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2.1.3 Portrait of Captain William T. Shorey and family

Captain William T. Shorey is standing while his wife, Julia Shelton, is seated in an ornate decorative chair. Also pictured are their daughters, Zenobia and Victoria. At the family's feet lies a thick furry rug.
circa 1910
Photographic Print
Portrait of Captain William T. Shorey and family, ca. 1910; Portraits Photography Collection, PC-PT-Portraits; California Historical Society.
This is a portrait of a wealthy African American family that lived in Oakland in the early 1900s. A portrait is a kind of picture that people posed for, oftentimes in a studio. What clues do you see that would indicate that this is a special occasion? Have you ever taken a family photo? A school photo? How do you dress for these photos? Why do you think people take posed photos of their families? What does this photo tell you about the Shorey family?
The group pictured in this photograph is the Shorey family, which in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was a prominent black family in Oakland. William Shorey made his money as a whaler and established himself as a philanthropist, hosting leading black intellectuals like Booker T. Washington at the family home. Students may make connections between their family and the one pictured here — the poses, clothing, racial identity, and multiple generations — and students might also note differences between a photo such as this one and the way their own family photographs are created and used to create a sense of memory and heritage.