An old maid?

In 1885, Miss Farmar (Miss Tarmar?) sat for her portrait with Byrne & Co in Richmond. Virginia immediately comes to mind, but there are towns named Richmond in Virginia, Rhode Island, California, and Kentucky, and of course England. Was she an old maid? A woman would have been addressed as Miss as long as she was not married. If she was widowed she was referred to as Widow Smith or Mrs. Smith until she remarried. Unlike modern conventions, she would never again have been addressed as Miss.

She looks to be 60-70 years old in this photo, just a guess, but she has completely white hair and the look of years on her face. That puts her estimated date of birth around 1815-1825. She is wearing a photo brooch with a military gentleman on it. It’s difficult to ascertain anything more than that. Assuming her beau in the photo was in the military after photography became available, he was photographed after about 1860. Considering that this is probably another photograph from England, and of course Byrne & Co claim to be photographers to Her Majesty, I do wonder what sort of soldier he was, where was he stationed, did he die in action tragically leaving his lady Miss Farmar alone? She would have been possibly in her 40s by that point, but it’s possible. It’s one of the enduring mysteries that a photo album such as this leaves at our feet.

On 5-5-83 this photo was shown to Olivia. Since the photo was taken in 1885, we can easily assume the photo was reviewed by Olivia in 1983. My guess is they didn’t know who the heck was on the brooch and had no way of figuring it out either. It’s a fascinating mystery that leaves me wanting more.


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