Masters Family Home
Three Picture Collection
by Margaret Masters Buehrig
Among items passed on by my grandfather,
Isaac B. Masters, son of John S. Masters, are three
photographs each dating from the time of the Civil War. Each Picture is enclosed in a
traditional carved, hinged case. These are about 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches in size. Two
cases are made of wood, the other appears to be a pressed material simulating ebony. The interior
of each case has the usual velvet lining in the left half with the photo in the right. Each
picture is framed by a very narrow, fragile, decorative edging of gold-colored metal placed
around the glass which covers the picture.
Undoubtedly these pictures were taken by one of my grandfather's older brothers, John H. Masters,
the Civil War photographer. John H. Masters came North to Illinois after the war and unwittingly
traded his camera for a stolen horse. He was acquitted of theft but shortly thereafter he
disappeared and no one has ever known his eventual fate.
The picture of
Judith Barbara Riley Masters is an ambrotype -- a picture made on glass. It is an older
method than the tintype. Barbara's
cheeks and hands have been lightly tinted by the photographer. In 1975
when the picture was removed from its frame, we were fascinated to find a message from
John H. Masters:
Quiet obviously a picture of Thomas -- a brother of
John H. -- had originally been in the
case and was now replaced by one of Judith Barbara Masters. The inscription suggests that
John H. Masters may have come north before the war and fought with that side. The notation
on Thomas is correct. Military records exist showing that
Thomas as well as his brother,
Isaac, enlisted on Dec. 21, 1862 in Hamilton's Company of Independent Volunteers,
Shaw's Cavalry Battalion.
The original of the picture above is
tintype, contained in a carved case, size about 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 in. I would feel
certain that John H. Masters would have taken this picture.
I don't know how my grandfather came by the three encased pictures that he had --
Barbara, John S. and the Wedding picture. Did they send them to him? Did he
acquire them when he made a visit in 1877 or did John H. give them to him when
he came north. The picture is a tintype.
That these are newlyweds in almost certain due to the prominently displayed wedding rings which, in the
original photo, are brightly gilded. The picture is a tintype. It is not known who the couple is but since
the photo belonged to Isaac Masters, son of John S., it is possibly one of his brothers or sisters.
The feeling is strengthened by the fact that two locks of hair were found behind the picture -- one red, the other
a very light brown. Barbara Riley Masters is said to have had red hair. There are
numerous heads of red
hair in Illinois unto the fifth generation and I have seen it among relatives in Livingston, Tennessee and in
Nebraska and Indiana.
Since the switchover from ambrotype to tintype started in the mid 1850's the most likely identification might perhaps
be either James B. and
Matilda Masters or Thomas D.
and Mary Ethel Masters. Another possibility is
George and Elizabeth Maxwell
who are not listed in this work. Anyway, the fact of the matter
is we don't know nor perhaps will never know the true identity of
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