Will the Real Nancy Catherine Nixon PLEASE STAND UP?

On the wall of my Uncle Jesse’s home, in his living room, over the sofa, was the only piece of artwork I remember from his home. It was a picture, said to be of James Nixon and his bride, Nancy Catherine Nixon. The only picture I have that survives in our immediate family, is a photocopy of a photo taken from the original, below.

A few years after going online with my genealogical search, another descendant of Nancy Catherine Nixon contacted me. She had a picture of James and Nancy Catherine Nixon said to be from their wedding day. She asked if I would like to have a digital copy. “Of course!”, I replied, although I fully expected to receive another copy of the picture above. What I received is the picture, below. As you can see, comparing the two photographs, these are not the same people. Either the couple above are James and Nancy Catherine or the couple below is, but they are not the same couple.

I don’t have the original of either photo. So, I am not able to look at the photos or tell anything about them by physically examining them.  Although  I do know that photo number one, from my uncle’s house was oval and in an ivory frame which was very ornate. I think I remember something else about the photo which hung on the wall, which, if I am not imagining the memory, dates it to a precise time period. I will elaborate about that at the end.

Both photos are said to have been taken on their wedding day. There are some distinct differences which may fix the date and solve the mystery of the identity of the two couples. For one, couple number one is dressed more formally with garments which appear to have been made especially for the event. Secondly, the style of dress of both couples is distinctive and not likely due to regional differences from the same time period. That is, the garments indicate that these photos are most likely from different eras. Perhaps details of their garments can help date the photo.

From the hat, the neckline on the dress, etc, it appears that the clothing in picture number one is more formal. The second couple’s clothing is less formal and looks to have been less costly, perhaps indicating that they had less money than the first as Nancy two’s dress appears to have been taken from her closet, one of her best dresses, rather than a dress made especially for the occasion.

The first photo has been digitally corrected to make it lighter.  It was a very dark photocopy as you can see, above.  Few details can be seen in the original picture. One thing that is apparent, is that the man is wearing a four in hand tie. Once the image was enhanced, the notched lapel on the jacket became apparent. It is outlined in the image to the below.

The first photo, the Uncle Jesse photo, digitally corrected to make it lighter, shows that the man is wearing a tie or cravat knotted at the neck with a notched lapel on the jacket. It is outlined in the image to the left.  The points on the collar of his shirt have a tight spread and line up approximately with the centers of his eyes.
In the second, the man’s lapel is either not notched or is notched in a different location of the previous photo. The lapel is outlined in the photo, left. There is a possibility that a notch is located just above the bottom of the picture. The man is wearing a bow tie and his shirt collar is wider spread, lining up with the sides of his face.

Both men have moustaches. James one’s moustache is smaller.

Picture of the two possible Nancy Catherine Crawfords

Nancy One and Nancy Two

Both women are wearing necklaces, the beads can be seen on both. The second woman’s necklace clearly has a drop or lavaliere and is of a “choker” style as it appears to be tight and sets high on her neck. The first woman’s necklace sits comfortably where her neck meets her shoulders. No clearly visible collar appears on her dress, the photo is not very clear and details of her garment are not very visible. There are some slight differences in intensity which suggest that her neckline of her garment was oval or v-shaped and exposed some skin on her upper chest, or perhaps there is a sheer material, organza, or some other type covering the area. If a sheer fabric were employed, then the cost of the garment increases, organdy, batiste and sheer silk fabrics were costly. Unfortunately, we cannot see the full dress in either picture, to see how the sleeves are made and how the waistline and hip area was shaped, to see if there were a bustle, or some other information which would tell more about the garment to be able to determine a time period with greater accuracy.

Nancy One’s neckline, her new husband’s lapel and her hat, appear to  me to date to the 1840’s. Her neckline appears similar to the style of that in the image to the left, from Wikipedia. Her hair may also be in the ringlet fashions popular at the time. However, she is not wearing the bonnet style of hat popular in that time period. In fact, her hat looks to be like those popular during the 1860’s and 1870’s, which could clearly date the picture to the 1878 date of James and Nancy Catherine’s wedding. The James One’s tie is more of that of the 1870’s. James Two’s tie is more like one from the 1890’s.

