Before the Civil War, a talented photographer named James Presley Ball, Sr. produced beautiful daguerreotype portraits for hundreds of people — among them Charles Dickens, PT Barnum, Queen Victoria and the family of President Ulysses S Grant.
Yet there were many other men, women and children he photographed — such as those shown below — people whose names we don’t know, but whose images survive to this day. Discovered while browsing the US Library of Congress’ vast collection, these faces all remain unidentified.
What else, besides this mystery, do these pictures have in common? Each of these antique daguerreotype portraits was apparently taken in Cincinnati, Ohio, between 1847 and 1860 (except where noted).
Unidentified young woman, half-length portrait
A woman in a patterned dress, wearing a ribbon choker and large hanging earrings, sits with her left arm resting on a table. Hand-coloring is visible on her cheeks.
Unidentified man and boy
Probably a father and son. Father is wearing a military medal.
Unidentified man, three-quarters length portrait
Standing in front of painted backdrop (photo from between 1858 and 1860)
An unidentified couple, hand-colored
Probably a husband and wife, with the man seated and the woman standing. The man has a Lincoln-style goatee and may be holding a pen. The woman is wearing a chain belt, thick necklace, earrings, a bracelet on her left wrist, and a single brooch on her blouse.