And showed it to costume historian Lynne Zacek Bassett who was impressed by the dress the bareheaded woman on the right is wearing. Those flared sleeves were quite fashionable in 1855. The other dresses are more typical work clothing. Lynne also noted the women are wearing corsets. (Costume historians always notice the underwear.)
Could this be a wedding picture featuring the bride in the flared sleeves and the well-dressed groom holding Morton Halsey on his lap?
The happy event would explain the proud look on the woman holding Ogden. Was she the bride's mother? Notice how she has created a little triad with the younger woman and the baby. (Also would explain the bride's harried look---brides always a little stressed.) Is she showing off a wedding ring?
fact that Beth's family are keepers of family history.
The Halseys left a good deal of paper in that house, which the family has donated to the University of Virginia's Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Letters and a notebook kept by Mildred during the Civil War have been studied by historians and quoted in many books. One hopes a researcher could find references to slaves who lived there and connect them to the portrait.
Joseph tried to sell the place in the summer of 1860 to "any gentleman wishing a really desirable residence [on 500 acres], within four hours ride of Washington city." The times were unstable. He kept it.
The clues are in their neighbors. Above Joseph's listing is John B. Holladay, a 25-year-old Black farmer worth $600. Below Thomas's name is the Melton or Milton family, father Douglass (perhaps a nod to Frederick Douglass) and mother Sarah, parents of Richard and Kate. Douglass is a farm hand. Down the road is the Cave family (not the wealthy white Caves of Virginia) but the B for Black farmhand Harrison Cave who is 50 and appears to be unmarried. His large family goes into the next page.