This post is a few days late, because I couldn’t get into the office last week during the spectacular snowstorm we had! If you were affected by it, I hope you were as safe and warm as possible!

I contemplated writing about a lot of different things from the perspective of Black history (books or manuscripts, art, film, music, etc.) but I found more pictures, specifically portraits and knew that I wanted to share them here. We have almost no context for these portraits and again, I wish we did. Sitting for a portrait was quite a treat for most people in the past (and really, it still is today, even though it’s far, far easier to do so); whatever their reasons and paths to these portraits, I’m glad we have them these many years later and I hope you enjoy seeing them as well!


color photograph taken with a cell phone of a black and white mounted photograph of a woman with braided hear wearing a gingham dress

This portrait was taken circa 1865 (!) and is likely the oldest of the pictures I found. I read the description before I found the photo itself and was really excited to see it; seeing the beautiful frame was even more exciting.

black and white photograph of a young woman dressed up, leaning on a table while holding a rolled up newspaper

Isn’t she beautiful?

I love this photograph and I would have loved to have seen it taken. Honestly, she looks bored out of her mind and completely done with whatever was happening at the time. I’m curious how she would feel about taking selfies with a cell phone instead of bothering with a formal portrait.

black and white mounted photograph of a young boy in a suit and bow tie

This little boy is so handsome! I could speculate about this portrait’s creation all day. Seeing it reminds me that I should get my boys dressed up for portraits.


black and white photograph of a woman and five young children all dressed up, roughly ages 10 and under

We need to stop and take an extra moment to admire this portrait and the absolute feat of getting five children dressed up and standing completely still long enough for a clear portrait! Especially children this young! The little girl can’t be more than ten years old, but I bet she helped her momma with her younger siblings. Those boys look like they kept momma busy and the baby’s expression is priceless!  Momma looks tired, but she captured her beautiful family for posterity and I’m so glad she did.

black and white mounted photograph of a man in a white dress suit sitting on a bench

I’m glad that what looks like water damage didn’t ruin this man’s actual portrait, but the frame instead. I’ve stared at this portrait for a while and can’t decide what’s going on with the background. I even googled photo editing techniques from the 1940s, likely when this was taken and the jury is still out. If you want to read for yourself, check out this link and this link and let me know what you think.


black and white photograph of a man in a suit and hatblack and white mounted photograph of a man in a suit and tie black and white mounted photograph of a man in evening wear looking away from the camera Look at these dapper, handsome men! It seems unlikely that they knew each other in real life, but they sure make a fancy trio here. The man on the left looks like he’s ready for big business and the man on the right looks like he could be a preacher or minister or maybe even a really stern school teacher. It would be fun to know if my guesses were close or not. For all of these pictures, I wish we knew more about when they were taken or where so we could find their descendents and learn more about these people…can you tell that I really love genealogy? Stay tuned for Kelsey’s next post later this week!


If you’d like to see the these portraits or one of the many other collections we hold, please contact us at speccoll@utulsa.edu for arrangements. We are currently open only to TU students, faculty, and staff by appointments made at least 24 hours in advance. You are also welcome to browse our Catalog and Digital Collections and request photocopies or digital scans of materials through the same email. Kelsey and I fulfill requests as quickly as possible, but especially large requests or a high volume of requests may take us up to 4-6 weeks. We are happy to help you as best we can and we hope that you stay safe and healthy!

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