Beware of Photos Bearing False Captions

A Closer Look – Beware of Photos Bearing False Captions is a great post by Kristi Finefield at the Library of Congress blog Picture This.

Beware of Photos Bearing False Captions

Original caption: Suffragettes, Union Sq., May 2, 1914. Photo by Bain News Service, 1914. //

The site from Prints and Photographs Division often features posts on photographic literacy, or interpreting the clues that exist in photographs.

Beware of Photos Bearing False Captions tells the story researching of the two images at left with conflicting captions.

Finefield writes:

So, which caption is most accurate?  What is actually happening in these photographs? Is it May 1 or May 2, 1914, and is it suffragettes (suffragists) or something else?

The now-demolished cottage confirms this is Union Square in New York City. When I opened the larger digital images, I saw some of the same people in each view. Both images were taken on the same day, perhaps even minutes apart.

Beware of Photos Bearing False Captions

Original caption: Union Sq., 5/1/14. Photo by Bain News Service, 1914. //

With two potential dates to consider, I turned to the New York Times newspaper archive, which clarified the cause of the conflicting captions. On May 2nd, the Times noted a “May Day gathering of Socialists and labor unionists who celebrated the International Labor Day in Union Square yesterday.” On May 3rd, the newspaper reported on Suffrage Day, celebrated May 2 with open air meetings at several parks, including Union Square. I zoomed in even closer to check for visual clues like signs. The first hints of the nature of the event are the banners displayed below the speakers. They don’t immediately call to mind the signs carried by suffragists. A few have words in a Hebrew script, and others look like banners identifying organizations, but the words are difficult to make out.

Read the complete article here.

For more posts on genealogy and photographs, click here. 


About the Author:

Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine's “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”


  1. Sassy Jane Genealogy 10 November 2011 at 8:18 PM

    Thanks, everybody. LC does a great job on this blog.

  2. Heather Rojo 10 November 2011 at 5:48 AM

    Oooh! That was a great link! I know I don’t trust captions in family photo albums either. We had several cases where the babies were labeled with the wrong names, and dates under wedding photos were mixed up.

  3. Kathryn 10 November 2011 at 3:17 AM

    Very informative, thank you.

  4. Yvette Porter Moore 9 November 2011 at 10:56 PM

    Thanks for sharing this post.

  5. Michelle Goodrum 9 November 2011 at 10:54 PM

    It was well worth the look. Thanks for sending me over there.

Comments are closed.