A correspondent recently wrote to us, correcting a date and identifying in a photograph two of the China missionary enterprise’s most notable figures. This photograph, above, showing staff and pupils of the Chefoo Girls School includes, we now know, James Hudson Taylor (Director General of the China Inland Mission, CIM) and his wife Jennie Hudson Taylor, both in Chinese dress, sitting in the centre.
We had not noticed them, and we had also dated the photograph to 1893, following the date given in the original album. But our correspondent points out that ‘Taylor was out of China for nearly two years from May 1892 to April 1894 (he toured Canada, returned to Britain and then travelled back to China via the United States)’. However, Taylor and his wife did visit Chefoo (properly Yantai: 烟台) in September 1891, saw the Mission’s schools there, and Jenny Taylor wrote about the visit in a report published in the CIM’s magazine China’s Millions. Taylor visited Chefoo again in September 1894, but on that occasion he travelled on his own. The older woman on the left of Jennie Taylor in the photograph, our correspondent tells us, is probably Louisa Hibberd who arrived in China in 1885, and who in 1891 was principal of the girls school.
So, as well as adding to our stock of knowledge about this group portrait, we are also reminded that those compiling albums were sometimes themselves unsure about dates, places, people and events. Most of the photographs in this album date from 1896 or later, so that fact suggests that the compiler was making a slightly incorrect guess when the photograph was taken. (And it may have been retained and then pasted in at a later date precisely because it marked the visit of the Taylors). And such informed guessing is at times what we have to do ourselves when we add metadata to images. A very large number of our photographs have little accompanying information, and many of them none at all. We might know that the original owner was in such and such a place in this period, for example, and of course we can now recognise many familiar places or buildings, or people, although not, it turns out, James Hudson Taylor.
(My thanks to our correspondent, whose message I have, with permission, freely adapted here).