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Photo Friday: Tell Us About This Photo!

Thanks to John and Mary Ebersole for the photograph and the information about it. John grew up in Palmyra, Pennsylvania; he and Mary now live in Akron, PA, and attend the Speedwell Heights Brethren in Christ Church

Jacob and Annie Heisey Book

This photo came into the possession of John and Mary Ebersole as a gift from Wayne and Alma Ebersole (John’s parents). The couple in the portrait is Jacob and Annie Heisey Book, John’s great-great grandparents on his father’s side. Jacob Book lived thirty years, from January 5, 1840 to December 12, 1870; his wife Anna lived seventy-seven years, from April 22, 1843 to April 19, 1920.

Jacob and Annie’s daughter, Mary Book (September 24, 1865-November 12, 1937), married John Funck (March 27, 1868-December 10, 1936). Mary Book Funck was Wayne Ebersole’s grandmother (John’s great-grandmother). Mary’s daughter Anna Book Funck (July 10, 1891-December 1, 1952) was Wayne’s mother, John’s grandmother.

The photo surface appears to be canvas. The woven grain is visible on the reverse side of the photo. The canvas is stretched over a wooden frame. The faces look like photographic images, but the clothing and hands do not look realistic. The hands especially appear to be drawn onto the image. Aspects of the clothing look one-dimensional – for example, the cascading bonnet ties lack shading. Jacob’s vest and lapels appear to have fine highlights added to add dimension.

Whether this was their wedding portrait is not known for sure, but it likely was. The date is probably in the early 1860s. It is large and imposing – 16“ wide by 20” high.

The photograph raises a number of questions:

  1. Given the Brethren in Christ Church’s aversion to images and likenesses, why did this couple engage a photographer to produce such a large image?
  2. Did couples of the period typically sit for special occasion photos (maybe wedding)?
  3. What was the photographic process that produced this image?
  4. The clothing the couple is wearing is clearly not the conservative garb of this period in Brethren in Christ history, but is it typical of clothing trends of the period in popular culture?
  5. When you look at the photo carefully, it almost appears that the faces were photographed through “holes” in a photo backdrop that pictured formal dress (as in an amusement park). What process produced this effect?

We would love to hear from readers who know something about photography of the mid-1860s and could help answer any of these questions or provide any additional information about the photo and the people in it.




2 responses to “Photo Friday: Tell Us About This Photo!

  1. This is a very interesting photo for many reasons. I have also seen several pictures of BinC not dressed plain. Was there a time we weren’t plain?
    This is my wife Leanna Book’s line. They were a prominent family in BinC history.
    If you will follow this line back to Michael Book 1741, the first Book in America.( ) you will see that he is honored for serving in the American Revolutionary War. To add to your questions on the picture. How common was it for Anabaptist Mennonite to serve in the war effort?
    If this is too far from the photo questions, I apologize, just ignore.
    Warren Sherman

  2. Thanks, Warren, for your response, and the link. And your response, while not answering the specific questions about the photo, is interesting for its own sake. By the way, I am also descended from a Book family. My great-grandfather on my mother’s side was Adam Book.

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