MOUNT VERNON -- This week we debut a new recurring feature which will occupy us for about a year and a half. Once a month, we will be featuring a pair of vintage cabinet card photographs taken in Knox County which do not have names identifying the people in the pictures.
They were all taken by photographers who at least briefly had studios in Mount Vernon, though some were from long-standing local businesses.
Cabinet cards were a popular format for sharing photos in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Typically, photo paper is glued to a sturdy piece of cardboard that often features the photographer's name or studio. In theory, the subject's name could have been written on the back, but in this collection of cards, no names are present.
This trove of 30-something pictures became available when I crossed paths with Mike Lagunovich of ML Antiques & Vintage of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on a Facebook group about vintage postcards.
I said I was interested in finding ones from Knox County to write about in my column, and Mike said he didn't currently have any postcards, but he did have some cabinet cards. I realized that this could be a fun project, and would return these cards to the community.
Mike agreed to cut me a deal on the cards so I could use them for my column, with the stated intention of identifying the people and getting the cards either to descendents or to local historical societies after History Knox is done with them.
“That is great,” Mike said, “And I agree; I am all about bringing history back to communities.”
We'll start this week with the biggest mysteries of all: two cards that don't actually state the name of the photographer. Both cards are embossed in the lower left corner with the words “art gallery,” which may connect it to the later Star & Crescent Art Gallery, which we'll talk about more in future columns.
But most cards from the S & C have elaborate printing that says so. So the origin of these two cards is uncertain.
Card #1 is a woman in an elaborate hat. The style suggests to me that her photo was probably taken in the 1890 to 1915 range.
Card #2 is a young man in a suit with bow tie and bowler hat. Stylistically, we're looking at the same turn-of-the-century time frame.
These photos are long shots; we can't even necessarily prove they were taken in Mount Vernon, except that they came with other cabinet cards that specifically say, “Mount Vernon, Ohio.”
Please share this column far and wide so we can try to ID these photos. If you have any leads on who these people might be, contact me here at Knox Pages.
I'll report back next month on any progress naming these folks, and bring forth two more cards. The next ones will be from verifiable photography studios in Mount Vernon's history, including one from an early long-standing studio, and one from a short-lived but busy studio from a little later.