Julia Purdy wrote to Cowan Auctions for input regarding the Montroville Dickeson / Perrin Whitman photograph issue. Here's their response.
Thanks for your inquiry and interest in Cowan's Auctions. Thanks as well for providing us with links to the images we previously offered at auction that include the gentleman identified as Perrin Whitman. This identification almost certainly came via an outside scholar and former archivist at the Smithsonian that helps us in identifying figures in these early American Indian photographs. This scholar has written several books on American Indian photography, so she truly knows her stuff! Thus, we would agree with you that the gentleman pictured in the images is Perrin Whitman.
Steve Frank performed an interesting experiment with the photos. Here are his results.
I had asked the question that set Julia off on her research that calls into question whether the original labeling of the photo is correct or not.
The funny thing, it took me several times going back to the photos, and concentrating more not he eyes before I eventually sided with Julia on the debate.
Whether or not Dickeson would have been photographed with west coast tribal chief, I don’t know, but his area of work centered around the burial mounds and artifacts in the Ohio Valley.
I told Julia that this reminds me of another little test I made a couple years ago. I am 53 and showed my Kindergarten class picture to several people to guess which kid I was.
8 of the people I asked were women, and 10 men.
They all took a minute or two, and only 1 of the men got it correct. 6 of the 8 women picked correctly!
That is a tremendous difference in results!!
As I wrote to Julia, I would suggest that the male participants try a little experiment, and get their spouses involved!!
Show the photos to their wives, and let them choose.
There might be some surprises….women tend to look deeper, and the eyes play a more significant role.
Of course, this is a generalization, and there will be many exceptions, but short of hiring a facial recognition expert from the FBI, I would love to see the results of the spouse experiment!
Thanks, everyone. Remember that Internet meme from a few weeks ago, about the photo of a dress some people saw as white and gold, and others saw as black and blue? We had fun with that in our family, and opinions were divided about 80/20. I was in the minority, but I'm used to getting outvoted in my house. What do your family members say about the photo?
Below is the composite image Steve put together with the known portrait of numismatic author Montroville Dickeson on the left, a photo of Indian interpreter Perrin Whitman on the right, and the photo of someone attributed as Montroville Dickeson with an Indian chief in the center. As always, you can click on the photo to see a larger version in our Flickr archive.
The New York Times has the best article I've seen on the dress photo topic. See:
Is That Dress White and Gold or Blue and Black?
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
QUERY: IS IT REALLY MONTROVILLE DICKESON IN THIS PHOTO?
Wayne Homren, Editor
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