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.
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.
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.