The following book review was written by Bobbi King:
Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album.
by Maureen A. Taylor.
Published by Picture Perfect Press. 2011. 192 pages
Maureen Taylor began thinking about and imagining clothing styles worn decades ago when she was still just a teenager. She was invited to portray Mary Todd Lincoln in the school play for which she researched and re-created the look of Mrs. Lincoln. This could be called the prelude to a successful calling in photo identification. Examining photographs. exposing their details, and offering us the time periods in which they were created has become an important assistance to us genealogists.
The glossary itself is an education. Nearly all the words and definitions I've never seen before. Going through the new words alone took me back in time and added to my realization how different things were back then. Were the New York Knicks really named for those bouncy loose-fitting pants banded around the knee?
The bibliography with over 80 entries is a rich resource on its own for Civil War history. The researcher who wants to know more about historic photography will be well served with this list. All of her images are sourced in the back with 176 citations. The book is indexed.
But, it's the pictures that are compelling.
The Confederate soldier who holds a white-knuckled grip on a malevolent Bowie held crossed against his chest glares out at us, daring you to utter a single word of dissent or murmur a hint of dispute. He’s clearly keen on separating your head from your insolent body. The face of the colored boy with a grimace poorly disguised as a smile situated below certain unsmiling eyes hints to us the hidden presence of a damaged spirit presenting the sum total of the experience of slavery.
There are so many. Photographs of unidentified soldiers, African-Americans, couples, children with inquisitive faces that dread the answer, women with pursed, stubbornly resolute lips; we yearn to know the stories behind them all.
As expected from the expert, and from someone with previously published excellent books on the topic, Ms. Taylor explains daguerreotype, ambrotypes, tintypes, cartes de visite, photo albums, revenue stamps, and women's, children's, and men's clothing. Her chapter on mourning rituals with the accompanying photographs are deeply affecting.
Ms. Taylor has the uncanny ability to stage photographs that draw us in and offer no escape. Her text never gets in the way of the picture, and rightfully so. The people in the photographs deserve our complete attention.