Addison and Cynthia with descendants

 

This photograph, from the Tennessee Virtual Archive, is called “Addison and Cynthia with descendants”. The label says, “Addison and Cynthia, former slaves of William Rankin. They are shown with their descendants. Addison has the family bible on his lap. Approximately 1890. Dunlap, TN”

The first thing that jumped out to me was Addison’s eyes. I think Addison may have been blind. His eyes look unusual—maybe he has cataracts? I enlarged it and turned up the contrast to see if I could make out any additional detail. See what you think:

I count nineteen people in this photo—feel free to double-check me. It looks like they had some money. If Cynthia is the woman sitting beside Addison, she looks surprisingly young to me–younger than many other people in the picture–and much younger than Addison.

I love how they are all dressed. The men’s style is pretty uniform but the ladies vary considerably. They all definitely had their own style!

4 Comments

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  1. I think you’re right they must have had money. It was so unusual for people at that time to have these kinds of portraits otherwise. At first I thought Addison might have blinked, but it does seem his eyes are open. Cataracts seem a likely explanation.

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  2. I know the family as my grandmother’s sister married Addison and Cynthia Rankin’s great grandson. My uncle by marriage was the maternal grandson of Thaddeaus seated right holding the hat in his hand who lived to be 104. Cynthia was born 1833 in Sequatchie but her mother was Orlina Anderson born in DC. Cynthia died in 1920 and Addison died (from her obituary) twenty years earlier. He was only five years older than she but was probably broken physically from a life of enslavement. My opinion, not fact. I think they had no money as we think of it today but most families had church clothes. Love seeing the flowers on many lapels. The white looking boy is their grandson and I would venture from a non consensual assault by a white father that was mighty common in these times. I think it was taken about 1876 because Thaddeus married Ellen Hoots that year and she is not in the picture.

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    • I love learning about the background of these old photographs! Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m impressed by how familiar you are with your genealogy—all the way back to 1833!

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