You gotta love a librarian! James Jeffrey of the Western History/Genealogy Collection of the Denver Public Library bought a couple of pictures and sent them to me. He also mailed me a page from the 1860 Federal Census of Pennsylvania listing the family. Thank you, James!
On the surface, they are simple carte des visite (CDV) portraits of two brothers in suits with hats in hand. One was taken by Allen and the other by Mortimer.
A.M. Allen of Pottsville, Pennsylvania took Winfield’s portrait. Allen’s studio employed a spindle chair with an upholstered seat as a prop. It would hold their subjects still. You can see the footed brace (visible at their feet). It’s a typical studio set up—chair, patterned flooring and a solid background.
Amos M. Allen worked in Pottsville and Columbia Pennsylvania from 1852 to 1894. Early in his career he won an award for his daguerreotypes. This picture is proof that he’s making CDV’s. Yet in the 1860 census he still calls himself daguerreotypist.
William R. Mortimer had a similar studio arrangement and even the same card stock. He posed Oscar for his picture. Look closely to see the differences: same chair type, but different upholstery. You can see the baseboard in Allen’s studio but not in Mortimer’s picture.
Who Are They?
The names on the back of each identify them as Oscar and Winfield Glassmire (left to right) . In 1860 they were 5 and 8 years old. Oscar has an eye issue.
Their father was a master butcher with real estate and personal estate. He was doing well. He lived on a street with other merchants and one other butcher. His circumstances changed. By 1870 William appears as a Coal Operator, in much better financial resources. Pottsville was a growing town with opportunities for ambitious men.
When looking at pictures, imagine being alive at the time and meeting these two lads. Their lives are in front of them. As genealogists, we can put together their story. We have the skills to discover the details relating to the who, what, and why of their lives. We can discover what happened before and after the photographer snapped the shutter.
Oscar died in 1876 at twenty-one and left all of his belongings to his mother. I’m not sure about Winfield at this point.
The most interesting part of the caption on the back of these photos suggests a reason for them. Both boys were in “Mr. Auman’s class.” Whether this refers to a private school, a public one, or a church school is uncertain.
James bought these images, but as usual the history of ownership and context is missing. Were they once in an album with other students of Mr. Auman’s? Or were they placed in a family photo album alongside other members of the family? We will likely never know. And of course, the biggest mystery is how they ended up in Colorado!
Photo mysteries can lead to other missing pieces of a family history. In this case, a lot about the boys is unknown.
Only one Glasmire family tree exists on Ancestry.com. No members of this family appear on the tree that begins in 1881, a generation later than these boys lived. There are no matches on FamilySearch either.
Some families die out. That may be what happened to the Glasmire Family of Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
I’m hoping the Schuylkill County Historical Society will want these images. I’m also hoping they have information on Mr. Auman and what he taught.
Linda A. Ries and Jay W. Ruby, Directory of Pennsylvania Photographers 1839-1900 (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1999) 3,194.