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Dating historic photos Part 2



Dating old photos is a skill. Back in May 2020 I wrote an article about using the existiance of highways (when built) and if they were paved, or not, as a means to date a photograph (https://www.manisteemuseum.org/post/approximation-by-streets-highways) .


Another way to date a photo is to note the fashions people are wearing. Thinks like flounces, hoops, bustles, lace trains, and so on. I’m a male who’s wife says flunks pop culture. So, these things are not helpful. I need something simple and quick. We scanning between 50 to 75 photos a day. Taking a long time to come up with an approximate date for a photo is not realistic.


Former museum director, Steve Harold, had a suggestion. And he adjusted dates to be more applicable to fashions found in Manistee County. His suggestion was to use the placement of women’s hemlines to quickly provide a guess as to the photo’s age:


· Hem of skirt touches the ground: Pre ~1916.

· Hem of skirt shows the ankle: ~1916 to ~1920.

· Knees are showing (flappers): The 1920s.

· Hem is above the knees (mini skirt): ~1960 to ~1970s.


The suggestion has been very helpful, and appears to work well. But like anything, it should not be used alone. It helps to take a look at other things in the photo, such as the year to the automobile, if the highway exists or is paved, the years the photographer was in business or was alive and so on.


These and other hints to date Manistee County photos are available in an essay. It is about 22 pages long. One can obtain a copy from the Museum. Suggestion donation for a copy printed on paper is $5.

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