This month’s History Mystery takes us to a beautiful summer day of the past. On a grassy hillside, a group of finely dressed ladies and gentlemen are posed, looking relaxed and somewhat happy. As happy as a turn of the century photographer would allow them to look: “OK everyone! Keep still!” Our mystery lies in the nature of the event, location, and identity of many of those seated. The photograph was found within the Thomas T. Wendell Collection. Dr. Thomas Tyler Wendell was a prominent African American Doctor who resided in Lexington during the first half of the 20th century. One first element of mystery for us is the lack of Dr. Wendell or his wife. We cannot see them in this photograph, but perhaps a reader can point either of them out for us. Due to the Collection’s place of origin, can we speculate that this was taken in Lexington? At a Piecing Together History event last summer, one person identified the gentleman on the far right as Reverend Thomas H. Smith. If this is correct, we know that Reverend Smith was affiliated with the Shiloh Baptist Church in Lexington. However, the Smith family was originally from Georgetown. With this clue, we would love to know if any of the other members of the group can be identified.
Now that the photograph is closely related to two Lexington gentlemen, can anyone help us with the location or event? Is this a Lexington event? Is this a fair or a picnic? Maybe a Church picnic? We are leaning a bit more towards the idea of a fair, based on the ribbons, pins, and paper tags worn by the men standing at the top of the hill. There was a nationally recognized Colored Fair that took place in Lexington each year from 1869-1930. With the ribbons, etc., could this be a scene from the festivities surrounding the annual fair? Based on the clothing style and time span of the fair, this could be a distinct possibility. Either way, we would love for our readers to give us more clues about this one!
For more information regarding the Thomas T. Wendell Collection, just visit the Digital Collections Catalog.
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