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I've stumbled up this image in the National Archives describing the 1868 treaty between the Navajo and United States, which was signed when the Navajo were released from Bosque Redondo. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/290020246 and another here: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/290020249?objectPage=2

enter image description here enter image description here Higher resoultion images available at the linked sites

What is confusing is, though it says in the title 1868, the metadata on the page says "Produced: January 24, 1955". There is also a yellow index card along with it that also lists 1955.

How can I determine if this is a photograph of actual signing, or if it is just a re-endactment of the event photographed in 1955? My only clue from within the photograph is the table with the folding legs, which seem like tables told today used for temporary events, and which I'd be surprised such a design is more than 150 years old.

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    There is a page dedicated to a copy of that (or a similar?) treaty which also has a historical photo. After seeing that picture from around 1868 it is clear that this one must be much newer. Apart from the general quality, most photographs from the 1800s have some motion blur owed to the much longer exposure times. Apr 15 at 17:02
  • The series description actually says specifically, "Third, there are photographs of a reenactment of the signing of the Treaty of 1868 "under the window" at Window Rock, Arizona." So yes, 1955 reenactment of the 1868 signing. catalog.archives.gov/id/519176 Apr 16 at 17:43

3 Answers 3

33

No, the pictures cannot be taken in 1868. In the second one you can see a person wearing a leather jacket with a zipper. The earliest zippers were available and practicable for clothing (beside shoes) was during WWI.

enter image description here


I just noticed there are more protographs in the file unit concerning the reenactment, among them one that shows a commentator in front of an electrical microphone, and one with film equipment of apparently a TV station.

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    This jumped out at me - the fold-up table is obviously later than 1868.
    – Jim
    Apr 14 at 16:44
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    @Jim: Folding tables existed even farther back in time - but with wooden, rather than aluminium or even stainless steel, legs. Apr 14 at 17:33
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    I've looked long at the table legs, and decided that really prooving they were from a later date would be ellaborate. If the resolution was a tiny bit better, you could probably say that the pieces of the legs were welded together – something you could do with pipes only in the 1890s – but it's not ultimately conclusive. I am pretty sure pipes with such a large radius could have been produced at the time: not from aluminium or steel, but from cast iron. But it would would have been ridiculously expensive when compared to casting the legs as a whole.
    – ccprog
    Apr 14 at 17:48
  • @ccprog cast iron pipes of that diameter would have thick walls and be very heavy and hard to bend. Using them for table legs would be pointless compared to wood. The classic arrangement of a tabletop laid across two trestles would be much more portable
    – Chris H
    Apr 15 at 9:36
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    Of course that's a time traveler who didn't pay proper attention to his clothing. Apr 15 at 23:52
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Beneath both photographs is a description:

This item was produced or created on January 24, 1955.

The creator compiled or maintained the parent series, Photographs of Navajo Life in the Southwestern Region of the United States, between 1936–1956.

Clicking on the link to the series shows the following description:

The black and white photographs in this series were taken mainly by Bureau of Indian Affairs photographer Milton (Jack) Snow, with assistance from photographers Lucy Oppen, E.R. Fryer, Tom Allen and Jim Thomas. (Insufficient documentation made it impossible to determine whether these individuals were BIA personnel or not.) The photographs were maintained by the Bureauwide Film Service, Education Services Center in Brigham City, Utah. These photographs depict a variety of subjects relating to Navajo life in Arizona and New Mexico, including agriculture, arts and craft, education, family life, historical events and tribal gatherings. There are three subjects of special historical interest. First, there is a 1936 photograph of a delegation of Navajo and Pueblo Indians on the White House lawn, while President and Mrs. Roosevelt are seated in an automobile. Second, there is a group picture of elderly Indian scouts, who fought against Geronimo during the Indian Wars. Third, there are photographs of a reenactment of the signing of the Treaty of 1868 "under the window" at Window Rock, Arizona.

Emphasis is mine.

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  • Odd that this is not the accepted answer. Apr 15 at 17:55
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    @MadPhysicist, descriptions can be inaccurate. If you find artifacts within the image that are obviously newer than one potential date, it's strong evidence for the other.
    – Mark
    Apr 16 at 1:46
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Two good answers already.

I think I can narrow this down a little to at earliest 1940's

The folding table in the image appears to be from a form patented in 1940, as outlined in USA patent US2256889A. It's made out of metal, which wasn't particularly common until at least 1930s I think. I've not been able to find an earlier design that looks like this, but anyone who's better at patent searches, feel free to have a dig through them.

Close-up of image in question:

enter image description here

Image from patent:

folding table Blink 1940

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    The table appears to be a four-leg design, while the patent is for a six-leg design.
    – Mark
    Apr 16 at 20:58
  • @Mark Yes, I don't believe that the 6-leg feature affects the patent. It might also be that it's only the legs that fold rather than the table top as well. However, I would have expected that the linked patent referred to those designs in the references, but I don't see them there. Feel free to dig through a patent search, I'm not at all good at it, so there could easily be something much earlier.
    – bob1
    Apr 16 at 21:05
  • @Mark Found an earlier one for the leg design and updated answer - same inventor, Peter Blink
    – bob1
    Apr 16 at 21:36

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