I like this picture. Too bad I don't know for sure who this man is. The picture itself and some background about my family history provides me with some definite clues to his identity and I think I can therefore narrow it down a bit.
I start with looking at the picture itself. The man is holding a fiddle. Someone correct me if it's actually a violin (since I'm no musician) but the way he's holding the bow seems more like a fiddle player would hold it. There's no apparent chin rest on the instrument.
The background is obviously a backdrop; look at the line it makes behind the chair legs. The man's clothing looks homemade. His pants are striped or corded and "bootcut," or narrow to the ankle. The boots are working boots, scuffed and worn. His coat and vest look like wool or some other sort of heavy fabric. He doesn't have a collar sticking out of his shirt, but that necktie! It's polka-dotted! And his hair is oiled and parted to the side. It looks like the tail of an otter got oiled and plopped on top of his head, poor boy. I know he was gussying up for the camera but it still makes me giggle.
He looks about twenty years old, maybe twenty-five at most. Though his tie and his hair seem to date the photo to the late 1860's, I'm thinking I might move that date up to the early 1870's. I say that for two reasons. When you turn the picture over, it says, "D.H. Hill, Arcadia, Kansas." I googled D.H. Hill in the hopes that I could narrow down the date range of the shot that way but came up with nothing. I'd love to find the photographer, but I can still fill in some blanks with my family history.
Around 1872, the Vane family moved to Arcadia, Kansas. John Vane and his wife Adaline Plymell had five children that I know of, but only two of their boys would be old enough to be the subject of this photo. Martin Luther was born c1850 but died prior to 1860 so he can be ruled out immediately. The other two are William Wiley Shannon Vane, who was born c1852, and George Edward Vane, born in 1853. (I featured the other two siblings of this family in a recent post; see Cymantha and William James Vane below.)
Not much is known about William Wiley Shannon, except that he married Augusta King. As for George, he did some traveling, probably for work -- he was in Labette County, Kansas in 1880 as a boarder and he was in Newton County, Missouri as a laborer in 1900. George never married and died of drospy in 1903 in Arcadia in the home of his sister Cymantha Curnutt. He was buried in the Old Arcadia Cemetery on his 40th birthday.
There are a few of the sons of William Wallace Plymell, Adaline Plymell Vane's brother, that would be about the right age and who also moved to Kansas in the early 1870's. I don't know enough about these boys to completely eliminate them. However, the 1875 Kansas state census shows Wallace and his boys (John Catlett, Cordova and Lyman) in Sumner County, Kansas. John C. was age 24, Cordova was age 21, and Lyman was age 19. This picture could be any of these boys if they happened to be in Arcadia when the picture was taken. Lastly, a note written on the back of the picture of Cymantha and William James Vane mentions that the Plymell boys were in Wichita in neighboring Sedgwick County. I've already dated the writing on that picture to the mid to late-1870's era.
Given this information, I lean heavily towards the supposition that the mystery man here is George Edward Vane. Was traveling George a fiddle player? I don't know. But if this picture was taken around 1873, our George would be 20 years old. It fits. What do you think?
19 minutes ago