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July 01, 2010


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maybe u should try the face recognition google picture search

Shannon Perich

Thanks, history enthusiasts for all of your thoughts and input. The research is on-going, and we will certainly post when we learn something conclusive! In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for our sherrif. Shannon


Someone suggested connecting with genealogists. That was my first thought, too. Perhaps a posting on one of the lists at www.rootsweb.com, or connecting with the Houston genealogical society might lead to something. I hope you're going to post the solution if you resolve the puzzle!


The Houston Chronicle re-blogged about our call for help. You can find some of the comments submitted on their site below or visit this page to view them all:

-Dana Allen-Greil, managing editor, National Museum of American History


The resolution of some of those old photos is incredible.

Posted by: Oilacct at July 8, 2010 12:09 AM

Pretty sure that's Ron Howard. Based on it being a black and white photo I'm guessing it was taken some time between Andy Griffith and Happy Days.

Posted by: Jim Porter at July 8, 2010 07:59 AM

The shade and texture of the hair sure looks like a red-head to me.

Posted by: DC at July 8, 2010 11:34 AM

I would imagine it was made on a glass negative plate which would account for the fine resolution and detail. He is a rather serious fellow isn't he?

I realize he is posing for a portrait here but it is funny how folks used to dress up more back then, men just didn't go out in public without a tie and jacket and they had no AC back then and probably only got a bath once a week!

Posted by: Mr. Stretchy at July 8, 2010 11:56 AM

He looks a lot like a friend of mine who I know is a native Texan. I've sent him a link to come have a look.

Posted by: Denise at July 8, 2010 02:13 PM

Mr Stretchy - I think people just didn't smile for photos back then. I've noticed this in many old photos, include some of my family's older photos. Perhaps because photograph was a more serious (and expensive) business, people felt the need to look stern.

Posted by: Jim Thompson at July 8, 2010 02:17 PM

Part of the reason people didn't smile in photos back then was that exposure times were lengthy. It's hard to hold a smile for the duration, so the photographer would instruct the subject to maintain an expression that could be held for a while.

Posted by: Tim at July 9, 2010 12:16 AM

My Great-great-grandfather was Joseph Smallwood. No clue if that is him though.

Posted by: Rhonda at July 9, 2010 08:49 AM

His not smiling has nothing to do with the exposure time. It's clearly summer and can you imagine wearing that outfit in August in Houston before the age of air conditioning?

Posted by: glennkoks at July 9, 2010 08:57 AM

Matt Dillon

Posted by: Gus at July 9, 2010 09:56 AM

Opies grandfather?

Posted by: LINDA K. at July 9, 2010 12:17 PM

His rather protuberant ears should be mentioned in any written descriptions, so that could identify this gentleman. Clearly, about 60% of the men in Houston today resemble this guy. In the photo, he looks to be about 28 years old.

Posted by: jason at July 9, 2010 12:20 PM

It's Carl S. Smith, the late tax assessor/collector as a young man.

Posted by: mike at July 9, 2010 12:51 PM

I am certain that he is Dr. Red Duke. He probably worked as a City Marshall to put himself through medical school.

Posted by: Bert at July 9, 2010 01:04 PM

You need to post this in GenForum as well as contact the local DAR chapters. Genealogists will be your best bet in identifying this man.

Posted by: YellowRose at July 9, 2010 01:14 PM

Let's see now. Tall and skinny, long neck, big thin nose, close-set eyes, receding chin and hairline, probably a redhead, and with jug ears. Why, I do believe it's Jim Bob Thigpen moved here from Bugtussle Tennessee after those over edgamakated legions of Satan dammed Yankees over run us. My great grandpappy said he knew a marshall by that name way back then, and since all those hill-billies looks the same anyways it's a surefire bet this is ol' Jim Bob hissownself.

Hey, no thanks needed...just glad to help solve this little mystery for y'all!

Posted by: didereaux at July 9, 2010 01:22 PM

Can you access these photos at the Smithsonian? I would like to see them. My family has been in Houston since the mid 1800's. Maybe they would have pictures of them. I know my great uncle was a Harris County District Attorney in the late 1800's.

Posted by: Barbara at July 9, 2010 01:29 PM

Could it possibly be Howdy Doody's granddad? Maybe?

Posted by: Sandra O'Connor at July 9, 2010 01:57 PM

My theory is people didn't smile because their teeth were awful.

Posted by: cifey at July 9, 2010 02:05 PM

I look through old family pictures all the time. No names, no ideas. Who were they? Such a tragedy that these identies should be lost over time. I look at these old photos and think of a moment of their lives. What was he thinking? Where did he go after the picture was taken? What was going on outside at that moment? I hope this man is identified. Great old picture.

Posted by: yeah at July 9, 2010 02:34 PM

The Picture Quality Is Fantastic, and it would be great if he can be identified.

Posted by: Stoic at July 9, 2010 02:57 PM

It's Mr. Noodles Sr. Grand Papee of Mr. Noodles of Sesame Street.

Posted by: CXF at July 9, 2010 03:00 PM

He looks like Reverend Dennis Peveto - founder of the Memorial Hospital System (now Memorial Hermann Hospital).

Posted by: Edward at July 9, 2010 03:23 PM

Too easy. That's ex-mayor Bill White grandfather...

Posted by: don_ho at July 9, 2010 03:42 PM

I think it's Bill White when he still had hair!

