The mysterious "Mr White"
The mysterious "Mr White"

One of the most interesting photos in my The Mystery Photo Album is of this gentleman, mainly because he's very obviously in two of the photographs.

The helping hand with many of the photos in the album is that they are studio portraits, so most of them have the name of the photographer printed on them. Through trade directories you could, with a bit of work, narrow down the time frame in which the photo was taken.

In this case, that time frame can be narrowed down quite well.

Firstly, as mentioned in my previous post, I know this style of photograph was most popular between 1866 and 1914, so the time frame broadly looks like this:


The photographer here was Sydney Victor White, whose main studio was the Talbot Studio, 85 Castle Street, Reading.

The back of the photo states the company was "established 1869", which knocks a few years off the beginning.


Trade directories were kind of like the phone book of the day and Kelly's is probably the best-known of its type. Each volume contains a street-by-street, building-by-building listing of the businesses in operation in towns and cities across the country. 

Ancestry offers access to 8 Berkshire trade directories between 1869 and 1914. 1877 shows an entry for 85 Castle Street, but not the Electric Light Studio, Blagrave Street.

That would tie in with this photograph held by the National Portrait Gallery that they've dated as 1885. Although only the photographer name and 'Reading' is shown on their image, I would assume if a Victorian businessman had two locations he would shout about it at every opportunity. 

In 1887 Mr White is listed at both Castle Street and Blagrave Street. Come 1899, however, and he's no longer at either and has moved to Oxford Road.

So, with all that in mind, the time frame now looks like this:


This portrait was most likely taken between 1885 and 1899.

Now, I said this man appears in two photographs. Here he is in the second.

To me it looks like he's about to break out in a massive smile.

Anyway, what's special about this one is that it's one of the three photographs with writing on the back.

Included on the back is the name and address: "Mrs Hearn, Hardwick, Nr Reading".

I can hazard a guess on who the man is - my great great grandfather - but I can't be certain. This man doesn't look old enough.

So, that's my big question. Anyone have any guesses on how old this man is?