Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Tanner Family Daguerreotype: Boy in Back — Additional Possibilities

In this continuation of a long-running series about a daguerreotype now in the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, I continue to look at the identity of the boy standing in the back of the picture. For previous installments of the series, see the links at the bottom of this post.

When I resumed the series this week, I assumed that the boy in the back was correctly identified as Myron Tanner. However, the more I looked into the history of the daguerreotype, the more I realized there were other options.

Before reviewing Elizabeth's other sons, I will review the history of another John Tanner son, who was similar in age to Myron Tanner. He's not in the picture, but it is worth mentioning that he was considered.

Possibility 2: Albert Miles Tanner (1825-1879)

John Tanner's second wife, Lydia Stewart Tanner, died in New York in 1825 after the birth of her twelfth child, Albert Miles Tanner. Several months later, John Tanner married Elizabeth Beswick. She helped take care of his six minor children, and not long afterwards, she gave birth to a son, Myron.

Myron and his slightly older half-brother, Albert Miles, were close in age, and the family history suggests that the two of them did not get along and that the conflicts led to some long-standing family difficulties.

Albert accompanied the family to Kirtland, Missouri, and Iowa. Like Myron, Albert served in the Mormon Battalion (Company E), but unlike Myron, he made it to California. He rejoined the family in Utah and then went with them to California where he helped build the San Bernardino settlement and served as constable for the community.

Albert married Lovina Bickmore. The two had nine children as they moved up and down the Pacific Coast. Albert was said to have served as the first sheriff of Sacramento, California. Albert died in 1879:
... of blood poisoning in his leg after it was amputated... The cause was a stagecoach accident. According to the newspaper account, he had been racing against the postal driver's stagecoach when his coach overturned, pinning his leg underneath. Albert ran the Tanner Express line in Santa Paula, CA at the time. [Source.]
At least one of Albert's children followed the profession so common in the Tanner family: his oldest son was a lawyer in early Southern California.

There is only one known picture of Albert Miles Tanner.

Albert Miles Tanner. From John Tanner and His Family, 283. 

If the picture was taken in 1844, Albert was about the right age to be the boy in the picture, but he does not look like the boy in the picture. The boy in the picture bears a strong resemblance to Elizabeth Beswick Tanner, and since Albert was not Elizabeth's son, we can eliminate him as a real possibility.

Possibility 3: Elizabeth Beswick Tanner's Other Sons

The daguerreotype could have been taken in Great Salt Lake City or San Bernardino. This allows the possibility that one of Elizabeth Beswick Tanner's younger sons is the boy in the picture. The options are:
  • Seth Benjamin Tanner (1828-1918)
  • Freeman Everton Tanner (1830-1918)
  • Joseph Smith Tanner (1833-1910)
  • David Dan Tanner (1838-1918)
The options narrow down very quickly when you look at pictures of the four sons. Two of them had the narrower Tanner face, rather than the more heavy-set Beswick face and distinctive Beswick mouth.

First, here is Seth Tanner. He has the narrower Tanner face. He would have been 16 years old at the first possible date for the daguerreotype.

Next is Freeman Tanner. He also has the narrower Tanner face, and from having looked at many pictures of the Tanner family, I think this is what John Tanner must have looked like. Freeman would have been 14 years old at the first possible daguerreotype date.

The third option is Joseph Smith Tanner. He is the first one of the four to have that distinctive Beswick face that shows up on the boy standing in the back of the daguerreotype. If you are familiar with the T.C. Christensen film about the Tanner family, Treasure in Heaven, Joseph Smith is the only child mentioned by name in the production. Joseph would have been 11 years old at the earliest date for the daguerreotype.

And last is David Dan Tanner. Unfortunately, I cannot find a picture of Dan without a full beard, but in any case he probably would have been too young to be the boy in the daguerreotype, since he would have been six years old at the first possible date, and just twelve at the next possible date. If the daguerreotype was much later than 1853, he would have been a possibility.

To keep the post fairly brief, I will not review any of their biographies, although I may come back and add them later, but logistically they could all have been in any of the right locations for the daguerreotype. After they all arrived in Utah Territory, they seemed to remain more or less in the same area until Myron and Seth left for the gold fields in California sometime after John Tanner died. Myron and Seth didn't seem to spend long at the mines and by 1852 or 1853, most of the family was together in the San Bernardino settlement.

Links to Posts in the Tanner Family Daguerreotype Series

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