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The Mystery of Unidentified Photos at the WVRHC

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
May 20th, 2013

In the decades before digital photography, how many people took the time to write identifying information on the backs of their photographs?  Those photos are then passed down through the generations, sold, or given away, and the pictures’ identification gets lost.  It is not uncommon for photographs donated to archival repositories to be unidentified and undated.  In some cases, insight into the subjects of unidentified photos can be gleaned from styles of dress, props and accessories, or local landmarks.

Many of the photos held by the West Virginia and Regional History Center are available in the digital photograph database called West Virginia History OnView, and some of them lack identifying information.  One such image is photo number 040438, “Group Portrait of West Virginia Statehood Leaders.”

This photo, taken around 1862, is thought to include a few famous men in the history of West Virginia:  (left to right) Arthur Boreman, unidentified seated man, Andrew Wilson, D.D.T. Farnsworth, Henry Dering, and Gibson Cranmer.

Can you identify any of the men in this portrait?  If so, please contact

Blog entry by Jane Metters.

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