Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Tanner Family Daguerreotype: Woman in Center

And now, after a long break, we're back to the mystery of the Tanner Family Daguerreotype.

If you haven't read the previous chapters, links are at the bottom of this post.

The woman in the middle with the purple shawl (the picture was tinted by hand) is generally thought to be Elizabeth Beswick Tanner.

John Tanner was twice widowed when he asked for Elizabeth Beswick's hand in marriage in 1825. Elizabeth was 21 when she married 47-year-old John. It must have been difficult for her to adjust to life in the Tanner family: John had two sons older than Elizabeth, and one daughter slightly younger, but with the youngest just an infant and five other children in-between, the family needed a mother, and Elizabeth stepped right in to do the job.

Here is the picture from the daguerreotype:

Here is a picture from Elizabeth's later years. The identification looks correct.

Elizabeth's children were born in 1826 (Myron), 1828 (Seth), 1830 (Freeman), 1833 (Joseph), 1835 (Philomelia), 1838 (David Dan), 1840 (Sariah), and 1843 (Francis).

If this picture was taken in 1844, was she in mourning for Francis who died in June of that year? Is she wearing a mourning bonnet? (See links for pictures of 1840s mourning bonnets: here and here.) It looks like she's wearing a black mourning bonnet.

The only people she would wear mourning for were close family members. Since this picture seems to have been taken in the mid-1840s through the early 1850s, she could have worn mourning for the following deaths:
  • Child Francis Tanner, died June 1844 in Iowa.
  • Husband John Tanner, died April 1850 in Utah.
  • Mother Anna Lamb Beswick, died September 1852 in New York. (It probably took Elizabeth a while to hear about her mother's death.)
  • Child Sariah Tanner, died March 1853 in California.
That would place this picture within a year following one of those deaths. Was it taken in Nauvoo by Lucian Foster after Francis died? In Utah by Marsena Cannon, Sr., after John Tanner died? Or in California after Anna Beswick or Sariah Tanner died?

[Note, May 2012: Maria Tanner Lyman is also wearing a bonnet of a similar style but with a ruffle that has been hand-colored purple. She lost a daughter in 1848, her father in 1850, and a member of her husband's family in 1846. Oh! Is it possible that they were wearing mourning for Joseph and Hyrum Smith? The two of them died on June 27, 1844. The fact that the two of them are wearing mourning is inconclusive.]

San Bernardino

In 1851, the Tanners left for San Bernardino, California. They were there until late 1857. A handful of daguerreotypists operated in the area during the existence of the Mormon settlement, including:
  • Carvalho (Solomon) — in Los Angeles for a month (August-September 1854) operating in partnership with A. M. Johnson
  • Da Lee (Amon Gilbert) — rented Hallman's daguerreotype studio in Los Angeles in 1856.
  • Hallman (A.) — had a portrait gallery in Los Angeles from about 1856-1857. He may have remained in the general area, since he was in San Diego in 1858.
  • Hereford (T. S.) — in Los Angeles around 1853.
  • Johnson (A. M.) — operated a daguerreotype gallery in Los Angeles.
  • Lewis (J.) — operated a daguerreotype studio in Los Angeles around 1853.
  • Osburn (William B.) and Searles (Moses) —  had a daguerreotype gallery in Los Angeles in 1851.
  • Penelon (Henri C.) and Davoust (Adrien L.) — operated a photography studio in Los Angeles as early as 1853.
  • Smith (William, later known as Amor De Cosmos) — a partner of Marsena Cannon in Salt Lake before he left for California where he was an itinerant daguerreotypist until he moved to Canada in 1857.
Reading through the possible daguerreotypists, and looking at Myron Tanner's age, it seems most likely that the daguerreotype was taken before the San Bernardino period, but there were a number of daguerreotypists who could have visited San Bernardino and taken a picture, or the Tanners could have traveled to Los Angeles and had their picture taken there.

To be continued...

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: We Meet the Tanners
Part 3: What is a Daguerreotype?
Part 4: Technology Meets the Tanners
Part 5: Woman at Right
Part 6: Woman in Center
Part 7: Boy in Back — First Possibility
Part 7: Boy in Back — Additional Possibilities
Part 8: Man at Left — John Tanner?
Part 8: Man at Left — Options
Part 9: Summary

The picture of the daguerreotype is, as always, from Ancestry.com, courtesy of Claudia Rayl. The picture of Elizabeth Beswick Tanner is from John Tanner and His Family (George Tanner, 1974, 374). The information on the photographers is from the amazing book Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865 (Peter E. Palmquist and Thomas R. Kailbourn, 2000).


  1. Hi Amy - Thanks for the posts on the Tanner family. They are great! I am descended from Seth Tanner through his son Joseph B. Tanner, then Ann Tanner Pomeroy, and then my mother Francene Pomeroy Gooch. I have a blog where I share my research on the Tanners and Foutzes and some of my other lines. Recently I have posted about the early history of those families in Tuba City and I thought you might be interested. The URL is: http://ongrannystrail.wordpress.com/

    I added your blog to my reader and look forward to your future posts. ---Dayna

  2. Wonderful! I see a lot of interest in the Seth Tanner family due to a handful of brief posts I wrote about him, and I'll add your blog to my RSS feed and to the sidebar here.

    Thanks for leaving a note!