I normally purchase a photograph at an antique store if I think there's a possibility of a reunion. That usually means there's unique information contained in or on the photograph that will help me identify the subject in the image. This portrait was purchased for an entirely different reason. The man seated in the photograph is my eldest brother's doppelganger. It's as if this photo was created in one of those faux antique photo studios, mildly popular in the 1980's, in which the sitters dress up in their choice of old-timey clothing for a lark and have their pictures taken. But this isn't one of those photographs -- it's the real deal. So, unless my brother can time-travel (and if there's anyone I know who might be able to do so, it would be my genius brother) the gentleman is probably a fellow named Thomas Cole, as indicated by the short note on the back of the portrait.
I've been analyzing family photographs for about two decades now, and initially guessed the image was taken in the 1890s. The woman's sleeves, the presentation style of the cabinet card itself, and background setting all point to that decade. According to the imprint on the photo, the image was created at the R.H. Stripe studio at 120 & 122 Genesee St. in Waukegan, Illinois. I was able to find Reuben H. Stripe in Waukegan City directories in 1901, 1903, and 1905. His occupation in 1901 is "Sec'y Treas. Waukegan & Washington Mining & Smelting Co." Later directories list him as an insurance agent. The 1900 census for Waukegan also provides his occupation as "Sec of Mining Co." As an aside, finding Mr. Stripe in the 1900 census was something of a minor feat. Reuben also went by "Harry," which probably gives us a hint to the H. in "R. H. Stripe." In addition, his surname is transcribed as "Shiper" on the 1900 census in Ancestry.
My search turned up no information about Reuben's photographic career from the online documents. I contacted the Waukegan Historical Society and was pleased to receive this helpful information:
"R.H. Stripe, Photographer was in business from about 1895 to about 1900 in Waukegan. In 1895-96 they were located at 122N. Genesee Street, 1897 to 1900 located at 120 N. Genesee Street." Since the imprint contains both addresses, we can say it is likely that the photograph was taken after 1896.
Having narrowed down the date of the photograph, I turned to the subjects in the image. I could only find one couple named Thomas and Mary Cole in the 1900 US Federal Census for Lake County, IL: Thomas Cole, 36, and Mary S. Cole, 24. Though it's difficult to say for sure, this seems to be a plausible match to the individuals in the photo. Of course, there is always the possibility that the Coles in the photograph were not from the area, or left prior to the 1900 census. The Thomas Cole of the 1900 census was a farmer and rancher. He married Mary Kreiberg in New Mexico in 1896. They returned to Illinois and farmed in the Benton area.
Thomas was the son of John and Anne Cole who also farmed near Benton, Illinois. His brother, William was a Methodist Reverend. I had been wondering what Thomas' connection was to New Mexico. Someone was kind enough to post a news article about Thomas' death in 1913 on Findagrave.com that clearly spelled out his connection to the area. In 1898, brother William died in Springer, NM. Thomas moved his family from Illinois to New Mexico sometime after 1900 to take over the farm. The newspaper article also described in detail the unusual circumstances of Thomas' death. While trying to make a roof repair, Thomas was blown off his house in a freak windstorm. He died at age 49 as a result of the fall, leaving behind Mary and their three year old son to mourn the loss.
I am very curious to know if the Colfax County, New Mexico Coles are same Coles in my doppleganger photograph. If you have any photographs of Tom or Mary, I'd love to see them to compare with this one.
"United States Census, 1870", database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M64Y-CKV : 29 May 2021), John Cole in entry for John Cole, 1870.
"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MXVW-NQP : 19 February 2021), John Cole, Benton, Lake, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district ED 244, sheet 655B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,221.
1900 U.S. census, Waukegan, Lake, Illinois, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 143, page 28-A (penned), dwelling 623, family 665, Harry Stripe, boarder, in household of Christian Just; digital image, My Heritage (http://myheritage.com : accessed 27 Oct 2021); citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 1240.
"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MSWR-NYJ : accessed 30 October 2021), Thomas Cole, Benton Township, Lake, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 129, sheet 4A, family 75, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,314.
1910 U.S. census, Waukegan, Lake, Illinois, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 110, page 24-A, dwelling 413, family 413, R. H. Stripe household; digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 27 Oct 2021); citing National Archives microfilm publication T625, roll 302.
1920 U.S. census, Waukegan, Lake, Illinois, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) #273, page 6 (penned), House 927, dwelling 140, family 183, Harry Stripe household; digital image, Ancestry (http://ancestry.ca): accessed 27 Oct 2021); citing National Archives microfilm publication T625, roll 382.
"U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995", indexed database and digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 27 Oct 2021), Rubin (Reuben H.) Stripe entries, 1901, 1903, 1905; citing " Waukegan, Illinois City Directory, 1901, 1903 & 1905.
Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/31054265/thomas-r-cole : accessed 30 October 2021), memorial page for Thomas R Cole (1864–23 Mar 1913), Find a Grave Memorial ID 31054265, citing Springer Cemetery, Springer, Colfax County, New Mexico, USA ; Maintained by Athanatos (contributor 46907585) . Includes newspaper clipping, unknown newspaper, unknown date.
Email from Waukegan Historical Society to author, dated 21 Oct 2021. R. H. Stripe years as photographer.
New Mexico, U.S., Compiled Marriage Index, 1727-1900 database,Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 19 Oct 2021), entry for Thomas Cole and Mary Kriebing [Kreiberg], 24 Nov 1897, Colfax County, New Mexico.