Calling all historical photo enthusiasts

It was the dress that first caught my eye. I had just finished scanning the portrait of the unknown pair and was starting the laborious job of scanning the photograph of Leonard, Sally, Mattie and Grace (laborious because the image is captured on paper so thin, it moves around every time I lower the scanner door), when I noticed two of the dresses were very similar. Thinking this was little more than a clue to time period, it was a another full day before the thought that could possibly solve this mystery came to me. Is the unidentified boy and girl actually my grandma Mattie and an older brother?

Mattie and her family

Mattie Helen CRADDOCK was born 19 June 1903, the 1st or 2nd child of James William Christopher Columbus CRADDOCK and Pandora "Dora" Texas NUNN. Columbus and Dora married on 1 April 1900, and had 5 children in addition to Mattie: Leonard, b. 24 October 1906; Sally, b. 11 December 1910; Grace, b. 3 May 1913; James, b. 18 November 1917; and a child of unknown gender that was born after 1900 and died before the 1910 census enumeration.[1]

Mystery boy and girl

The first thing I noticed about the image of the boy and girl is that it's a real photo postcard. A real photo postcard is a photograph that has been developed "onto photographic paper the size and weight of postcards, with a postcard back," and the design of the corner stamp box tells us this particular paper was manufactured by NOKO beginning in 1907 to sometime in the 1920s.[2] Nevertheless, upon further inspection, I was able to determine this is not the original -- although it's not obvious in the digital scan, when the original photo was duplicated onto the postcard paper, the resulting copy fell 1/8 inch short of filling the paper on both sides, thereby exposing the edges of the original. Of course, a duplicate could have been made at the same time as the original or years later.

I noticed next how young and adorable the children are. The little girl looks about 3 years old, the little boy about 4 or 5, and both are impeccably dressed. I haven't been able to find out much about boys' clothing, but the girl's dress and hairstyle appear to be from the Edwardian era (1901-1910).[3]

But, what I didn't notice until recently was the family resemblance.

Sibling comparisons

Mattie's baby picture (c. 1904) was discovered in Mattie's bible and identified by her daughter Elsie. Assuming this is so, it shows Mattie with much lighter hair than later photos indicate, and it also shows that she and the unknown girl share similar facial features (e.g., shape of face, eyes and lips).

The photo of Leonard, Sally, Mattie and Grace was taken in about 1914. Mattie would have been about 11, Leonard about 7, Sally about 3 and Grace about 1. In the photo, Sally is wearing a dress quite like the one worn by the unknown girl; she and the girl are about the same age too. In a family with a tradition of hand-me-downs, is it possible the girls are wearing the same dress?

Now look at the two boys. Leonard's features are more mature, and his hair and complexion are slightly darker than unknown boy's, but look closely around the eyes and nose. Is it wishful thinking to believe these two boys could be brothers? I don't think so, but I'd like to know what you think.

Could the unknown pair be my grandma Mattie and her big brother? Is there any reason why it couldn't be them? Please share your opinions, gut-feelings, and/or educated guesses in the comments or on your blog. Thank you!

Edited to add Craddock Boys collage, 06 Nov 2007.


[1] 1910 U.S. census, Patrick County, Virginia, population schedule, Dan River, p. 15b, dwelling 258, family 258, digital image, ( : accessed 1 November 2007); citing NARA microfilm T624, roll 1640. The only evidence we have that a 6th child probably existed is the 1910 census in which the number of children reported born to Dora Craddock is 3, and the number of children reported still living is 2.

[2] Ron Playle, "How to Identify Real Photo Postcards," Playle's Auction Mall.

[3] "Online Collections: The Children's Clothing Collection," Wisconsin Historical Society, "Off-white cotton girl's dress, dropped waist with pin tucked bodice, c. 1905."


    Lee, Don't you love mysteries? The photographs are wonderful; having two known photos of your grandmother as a child are treasures I know you hold near and dear.

    The mystery photo, however, I think is not of the same child identified as Mattie in the two known photos. I don't think the dresses worn by the unknown child is the same as the dress worn by Sally. The size of the eyelets in the hem of the dress on unknown are large and pronounced; the eyelets are not seen on the Mattie hand-me-down dress on Sally. Further, the unknown seems to be wearing a drop-waisted dress that has a pleated skirt; Sally's appears to be gathered. Also the number of "points" on the lace/fabric forming the hemline indicates that Sally's dress is probably of a different material.

    Regarding the unidentified boy compared to Leonard --- yes, they do look like kinfolk --- but then the girls in the three pictures look to be related also. But I think there enough differences in facial characteristics and hair between the unknowns and the knowns to rule out sibling relationships.

    Unless I missed the information, you didn't state the most important clue of all --- where you found the picture of the unknown children. If it was tucked inside the Bible of Mattie along with the other two pictures, I'd say you are probably correct. But if the origin of the photos is dis-similar, I'd continue to call those children "unknown." Just my opinion.

    Terry Thornton
    Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi

    Terry, I do love mysteries! And your opinion is valued highly here.

    To answer your very good question, the other 2 photos were passed from my grandmother to her daughter Elsie, and then to me. There is a mixture of photos in the collection, some from my grandmother's family, and, as we recently discovered, some from my grandfather's family. The bible was passed from my grandmother to her daughter Dora (my mom), and then to me. I'm not sure my mom ever knew the baby picture was in it.

    Like you, I noticed the lack of pleats in the dress, but I was hoping it was possible that the pleats were less pronounced due to wear and tear, and the years stored in between. An expert on fabrics I am not, however, so I'm not surprised to see that theory turn to hogwash. LOL... Thank you, Terry!