Posted by: OkieDokieGirl at July 9, 2010 04:03 PM

Judge Roy Bean?

Posted by: lb at July 9, 2010 05:18 PM

Not al lot of smiles back then because of poor dental hygiene.

Posted by: hd28 at July 9, 2010 06:10 PM

Daniel Busley was Houston's first elected Houston City Marshal in January 1841.
There were approximately 12 others who served in the elected position of City Marshal through the Civil War.
After the Civil War Isaac Lord was appointed City Marshal and in 1866 began the process for "professional reform" which included the wearing of navy blue wool uniforms.
The picture is most likely that of R. Van Patton, who was appointed in 1873 during Texas Reconstruction by commanding Union General J.J. Reynolds. Van Patton authored the first "Houston Police Force Rules Manual."
In 1900, the City Marshal position was changed to Chief of Police with the Office of City Marshal becoming the Houston Police Department.
Posted by: Roy at July 9, 2010 07:27 PM

Some of my wife's folks were in Houston starting in the mid 1850's. As there is no noose around his neck, we can eliminate them.

Posted by: Ralph W at July 9, 2010 08:22 PM

I believe it is more likely to be Alexander Erichson, who was a much more popular and long term City Marshal than Van Patton (actually more often spelled Van Patten).
Van Patten was from the Radical party and Erichson was a Democrat. Van Patten only served one term after Henry C. Thompson and it appears that he was accused of bribery and was also accused of being involved in a swindle. I think Van Patten was City Marshal from 1873-74.

Alexander Erichson seems to have been very popular and was something of a crusader against all the "low" places in Houston such as Vinegar Hill. I believe it was Erichson that drove the Queen of Vinegar Hill, Caroline Riley out of the area.
Erichson was of German ancestry.

Posted by: isuredid at July 9, 2010 08:58 PM

It may not be a Houston man at all. The Smithsonian website points out that he seems to have ordered a "½ dozen plain" cartes-de-visite of this image, which is a small number for a man of some local prominence. (Cartes-de-visite were widely distributed and collected, almost like the calling cards on which they were based.) Seems to me this man may well have been visiting Houston from another city, and popped into the studio to have a handful of cards made for immediate distribution.

Posted by: Andy Hall at July 10, 2010 09:21 AM

I found a sketch of Alex Erichson as part of his obituary in 1900. Based on the sketch it is not Erichson in the photo.

Posted by: isuredid at July 10, 2010 02:52 PM

It's van Gogh, just playing around with a camera. You should the painting that he made from the picture.

Posted by: Braes Heights at July 10, 2010 04:57 PM

Hi J.R. -

Do you still have your 25 cent copy of Sig Byrd's Houston?

I think it should be kept in circulation among members of a very old and honorable fraternity - namely practicing, Texas journalists who have never had the privilege to read Byrd and would like to learn about him.

I have two colleagues, one at the Temple Daily Telegram, the other a freelancer, who have heard of Byrd but never had the opportunity to read his famous book.

The freelancer, Clay Coppedge, who retired from the Telegram, has a style so close to Byrd's it's amazing. He writes about unknown people in out-of-the-way places in Texas. He had a column for many years called 'Backroads."

We could work out a system for mailing it to next on a list. You would retain ownership.

I've been following sales of Byrd's book online. The one you have is not worth a fortune. It might bring $30-$50 online due to condition at Abe Books, Alibris, Amazon or Ebay.

So it's not like passing around the crown jewels --- unless, of course, you consider that Byrd's fabulous style IS the crown jewels.

What do you think?

Harper Scott Clark
Temple Daily Telegram
Regional Bureau

Posted by: Harper Clark at July 12, 2010 06:54 PM

I found a newspaper column that gave a history of the police department. Here are the name of the Marshals from that article. I don't know if this is the same as the city directory:

1839 - Thomas Stanbury Jr.
1840-1843 - D. Busby
1844 - James A. Young
1845 - W.H. "Billy" Smith
1854 - J.B. Hogan
1857 - R.P. "Bob" Boyce
1859 - E.F. Williams
1860 - J.H. Proudfoot
1861 - R.P. Boyce
1862 - H.F. Matthews
1863-1867 - I.C. Lord (Removed by US Authorites)
1868 - A.K. Taylor (by appointment of US Authorities - Resigned 1869)
1869 - M.E. Davis (appointed by General Reynolds)
1870 - A.K. Taylor (resigned)
1870 - Joseph Smallwood
1872 - R. Van Patten
1874 - Henry C. Thompson (elected by a board of mayor and aldermen)
1875 - Alex Erichson
1876 - F.N. Butt(s)
1877 - Alex Erichson
1879 - John Morris
1880-1884 - Charles Wichmann ( Alex Erichson's brother-in-law)
1886 - James Shaughnessy
1888 - Jack White
1890 - Charles Wichmann
1892 - Alex Erichson
1894 - James H. Pruett

I have found a sketch of Alex Erichson and the photo is not him.
I also found a sketch of F.N. Butt(s) as an older gentleman. That was less conclusive because he had a full beard as an old man and the sketch was a full profile.
Posted by: isuredid at July 12, 2010 07:50 PM

Elin Whitney-Smith

The two women are sisters. By looking closely at their faces you see the same features and even the same expression. They are not mother and daughter because they are of a similar age

James Chapman, Director - Houston PD Museum

We had a number of City Marshals in the 1870's (eight) and I have some additional information for you. Please contact me here at the museum. Best Regards. - James

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