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Discussion Starter #1
OK, this picture is owned by the Kansas State Historical Society and has been used in several books and by Ken Burns on his series "The West" for PBS.

As a quick background, after the Civil War many freed slaves moved west to homestead free land just like other groups did. Many settled in Kansas early on and somehow got the name "Exodusters."

This picture is said to be of a group of Exodusters sitting on a levee waiting for a steam boat to take the to Kansas.

Well I ain't no graduate of the US Army Corps of Engineers so I ain't the smartest guy about levees, but I really don't think the water is supposed to be on both of a levee. Also on the right hand side of the photo, you can see a fence line and a house in the water. On the left hand side there are trees in the water so this is not the normal channel of the river either.

To the right of the picture there is a large white object laying on a chuck of picket fence, it appears to be a dead body sewn in canvas, a common way of burying people when no regular casket was available.

I think these folks are waiting for a boat, but I don't think Kansas is on their mind right now.

The quality is not as good as many of the photos I have posted, it is from a print rather than a negative and I had to scan it from a book because it don't seem to be on-line yet.

 

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Ewww, a dead body. :-X
Cool pic nonetheless!
 

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What a unusual picture! What do you think they are looking at to the right. A boat could not get across the fence.

Glen, can you give me a link to where you get these pictures. We (our historical society) want to do something with some of our historical pictures.
 

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That really does seem to be mislabeled. I think it's pretty obviously a family finding high ground during a flood. They seem to be trying to dry all their blankets by hanging them out.

I'm not too sure, though, about the dead body. Being in a photograph was still a pretty big deal at that point. Would they really have posed with dead grandpa, or whomever, laying on the side of the levee?

Interesting picture.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
lablover said:
What a unusual picture! What do you think they are looking at to the right. A boat could not get across the fence.

Glen, can you give me a link to where you get these pictures. We (our historical society) want to do something with some of our historical pictures.
www.memory.loc.gov

When you get to the home page click on all collections, there are many there, most of the one I post are from Prarie Settlement and belong to NSHS.

This site is operated by the Library of Congress and is a hosting site for collections.

Security reasons though will not allow a direct link although copying them and giving credit it ok. In fact if you sit on the site to long sometimes you can't go beyond the picture you are on, but have to start over. This happens to me a lot at work, I start to do a search, have 50 or so pictures to look through and I get busy with customers and when I go back I have to redo the search.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Golfgirlrobin said:
That really does seem to be mislabeled. I think it's pretty obviously a family finding high ground during a flood. They seem to be trying to dry all their blankets by hanging them out.

I'm not too sure, though, about the dead body. Being in a photograph was still a pretty big deal at that point. Would they really have posed with dead grandpa, or whomever, laying on the side of the levee?

Interesting picture.
We kicked this one around on a historical board a couple years ago and a friend had a better copy and it was enlarged and enhanced, all but one was sure it was a dead body, the lone other opinion also known as The Lone Gunman and editor of the magazine I write for was sure they were going to Kanas and that was just Grandpa they put in a bag because he didn't want to go, George has a warped sense of humor sometimes. He chose his alias because how many time do you here about a "lone gunman" robbing a bank or Quick Shop. ::)
 

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I'm not too sure, though, about the dead body. Being in a photograph was still a pretty big deal at that point. Would they really have posed with dead grandpa, or whomever, laying on the side of the levee?
It was not unusual for family to take pictures of their dead loved ones in a casket. I have some stereo cards that have been in the family for years that show someone in a casket. To bad there is no one left in our family that know who is in the casket.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Yes and pictures of dead outlaws was also a big deal, one reason for that is it was easier to carry a photo of someone with a reward on their head and bury the body. Also many photgraphers were glad to get up in the wee hours of the morning when a lawman hit town and do this, often for nothing because they could then sell the pictures to the public.
 

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I'm aware of how common photos were of the dead. But this picture seems different in how casual it is. Death photos were generally fairly elaborate with the person decked out in their finest or outlaws who were shown primarily to show the number of gunshots and to prove they were really dead. This photo treats the dead guy as an afterthought. That seems unusual to me for the period.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I went back to the original scan before I sized it and cropped the object out.



The shape sure looks like a body sewn in canvas, but it is face down if it is. If that is correct it does make one wander about the motive of the photographer. One reason besides being pictures from my state that I like the Butcher Photos is he kept some notes and more important he kept the 6X8 glass negatives. These allows one to work with them a lot more than a print. Also many times the print is just a copy of a print and so on and often have been touched up for publishing in books.

BTW keep the ideas coming, one reason I love the Internet, we can ponder these things all over the world.
 

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There seems to be 2 animals (horses?) in the pic (one behind each of the standing women). If they're waiting for a boat, I wonder if the boat could have accommodated the animals.

Interesting picture.
 
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I agree with you Glen. Seem to me to be people seeking high ground during a flood.

The position of the body might lead you to think that it is not a relative - perhaps just a body found floating in the water and wrapped until passed over to authorities, family, etc. That would explain why it appears to be face down. I would expect a family member to be placed on his/her back.
 

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Here is my out take on this Glen. I think these people went through this flood and this is the only high ground they found. The 2 horse were their work horses. If you look at the picture just behind where you "think" there is a dead body it looks like a bed frame. There also looks like a chair. Some blankets spread out to dry. I think the "dead body" it the old tick bedding that went with the bed. They were able to save some pots and pans.

Do you have an actual title to this picture? I could see where this would have been taken after a disaster with the photographer ridding around in a boat. Maybe these people are looking at the steam boat in the distance??

Go back in history and see when there were floods of this size on the Missouri or Platte river.
 

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I don't know, but I find old pictures like this fascinating. It looks like a dead body to me too, face down. Maybe the horses behind them don't belong to the people, but ended up in the same spot because they were also seeking high ground.
 

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I work with historical socities often. They will want to know if something is incorrect. It's their job to portray history correctly. You will have to prove why it's wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
From the look of things in the photo I would guess it is in the deep south rather than around here, the only title I have ever seen for it is "Exodusters Waiting For a Steamboat to Take Them to Kansas." I am going to talk to the Photo Curator for NSHS a friend of sorts next time I see him and point it out to him. I don't think KSHS would like me to walk in and just tell them their photo is misslabled. ;D I scanned it out of the supplement book to Ken Burns series "The West." We found another funny mistake in the book on a Solomon Butcher photo.

(Never think I am making fun of the editing which is a big job and mistakes can be made between here and there in a lot of places. I am working on a book myself right now and lets say mistakes like that terrify me. ;D)
 

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i also enjoy seeing these pictures posted and love hearing about the lives of people way back then. thanks for posting another thought provoking picture.
 
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