photograph showcase

Photograph Showcase: Joseph Skeen Portrait

SKEEN, Joseph, portrait
Joseph Skeen


Joseph Skeen is my 2nd great-grandfather.  This lovely portrait really shows off his eyes.  They appear to be light in color.  I wondered if they were a bright blue so I opened up his WWI Draft Registration to see what color he said his eyes were and found a surprise.


SKEEN, Joseph, WWI Draft Registration crop
Courtesy of, view full record here.


While he did state his eyes were “light blue,” he also stated that he was blind in one eye.  I know I have read this record before, but I had forgotten this tidbit.  I have so many questions now!  Which eye?  Was he blind in that eye from birth?  If not, what happened and when?  How did that impact his daily life?  When did this information disappear from our collective family knowledge of Joseph?  Interestingly, one of my first cousins, another of Joseph’s 2nd great-granddaughters, is also blind in one eye.

This portrait was found in my Grandma’s collection in a folder she labeled with “SKEEN.”  It is a photo of a photo and originally appeared like this:


SKEEN, Joseph, portrait, unedited scan


I cleaned it up a bit and edited out the photo frame.  The back of the photo has a funny label.  I recognize the handwriting as it appears on the backs of other Skeen photos from this same folder, but don’t know who the handwriting belongs to:


SKEEN, Joseph, portrait, back


Apparently, the person who labeled the photo was very unsure of when it was taken.  Joseph aged rather well, so I am not going to guess at his age.  I will, however, point out that he is graying around the temples so he is probably closer to fifty than he is to thirty.  How is that for only slightly less vague?  😉



Update:  I couldn’t find any information about Joseph being blind in one eye beyond the WWI Draft Registration.  His grandson Wayne, my grandpa’s only living sibling, called me recently and I (thankfully) thought to ask if he knew about Joseph being blind in one eye.  He did.  He shared that Joseph lost his sight in one eye when someone threw a snowball at him that had a rock in the center.  He couldn’t recall any other details including how old Joseph was when this happened.  Joseph must have been very forgiving as he didn’t write about this incident and its effects on his life in his rather long personal history.



Happy Thursday, do you have any favorite portraits that need to be labeled?  Don’t delay!  xoxo




10 thoughts on “Photograph Showcase: Joseph Skeen Portrait”

  1. Love this photo! My great grandfather was also blind in one eye. He was a Quaker missionary in Lebanon and had been imprisoned by the Turks for a period. My mother, (who has occasionally embellished her memories…) has always told the tale that her grandfather’s eye was put out by the Turks while he was held captive. Just recently my uncle (with the more reliable memory and far less flare for the dramatic) explained the real cause–an infection.

    1. Haha! I love it!!! A great illustration of why we should ask the same questions many times and of different family members.

  2. Before I read your text, the first thing I noticed were his eyes. He has such strong features—his nose and lips—but his eyes stand out. My guess is his right eye, only because he seems to be squinting a bit with his left eye, meaning the light might have been bothering him. But when I look back now, I don’t see that, so hard to say. And I’d say between 40-50. He has not real wrinkles, but the graying hair and the crow’s feet around his eyes suggest that he’s not in his 30s.

    1. A photo colorization expert on Twitter also guessed that his right eye was the one that was blind. He explanation for her reason was, “There is a stillness about it. I can’t explain but it’s like the eye lid is perfectly still and less wrinkled that the other , which makes me think it was less used.” So… maybe the two of you are right! I was thinking the right eye as well, but my reason was that his right eye is looking almost straight at the camera and the left is looking off into the distance which seems more appropriate given that his head is turned.

      I’m still trying to find out how he lost his vision. I read his personal history and it isn’t mentioned at all. That makes me wonder if he was born with that eye being blind..?

  3. In the family portrait his eyes didn’t look as light as in this one. I think he is at least the same age as in the photo with the family. Did you notice he wore a striped tie in both but not the same suit by the looks of the lapels?

    1. YES I did notice that! (Also, I thought I responded to this weeks ago… sorry!)

      I actually compared the photos very carefully trying to decide if the tie was the same or just similar. I agree, not the same suit.

  4. you mentioned that your first cousin is blind in one eye…… do you have the story written out….. how, why, etc……?????

    1. I don’t. She is much younger than me and living so I haven’t focused on that, but I probably should. 😉 Hers was not an accident but a tumor.

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