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My understanding is that the photographic studio of Townsend Duryea in King William Street, Adelaide was destroyed by fire early on the morning of Sunday 18 April 1875 after operating there since April 1855 causing the loss of many historical photographs and records.

The photograph below is connected with the Browning family of which she was presumably a member. However, I am yet to identify her.

Does anyone know whether the number on the back "20079" can be of help to me in identifying/dating this old lady who I think may have been born before 1800, and almost certainly was living in South Australia.

Unidentified Old Lady enter image description here

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While not asolution, you may have success contacting either the Archives Manager at South Australian Museum (samuseum.sa.gov.au/contact) or the Ask Us service at the State Library of NSW (askslsa.altarama.com/reft100.aspx?key=AskUs) –  Darren Nov 10 '12 at 7:44
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Thanks @Darren - I just followed your advice and dropped notes to both those mailboxes. PS It was State Library of South Australia (not NSW) –  PolyGeo Nov 10 '12 at 8:03
    
Ooops, brain drain. –  Darren Nov 10 '12 at 8:11
    
I should have known (because I worked there 25 years ago) that SA Museum is a natural history museum and does not collect this kind of social history. However, they suggested the State Library of SA (hope to hear back from them soon) or History SA (who I'll contact if State Libraries of SA and Vic are unable to assist). –  PolyGeo Nov 11 '12 at 23:02
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I included SA Museum as they have a collection of Duryea photographs. –  Darren Nov 11 '12 at 23:04
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2 Answers

A search for Duryea on Trove reveals an Aladdin's cave of resources. This includes more than 200 of his images some showing the back of the card. If any are similarly numbered, you may be able to narrow down the date of your mystery woman.

There look to be thousands of hits in the newspaper archive.

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Thanks @Fortiter - I had not thought to try Trove but have since tried to look at the photo numbers which is proving very hard to do. Consequently, I have submitted a question to the State Library of Victoria to see whether they have some sort of index to photo numbers used by Townsend Duryea at different times. –  PolyGeo Nov 10 '12 at 22:34
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State Library Victoria response was "Unfortunately I think it is extremely rare for photographers stock books to still exist, especially if the studio was destroyed by fire in the 1870s. The book might have listed details about image no 20079, but as I am sure you understand it’s a very slim chance of us now identifying this. I am sure you have looked at Trove or similar databases to view other images by the Duryea studio. You may be able find other images with the same studio setting or props. This probably will not identify your sitter, but may give greater context to the photograph." –  PolyGeo Nov 12 '12 at 4:47
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This great answer came from Chris Read in response to my query to the State Library of South Australia:

"the Library has many Duryea portrait photographs, and I have checked the archives to view a number of the original photographs. Not many of them actually had Duryea studio numbers written on them, however I did find Nos. 2824, 4043, 15008, 45453 & 56780. None of these had dates on them, although the Library has attributed approx. dates circa 1865-1870. We may have received information from donors.

However, there is an excellent website called the History of Photography in South Australia, put together by the Art Gallery of SA following a photographic exhibition a few years ago. Part of this website details the Duryea numbering system and dating the Cartes de Visite. I imagine you will find this very helpful, and probably dates your own photograph to circa 1867-68.

http://www.artgallery.sa.gov.au/noye/Dating/Dat_set.htm

An interesting book is Julie Robinson's "A Century in Focus: South Australian photography 1840s - 1940s" published in 2007 which we have here at the Library. This was published in conjunction with the Art Gallery's exhibition."

Thanks Chris! And everyone who led me in that direction.

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