Arabella Chapman, John R. Chapman, John T. Chapman. Tintype. Album 2. Page 9.
This studio portrait features (l. to r.) Arabella Chapman, her father John R. Chapman, and her brother John T. Chapman Jr.
This examples illustrates how the album changed hands over time, likely being passed down from Arabella to her daughter Alfarata. Note how the album frame includes a penciled caption: “Mother Grandpa John.” This caption was likely entered by Alfarata who refers to Arabella as her mother and John Chapman Sr. as her grandfather. When we examine the image outside of its frame, we find another hand, that of Arabella. Likely written before the album was passed on to Alfarata, Arabella pens her own caption: “Me Pa John.”
While the precise route the Chapman albums took to the Clements Library is unknown, a close reading of captions and other notations suggests how the albums remained in the Chapman family over many decades and at least two generations. From mother to daughter, the Chapman album were a means for passing along histories of family and community.
We’ve debated what precisely the props at the family’s feet might be. Some have suggested bales of hay, though in this otherwise very ubane setting, that would be unusual. Others have suggested they are the family pets, shaggy dogs. Is that a leash Arabella has around her wrist?