Who is this?

Of all the images that we found during our research, this is a favorite. Posed in front of a curtain backdrop, Sally is looking down modestly at a ring on her right hand as a gentleman stands facing her, hands behind back, not touching her and with a look of great affection. On the back was written “Sally Stretch Keen and maybe William Irick?”

Why the question? Sally had two husbands, William Irick from 1863 until he died in 1871 and in 1875 she married William’s half brother, Charles Keen. So who is the gentleman, William or Charles?

The type of printing and the clothing did not clarify matters; both were from the 1860-1870’s period. A photo of William does show he resembles the man in the image. We were unable to find a photo of Charles, however, we did find a copy of his passport. The description also fits this gentleman. Based on their ages and the fact they were closely related, it could be either of them.

Looking at the pose in the photo, we think we may have the answer. We believe this is Charles Keen. And an engagement photo. Notice that Sally is looking serenely at the ring on her right hand. It is a longstanding tradition that widows move the wedding ring from their deceased husband from their left hand to the right. We think her pose appears to be one of modesty and honoring William, her late husband, while Charles looks at her intently, close but not touching, signifying their intent to marry.

Could it be that the image is reversed and she is looking at her left hand? Not likely. Older daguerreotypes created a flipped image, however, this image is printed as a full sized “carte de viste” and would have used a glass plate negative, causing the image to be correct.

We are fortunate to have a few of the letters that Sally saved. One is from Charles and would have been from around the time we are guessing this photograph was taken. It further supports our theory. We will share that next time. Whether this is Willam or Charles, it is abundantly clear that Sally was loved.

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