Additionally, the wealth and location factors need to be considered. Then as now, those with less means to have the latest fashions or in a location where news of what is current may lag behind for some time are not as current or in style. These people may have been five or even ten years bIsaac Densonehind in updating their apparel which makes dating the picture using the fashions difficult. Compare, for example, the image to the right, said to be of my second great grandfather, Isaac Denson (1793-1875). Isaac wears a cravat at his neck, a style popular in the 1840’s and 1850’s. Was he current in his fashion or lagging behind? To answer that, consider that, according to the 1850 census, the value of his property Isaac was a wealthier man than the Crawford’s and the Nixon’s. In the 1850 census, the value of his property is listed as $1900. The property value of Nancy Catherine Crawford’s father, George Crawford, is listed as $150. James Nixon’s father, John Nixon, had property valued at $320. Isaac Denson was likely to have had the economic means to wear the current fashion. Isaac was a prominent man in his community, therefore, he probably updated his fashion, at least his tie, on a regular basis. In this fashion plate, also from Wikipedia, the men are wearing the same distinctive tie as Isaac. Therefore, this picture of Isaac, can be dated to the 1840’s or a later.

Finally, what about that memory that I have of the Uncle Jesse photo? I remember was that it was not viewable from any angle other than straight on. That is, my mom pointed to the picture when I was on my way through the room, being a child of nine, I was itching to run outside and play with my cousins. She said something like “see that picture, that’s your great grandmother and great grandfather”. I probably shrugged my shoulders, she was thinking that I was indicating I was not so impressed, when, actually, I couldn’t see anything but a dark image, possibly resembling a negative, my memory is sketchier on the photo-negative part. My mother then stood me right in front of the photo in order to see it. If all of that is true, and my memory isn’t being inventive, then this means it was probably a Daguerreotype. Which means it was not of my great-grandparents, but could be of my great great-grandparents, George Crawford and Jane Mangum as Daguerreotypes were only made from 1840 to 1850.

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3 Comments to “Will the Real Nancy Catherine Nixon PLEASE STAND UP?”

  1. A reply:
    It looks very much to me like the same couple. Eyes are the same, ears are the same, eyebrows the same angles.
    Only the dressy one is of their wedding day as they look younger…the simpler one is of them some years later.

    The mans tie in the later simpler one seems a mystery…when was a tie like that in fashion…not until 20th century?..or perhaps went in and out of style? I will say this…perhaps it will help with the mystery.

    There are some very old pictures in out family as well…and frequently the photos were gone over by an artist in some fashion…that is to say they were drawn on after they were taken. Perhaps it was an artistic choice at the time. A baby picture of my mother around 1930 was touched up by pastels or some kind of artist medium…perhaps in that case to add color. But you can tell it is not an entirely literal photo. We can retouch photos digitally now…they did it by hand sometimes. There could be that going on here…the tie perhaps being hand drawn…where someone took a photo or enlarged a one…and then enhanced it…because there was not enough detail when enlarged?

    I’m an artist…and I think they are the same couple.

    We are NJ Nixons…perhaps you can point me to your line.

    M. Nixon Hay

    • Hi Michelle,
      I have yet to write the post about the information I have received from other cousins. Seems that they are indeed a different couple. The similarities you between the two women is explained by the younger woman, the woman in the “Uncle Jesse” photo, being the daughter of the older. I did have the age of the photos backward, the Uncle Jesse photo being the more recent of the two.
      My Nixon’s are from Choctaw, now Webster, county, Mississippi area. John Nixon is the CP, so far, whom I can definitively identify.

  2. The man does look someone different in the later more casual picture…but 20 years of hard work will make a man less baby faced…if he worked hard he would be quite slender in those days. Even if just the ordinary work of a homestead in that time…chopping wood etc.

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