The Daguerreotype Image
A painted copy of the Daguerreotype also exists; both the original and the painted copy, along with the other mystery
photos, were found among Bertha Strong Young's belongings when she died. The painted copy is a larger
image of only the face and upper torso, approximately 8" by 10" whereas the original is a little smaller than shown on the
preceding page, and it was framed. The image itself was sketched on a thin sheet of copper and then it was painted.
Thus, it appears as if someone wanted a larger portrait of the subject of the Daguerreotype to hang on the wall. The
layer behind the portrait, seemingly cut to serve as backing of some sort, is the front page of a newspaper
bearing the date September 14, 1891. The name of the newspaper was The Sun. [The newspaper presents yet another
mystery. The motto in the upper right hand corner reads, "If it's in The Sun, it's so." This was the motto of
the New York Sun, made famous by its 1897 editorial, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," which was a reply to a little
girl's letter which started by saying her father told her "if you see it in The Sun, it's so." How is
it that the front page of The Sun, a New York paper, became backing for a portrait in Vernon Co., Missouri? Might
the portrait have been commissioned by a New York artist? That doesn't seem very likely. Was someone
in the family a reader of out-of-town newspapers? If the latter, might that have played a role in Harry E. Strong pursuing
a career in newspaper distribution?] There is then a sheet of wood backing and then the back of the frame is finished
off with paper bearing the logo of Clair Shoe Co., 10 North Main Street, Fort Scott, Kansas. [Does this mean the
framing was done by the Clair Shoe Co., or does it just mean their wrapping paper was used by whomever framed it?] It
should also be noted that this framed portrait was found with a matching frame that contained no portrait.
Hiram Strong, father of Eli and James, who was born about 1809 and died in 1850, would have been in his mid-30's
when Daguerreotypes became popular. Although the image is inscrutable when it comes to the age of the subject, it does
appear to be that of young man, seemingly younger than mid-30's. On the other hand, the style of dress and hair seem
to predate the other mystery photographs by many years, lending a modicum of support to the notion this was Hiram.
Moreover, to my eye the other photos, thought to be of Eli and James, do not look like later photos of the person in
Eli Strong, born 1833, would have been about the right age to be the person in the Daquerreotype if it was taken
in the latter half of the 1850's, when Eli would have been in his mid-20's. The problem is that the different hair style
from presumed photographs of Eli from about 1870 make identification difficult. To my eye, the face of the
person in the Daguerreotype is somewhat fuller than later images of Eli, which is the opposite of what one expect as Eli grew
older. But since Eli died young in 1876, it is possible he was in declining health when the later photographs were taken,
thus explaining his seemingly thinner face. If one focuses just on the eyes, it does seem possible the Daguerreotype
is of Eli.
James, born 1841, seems the least likely choice, for he hardly seems to have been old enough when Daquerreotypes
were popular. He would have only been about 20 years old when other types of imaging began to take over. Moreover,
in the mystery image which is thought to be of Eli and James from about 1870, James on the right looks to be younger
than the man in the Daguerreotype, although that may be the influence of the different hair style. The one piece
of evidence that seems to point to James is the portrait that was framed in 1891. James died at the end of 1890.
It makes sense that his widow might have had the portrait made and framed after his death. Why would she have instead
had a portrait made of Hiram or Eli? It's possible, though, that there were two portraits: one of Hiram or Eli and the
other of James. Remember, there was an empty companion frame found with the portrait that was copied from the Daguerreotype,
which at one time may have contained a portrait of James.
In summary, while a case can be made for all the known candidates for the man in the Daguerreotype, each case has its
own problems. I would like to believe the image is of Hiram, for then I would have an image of my great great grandfather,
but that may be just wishful thinking. Eli is a good choice if you think this image is consistent with his later photographs.
While James at first seems a long shot, the timing of the 1891 portrait copy suggests it may be him.
Eli and James?
While the second mystery photo would appear to be of Eli and James about 1870, I have classified it as a mystery photo
because the only name visible on the back is "J. R. Strong" and there is an "X" beside the man on the left who is clearly
the older of the two. If the "X" was intended to identify J. R. Strong in a photo with Eli, one would have expected
it to be placed next to the younger man on the right. If the man on the left was James, then we have no candidate for
the man on the right. Moreover, that would mean the next photograph was not of Eli and Elizabeth, but of James
and Polly. Although I cannot explain what was intended by the "X," other than to suggest the obliterated text on the
back of the photograph where "man X" is mentioned may have contained Eli's name, I believe this to be a photograph of Eli
on the left and James on the right.
Eli and Elizabeth?
Given the probable identification of Eli as the man on the left in the preceding photograph, it follows naturally this
is a photograph of Eli and Elizabeth. Support is also found in the later photograph of Polly Strong which appears on
the picture page of the family of J. R. Strong. Although it is always difficult to compare photos of a younger person
and an older person, I do not believe these to be the same person.
Having concluded the mystery photo of the couple is of Eli and Elizabeth, there seem to be only four possibilities
for the man on the locket at the collar of her dress: John King, her grandfather; Joseph Stewart Barry, her father; Marcelmus
Barry, her brother; and Eli, her husband. Both John King and Joseph Barry died in the early 1840's, which makes
it unlikely there would even have been photographs of them. Marcelmus Barry died in 1859, so he is a possibility, but
wearing a broach in a c.1870 photograph to honor the memory of a brother who died many years earlier seems unlikely.
That pretty much leaves Eli. To my eye, the faint image on the lockett does favor his likeness.
The Cousins at the Family Picnic
Henry G. Strong was the oldest of the Strong brothers. He and his family were closely associated with his Vernon
County brothers, as evidenced by the 1870 census which shows his family divided between the households of Eli and James.
After living for a while in Henry County, Missouri, he and his family returned to Vernon County and initially lived in Osage
Township. In 1907, they moved to Nevada, the County seat of Vernon, where the picnic was held.
In 1907, Henry's family, excluding those who may have then lived elsewhere, consisted of his wife Nancy, age
66, son James R., age 29, daughter Martha, age 25, and daughter Flora, age 23. Henry was age 78. This family data
appears to be a good match for the family in the photograph, although neither Henry nor Nancy looks to be that old.
Besides neither Henry nor Nancy looking their age, which may be explained away by the poor quality of the enlarged image,
the bigger problem with this identification is the date of the photograph, to wit, 1908. Henry G. Strong died in November,
1907. Was Aunt Bertha's recollection of the year this photograph was taken off by one year?
Another possibiltity is that the older male on the left is really Henry and Nancy's son, James R. Strong, and that
the person on his right is his wife (or perhaps still his mother). The male on the far right could then be Polly's
son, James T. Strong, who is otherwise missing from the family photograph. But, James T. is not mentioned on the back
of the photograph. Moreover, the image in question does not, to me, appear to match known photographs of James
Are there any other prospects for this cousin? Samuel H. Legg, Polly's older half-brother, lived in Sheldon in
Vernon County. He died sometime before 1910. His family in the 1900 census consisted of himself, age 69, and two
sons named John and Edward, who were in their mid-30s. This family profile doesn't fit the photograph.
I lean towards the view this is a photograph of Henry G. Strong and family.