reasons. Brides often made their dresses to be used at gatherings after the wedding. After being worn it was either recut and sewn, if the fabric was still in good condition, or it was eventually used for everyday wear.  She has the expected stand up collar and the much desired ribbon over the top, held in the front at the neck with a broach or costume pin. There is a skillfully sewn front placket for small buttons. Around her waist is a solid fabric belt tied in back. Her bodice is cut in sections to save on material, with the front sections slightly gathered at the waist. The skirt is fairly full with gathering at the waist and appears to have a modest hoop beneath for bit of fullness. Mary wears her naturally curly hair fashionably parted in the middle and combed back above the ears, caught in a net.

  Adam Prinz is in a new oversized jacket of the times. The sleeves are wide cut and attached at the natural shoulder. It has a fairly wide
knotched lapel and single breasted buttons. A starched white bib shirt is tucked into a shawl collar vest of matching shiny material to the jacket. His dark silk tie is in a bow and worn fashionably asymmetrically with one side down and the other horizontal.. This looks like a ready-made suit rather than a home made one.  Adam's hair is worn full and natural, slighly puffed at the ears, with a side part. The front is bushed away from his foread and the back is cropped at the neckline.

   The pose is formal but comfortable with the photograph and each other. Their hands indicate that each has done considerable work in their young lives.

Mary Dillon

   Mary Dillon was the daughter of Michael and Julia Dillon, farmers in Rockland, Brown County, Wisconsin in 1860, one of 8 children in the household. She was born in Ireland in August 1846.  Parents and the oldest 5 children immigrated to North America in 1847, during the disasterous Irish Potato Famine that lasted many years, which is said to have reduced the population of Ireland by two thirds (One third from death due to disease and starvation and one third from emigration).
 Her uncle Patrick Dillon and his family lived in the farm across the road from them.

  She met her future husband, Michael J. Sutton, after his tour of duty in the Army of the North ended in the American Civil War (1861-1865). They were married in 1865 and this photograph would indicate that it was taken before her marriage since she wears no wedding ring in an enlargement.

  Her style of dress also supports the mid 1860s. This studio portrait shows a dress of silk or silk blend in a dark small patterned plaid. The sleeves are attached at the dropped,
slightly trimmed shoulders. Their fullness is eased in with box pleats at the top and small gathering at the fitted cuff, which has a narrow white ruffle. She has a separate white ruffled lace collar and a neat silk bow at the front of the neck, held with a broach. She is corsetted properly for her dress, with the much desired narrow waist surrounded by a ribbon-style solid color sash belt. The dress bodice has what appear to be fabric covered buttons matching the dress. The skirt is full, with cartridge pleats at the waist and overlays a modest round hoop.  Mary Dillon's hair has the standard center part and is combed back gently above the ears. It is caught in the back by a net trimmed at the top with a ribbon bow, just barely visible. Her pose is serious and formal, but comfortable. She is slightly turned to one side while her head is tilted and facing the camera. Her appearance is attactive, very well done and clothes are skillfully made.

   Mary Dillon Sutton lived in Oconto County in the 1870's and 1800's with her husband, who was a great lakes commercial shipping cook, and their children. Their first two children were born in Brown County, Wisconsin; children Thomas Sutton born 1873, James Edward Sutton born 1874, Henry Sutton, Julia Sutton VanDycke born 1880, Cora Sutton Parmentier born 1882 in Oconto County.

Michael  J. Sutton


  Michael J. Sutton was born in Ireland, May 1844. Family history has his mother dying when he was a baby. Census tells us he immigrated to North America in 1860, when he would have been about 16 years old.  Not long after coming to the United States, Michael joined the Army of the North in the American Civil War (1861-1865). He was later a member of the Oconto County GAR veterans (Grand American Army). 
    Michael Suttons clothing in this photograph would date it to the mid 1860's and probably was taken after his army discharge and before his marriage in 1865, since he wears no wedding band. His long dark coat was made of substantial wool with metal milliary style buttons down the front to just past the waist. His trousers are of similar dark wool fabric and tailored to fit close to the leg. This may be at the time that he was in Navy for a while after the war. Shoes are highly polished, with substantial substance and his pose it that of a man used to standing at attention. His hair has a side part, is medium length, combed back from the forehead and appears weathered. He is clean shaven except for the nicely trimmed moustach, and he has a starched high white collar peeking out at the open neck of the coat.

Antone Conrad

   Antone Conrad was born in Sweden in 1826.  He was one of the first independent commercial fisherman to settle along the Bay shore and was known to be in Oconto County in the 1860's. He lived alone, having never married, in city of Oconto.  For many years his boat was docked along the Oconto River with those of other commercial fisherman, Hans Knutson and John Mosling (a ship builder as well) were his long time contemporaries. A quiet gentleman, he was known by his neighbors as caring and was active in the community. He often served jury duty and considered everyone his family.  According to census in 19 10 at the age of 74 years he was still active in the fishing business.  In the early years, herring, white fish and trout were the preferred catch and were cleaned, salted and packed in wooden barrels called kegs for Great Lakes shipping to major ports "out east."

Oconto County Reporter
 February 18, 1882

  DURING the week, Antone Conrad circulated a subscription paper for aid in behalf of Herman Hinkler, who has been sick several weeks and was in need of help.  Mr. Conrad succeeded in raising $95.50 in cash, and John Sheridan contributed a parlor stove in which the sick man’s family were in need.  Both Mr. Hinkler and Mr. Conrad desire to return their most grateful thanks to each and all who of their means helped a man and family who were in want, and who will always remember and appreciate their kindness.

Antone Conrad has the properlook of a working gentleman. His new wool jacket is slightly oversize, as the fashion called for, with soft sloping shoulders and sleeves attached just below the shoulder line. He has a wide velvet collar on the wide knotched lapels. A stiff white bib shirt is tucked into his dark silk vest with shawl collar. He has a starched, high whitwe turned down collar with a small silk bowtie. Antones hair and beard are nicely trimmed for the times. His curly hair is natural, parted on one side and combed up from his forehead. The sides are cobed down near the top with a puff just aboveveach ear. Sides of his face are clean shaven. Antone's pose is formal, with his head tilted slightly back and he eyes focused beyond the camera, as if deep in thought. His torso is turned slightly to one side with one shoulder lower. This bit of dramatic posing made the photograph more interesting to the eye.

Unknown Oconto Woman

contributed by: Kathryn Berg

     We know, from the back, that she had her lovely portrait done at the M. C.  Beverage Fine Arts Studio in city of Oconto. That studio was known to have opened in 1867.   The fringed stool she leans on while sitting in the floor is seen in other photographs from that studio.

  This young woman's hair style  is the very height of new fashion, which traveled across the country very fast in one year, starting in 1868, as is the design of her clothing, and dates this photograph to the late 1860's. Her hair has been arranged in a new intricate style intended for a young adult woman. It has been center parted and gently pulled back to just behind the tops of the ears. There it is pinned and her long hair is clustered in ringlets down her back. A small braid is along the very top of her head.

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