Hay view from Castle

Hay view from Castle
Hay-on-Wye, Powys (formerly Breconshire), Wales. The "Town of Books" (and Vaughans!)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Jane Vaughan (Lewis Johns) Photo Authenticated to Virginia City, Nevada

There is this great guy in Hobart, Tasmania who became my friend through blogging. There ought to be a word for that like "Blogo-Amigo" or something except that he is probably a distant cousin anyway through the Welsh connection. He has photographic talents and helped out with a tricky little problem. 

We have our photo of Jane Vaughan Lewis Johns (1827-1890) through miraculous means. From the context, we believed the photograph to be taken in Virginia City, Nevada in the 1860s. It is a carte-de-visite of the period and the style of her dress fits the time.

All we had was her identity as "Jeanette Vaughan Servis Johns" and it took some work through the history of the Johns Family clinched with the 1860 Census for Jacks Valley, Nevada, that this was indeed Jane Vaughan, born 1827 in Hay, Breconshire, daughter of John and Elinor Vaughan, and handcart pioneer of 1856. The original of this photo has been donated to the LDS Church History Library as should all photos of handcart pioneers.
Then the other day, I was doing my usual googling around on the internet and found a couple of photos identified as "Mrs. Blasdel, wife of the first Governor of Nevada" (Sarah Jane Cox Blasdel (1826-1904)). I looked closer and saw what I thought was the same stand or plinth next to the first First Lady of Nevada that is in Jane's picture. Not having the skills to manipulate photos all that well, I sent it off to my friend in Australia hoping he might take an interest and do some manipulation.

Electronic ties that bind struck the right spark and my friend across the world sent me back this beautiful video analysis matching up the feature in the two photos. He, his wife, and I all agree with 99% certainty that it's a match!


Well, that's great! But what does it mean? As a skeptical historian, all we can only conclude is that the two photos were likely taken in the same studio with the same prop in close proximity of time and place. The photo of Mrs. Blasdel has 1867 written on it, some evidence of its date. Carson City was the capital of Nevada where we might conclude the Governor's wife would have her picture taken but the real boom town was up the hills in Virginia. (It wasn't known as Virginia "City" until later).

I only found one reference to a photo studio in Carson City that opened in 1873. It was the Sutterley Brothers who already had a studio in Virginia City and even one in Great Salt Lake City! The only other studios I could find in the 1860s were also in Virginia City, one by Hedger & Noe, the other by someone named E. Hurd. Some entertainment followed as I searched the web for cartes-de-visite from pioneer Nevada with much hilarity and not much help from Pinterest and some really good files from the University of Nevada-Reno. But I could not match anything up with that furniture in the pics with Jane and Sarah.

There was one that popped up from an auction site of a photo collection from Virginia City, Nevada. And there it was!


Sadly, some private collector won the auction an there is no further information about the specific picture. Why can't people put these in museums and archives where they belong?

So what we have is one more piece of a hint that the pictures are from Virginia City. I think it's pretty clear they were all taken with the same prop and most likely in the same studio.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"Yearning to breathe free"

Thomas Vaughan, born 1850 in Llanfoist, Wales, son of John and Maranah Vaughan, arrived in New York City, 1 June 1886. He arrived in Salt Lake City by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad on June 8 and settled in Ogden. His wife, Isabella, and seven children, the youngest, my Great Grandfather, George Robert Vaughn, arrived the next Spring, also thought New York and on the same steamship, the S.S. Arizona of the Guion Line.