Most of the images on this site are from digitized books, thus the quality is underwhelming. Some, though, are much sharper because they are photos from the Library of Congress and other archives that allow public use, or came from print books that someone scanned for use here. Be aware that some of the formal portrait photos may have been given the Photoshopping technique of that era, namely retouching on the glass negative (before printing) by artists. They could to erase wrinkles and freckles, cover exposed skin, hide bad teeth or a goiter neck, straighten a crossed eye or crooked nose, slim a subject, and even open closed eyes. This week's NEHGS member newsletter had a link to an article on mentalfloss.com about these techniques, emphasizing how politically/socially incorrect they would be today. Depending on age and sex, for example, one could have too many or too few facial wrinkles and the "science" of phrenology (the study of a skull's bumps to determine one's character) might call for retouching to make a head rounder or less bony. The source for the article was a 1909 book - part of a 10-book series - downloadable from Internet Archive, J. B. Schriever, ed., The Complete Self-Instructing Library of Practical Photography, Vol. X, Negative Retouching, Etching and Modeling (Scranton: American School of Art and Photography, 1909), digitized by the California Digital Library. The article only touched on a few highlights, but Volume X contains many more examples of impressive changes a skilled artist could accomplish. Social commentary aside, it demonstrates artistic talent being used to alter truth. It is thus a caution about taking the images on this site too literally when using them to ponder what your ancestors really looked like and which side of the family you got your features from.
The author is an Arizona research historian who enjoys the challenge of looking for Mayflower descendants, hers and anyone else's.
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- Fuller, Edward
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