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Tintype: Harley Family and Home

Probably 1885-1890
Origin: America, Michigan, Mason County, Riverton Twnshp
Overall: 7 9/16 x 8 3/8in. (19.2 x 21.3cm)
Hand-tinted tintype copy of a pre-existing tintype
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1985.510.3
A tintype showing a two-story, two-chimney frame house with decorative gingerbread elements, the angle of view from off one corner of the front of the house. On the front porch, which extends the width of the house, an older couple sit in rocking chairs and, between them, on a side chair, a younger man holds a bow to a fiddle. At the near corner of the house, on the ground, stand a younger man and woman. A small side porch is attached to the house at the right, and a pile of rocks appears in front of the house, close to the corner from which the house is viewed. A bird cage hangs from the porch roof.

Photographer unidentified.
Label:This photographic image was acquired in 1957 along with three oil paintings by Steve Harley (1863-1947) and an important cache of documentary materials and other photographs related to the artist's life. In 2002, identification of the house in this tintype was confirmed by discovery of a mutilated photograph of the same structure in the collection of a woman who had personally known the artist, Arlene Tonn Quick; Quick subsequently donated her image to AARFAM (see acc. no. 2005.510.1).
The Harley home shown here burned to the ground on April 10, 1927. Also see acc. no. 2005.510. 2, a photo taken on the grounds of the house the day of the fire and likewise donated by Quick. Another photograph of the house is owned by the Mason County (Michigan) Historical Society. For a painting of the house (but taken at a much greater distance), see acc. no. 2003.102.1.
Almost certainly, the individuals captured in this tintype image are, from left to right, Anne Harley (the artist's mother, 1845-1919), Steve Harley (the artist, playing a fiddle, 1863-1947), William Harley (the artist's father, 1843-1900), Percy Frank Harley (the artist's brother, 1869-?), and Mary Adella (the artist's sister, 1868-?).
In later life, if not during the time of this photo, Harley stored taxidermy specimens in a room on the second floor of this house, that whose window can be seen at the rear above the small, side porch. Note the pile of rocks at the front of the house; this appears in other images and is thought to have been constructed as a decorative feature.
Provenance:Steve Harley (1863-1947); to Robert Lowry (1919-1994); to an unidentified dealer; to M. Knoedler & Co., New York, NY. [See letter from Elizabeth Clare of Knoedler's of Oct. 8, 1958].