Formal Family Portrait

Howard Butcher, Jr. Family

Portrait of an unknown family

One of the photos included in those I received from my Aunt Alma’s estate was this one – a formal portrait of an unknown family, taken in the first part of the twentieth century. I had no idea who the family was, so I studied the faces closely to see if I could spot any family resemblances.

I sent the photo off to relatives to see if they could recognize anyone, but no one could. I knew that you can’t always identify a photo right away, so from time to time I would review it and wonder, but move on.

Back when my Great Grandmother Becky was a teenager, she worked as a nanny to the influential and wealthy family of Howard Butcher, Jr. and his wife, the former Margaret Keen, daughter of William Williams Keen, the first brain surgeon in the United States. Family members recollected a bond stronger than that of just employer and employee, but more of a close friendship. Becky wasn’t the only family member that had worked for them, so had her mother and her sister Amelia. Amelia worked as their nanny when they traveled Europe, getting to see places like Florence, Rome, Rotterdam, London, and Luzerne – something not many average Philadelphia girls got to do in the early 1900s.

After Becky had married, had her daughter Alma and was pregnant with my grandfather Bill, she and her husband went through a bitter divorce. She reached out to Margaret Butcher, who helped her to find legal representation. After Becky moved with her children to California, she lost contact with the Butcher family.

Knowing that you can sometimes learn things by researching those associated with your family, I set out to discover a little more about this family. Margaret Keen had married Howard Butcher, Jr. and they had had children: Howard – 1901, Margaret – 1903, Dora – 1905, Mary Louisa ‘Polly’ – 1907, ‘Keen’ – about 1916, and Florence – about 1918.

I then found Passport Application records on Ancestry.com and downloaded those images. When I took a closer look at the passport application photo for Howard Butcher, Jr., he looked familiar. Where had I seen that photo before?!? Aha! I quickly pulled up both the formal family portrait and the passport application – and it was the same person! Examining the passport application photos for the other family members clinched the identification. I had identified all of the people in this photo.

Howard Butcher, Jr.

Howard Butcher, Jr.

Margaret Keen Butcher

Margaret Keen Butcher

Howard Butcher, III

Howard Butcher, III

Dora Butcher

Dora Butcher

Mary Louisa Butcher

Mary Louisa ‘Polly’ Butcher

Based upon these findings, I believe this family portrait can now be positively identified as that of family friends Howard Butcher, Jr. and his wife Margaret Keen Butcher and their children. Because of the other children included, the baby must be William W. ‘Keen’ Butcher, born about 1916, which also dates the photo.

Howard Butcher, Jr. Family

The Howard Butcher, Jr. Family, about 1916 – (standing) Margaret Butcher, Howard Butcher III, and (seated) Howard Butcher, Jr., Dora Keen Butcher, William W. Keen Butcher (baby), Margaret Keen Butcher, and Mary L. Butcher

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4 Responses to Formal Family Portrait

  1. That is amazing! You are a research beast!!! Wow. I must say also that it is a wonderful photograph. You can see the affluence so clearly. Good job, great find.

      • W. Keen Butcher says:

        I am extremely grateful for your determination about this picture.

        That is my grandfather, father, aunts and uncles. I have not seen that picture before. I was just doing a google search on my great grandfather and found this link (multiple pages in). Is it possible to get a copy of this picture (and forgive me if by posting this question here I have violated some custom of which I am not aware).

        Also, I am not sure if I should leave an email address here, so I will leave it to you to tell me how to respond. I will be notified if you reply to this.

      • dallastim says:

        I am so very excited to hear from you! Not only does your post confirm my identification, but it also allows me to thank you and your family for your kind assistance during a time of need for my family. In 1918, when my great grandmother was pregnant with my grandfather, she went through a bitter divorce. Having no money and not knowing where to turn, your grandmother was very kind and helped to get her the medical attention she needed for her delivery. So Thank you!

        I’m also excited to be able to share some of the other items that I have which are related to your family. I have a few letters and postcards, and a few other photos which I believe to be members of your family, but who I can’t identify positively. I would welcome your assistance. As the administrator of this blog, I can see your personal email address, so I’ll be sending you an email directly.

        Thank you again!

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