A Little Help From Our Friends: Can you help us date this photograph?

Walker ladies, Washington County, TennesseeI received this photograph with the request from Janelle for help pinning down the time frame in which it was taken. Can you help? Post your thoughts in the comments section below. Click on the image to enlarge it.

This picture was found in some of my Walker cousin files.  I have looked at several pictures of ladies and reviewed which families had five daughters. They all have familiar faces but what exactly is the time frame? I need all the help I can to figure out which Walker family they are. Washington County, Tennessee is where they lived. This is only one of several photographs I have to solve.

Thanks for any tips,
Janelle Morrow Walker Warden


24 thoughts on “A Little Help From Our Friends: Can you help us date this photograph?

  1. I think the picture was taken around 1900 to 1910 in the Gibson Girl Era because there was a big fashion change during the first world war when skirts got shorter and less full and hats were smaller.

  2. I agree with comment nr. 3. My guess would be a twenty-year period from the latter half of the 1890’s up until World War One. Keep in mind, too, if they lived in a rural area, the latest styles might take longer to become popular (unlike today!).

  3. From the Vintage Fashion Guild: http://www.vintagefashionguild.org/content/view/604/75/ In the early Edwardian period (1901-1907) it was fashionable for a lady’s silhouette to resemble an S-shape. The hat was an essential element. It was worn on top of piled up hair and positioned to cantilever over the face. This curvaceous form was carried through the bodice that was pouched over the waist and ended in a trained skirt.

    Additionally, shirts feature Gibson-girl style elements, including the Edwardian tuck and the dropped shoulder pouf of the blouse.

    There are more great images here: http://www.sensibility.com/vintageimages/1900s/ If we assume these dresses were fashionable but perhaps came a bit later than the styler were debuted in Paris, it would imply that the photo was 1907 at the earliest and possibly as late as 1912 or so; I’d lean toward the earlier.

    So I vote with Jessica and would put this photo at 1908-1912, obviously summer.

  4. There is something unusual about this photograph. The three ladies on the left could possibly be a grandmother, a daughter and a grand daughter. They are looking directly at the camera. The other three don’t have the same intensity as the other three and are looking elsewhere. A speaker at a conference told us that sometimes other people would be inserted at the request of the family. The family would provide the pictures to the photographer and he would double expose them in such a way to make them look together. Perhaps they were living far away or even deceased. If that is the case, the age that they appear in the picture might be chronologically wrong compared to the women on the left.

    I have a similar picture and the inserted people even have the shadow on the wrong sides of their faces as the other people in the picture.

  5. I have done several vintage clothing shows. The dress style is that worn between 1890 and 1910. The hats are from about 1900. Hats got much biger by 1910 as did the sleeves. The skirts began to get tighter and went to a hobble skirt just before the “ladies” gave up the tight corsets and slim waist for the flapper look of the late teens and 1920s. Look at the WWI photos for a look at the late teens. More taylored typical of war times.

    The young girl has a locket and the one woman has a broach watch that would have been popular after 1900. Hair styles got bigger about 1900-1905. Hope this helps some. I would date the picture at very close to the turn of the century 1898-1905.

  6. I agree with the 1910-teens. I have some old photo’s of my Barlow family taken with their new auto. The girls and women were dressed in the same style hats and shirts….high waisted skirts. The hats are what struck me. The hats in this pic and the ones worn by my female ancestors are almost identical.

  7. This picture type looks a lot like the ones I have of my mom’s grandparents that were taken around 1915 to 1918.

  8. Some money was left to my grandma in 1913 and her daughters were given silver fob watches on a chain clipped on the blouse by a silver bowr ather like the one in the photo. I have a gold replica as the silver one could not be found when my mother died, so although I cannot comment on American fashions of the time I think it could be around 1915-18.

  9. I think the picture is around 1890 to 1900, at least the left hand side and the right side may be earlier, also inserted later as a generation picture.

  10. I looked through the 1900/10/20 census records for white WALKER families living in Washington Co., TN and suggest you might research the family of Zachariah Walker. He was living in Civil District 14 in 1900 and as Zach in 1910.
    In 1900 he was a widower with one son and four daughters living at home. Among those daughters was a set of twins. The two young ladies in your photo sitting and facing each other, look very much alike.

    Chet Nichols

  11. I think that this was to be sort of a catalog or advertizment for a person who made hats. Was the word a miliner? The ladies don’t even look related to me

  12. I agree with Barb Roberts #6.
    The photo does not have the composition one ususally sees in a group photo. There is a huge gap where one of the ladies would better be seen, if it were simply a group shot of related women.
    If it were to show/sell the hats, the one on the right disappears into the dress of the one standing behind.
    The sleeves on the dresses seem to be displayed, notice the one standing on the left.
    I have read, but can’t provide the link, that the order of who is standing and who is sitting was important.
    Not much help, but maybe a clue that will lead to more help!
    Fran Bolton

  13. I have read the comments regarding this picture, it does look composed, also the hats look like they were added in later with the possible exception of the child, hers looks like it lays on her head while the others look ‘added on’. The time frame seems to be around late 1890’s to early 1910’s.

  14. Some photographers kept hatsand other items such a coats, muffs, mens coats, etc. to use during the photo session. Some of the hats could be borrowed and or be added later. The hats might not fit well because of that.

  15. Maybe this is stretching things a bit but I think the two who are not looking directly at the camera may be pregnant. From some of the books I have read, ladies at that time period were not supposed to be in public toward the end of their pregnancy. Their dresses look different so maybe that is a hint as to whom they may be. I agree with the time period as I have older family pictures that look similar.

  16. I, too, noticed the unusual composition of the picture. Could one (or both?) of the ladies seated on the right side of picture be in wheelchairs? Some said they did not see a familial resemblance, but I concur with C. Nochols that these two ladies seated facing one another look VERY alike. Comparing the clothes to our family pictures I believe the time frame would be between 1895 and 1905.

  17. The three women on the left look like grandmother[sitting], mother in back standing and grandaughter. The two facing each other on the right look more like another mother and daughter as does the the one standing on the right. The look like they are part of the same family and I agree it is possible that one group may have lived further away, had their picture taken and the photos were put together to make one. The time frame does look to be late 1890 to 1910-1914.


  19. Thanks for all the input. I have seen the daughters of Zachariah Walker in early pictures and thy do not look like these ladies. The mother/grandmother is so familiar looking and I want to say she is a Martin. I hadn’t thought about the two sitting being pregnant and yes they could be. The idea that some had moved away I hadn’t thought of.

    I have many unknown photos on my web site ; so much to figure out. Thank again

  20. Tara Maginnis at [email protected] is a theatrical costumer in San Francisco with a phenominal knowledge of fashion history. I know she’d love to see your beautiful photgraph and could probably supply a ton of information!

    Her “Costumer’s Manifesto” at http://www.costumes.org/ has thousands of well-organized links to good clothing information.

    -another Janelle

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