Archives Photograph Collection

preview image

People on roof of Wylie House

image number:



Image shows the back (north side) of the Wylie House. It has been suggested, based on his height, that the tallest standing figure on top of the house is Theophilus Wylie. For a detail scan of the people on top of the house see image P0043541. It has also been suggested that this image was taken the day of a solar eclipse in 1869. However, when one examines evidence of the August 7, 1869 solar eclipse we know that the event occurred in the late afternoon in this part of the midwest. Wylie himself writes that the event began at 4:20pm. However, if we take a look at the shadows on the roof being cast by the two chimneys it seems clear this photo was taken in the morning and not the afternoon (east is to our left in this image). Thus, it seems at least somewhat odd to have taken a photograph of people on the roof in the early morning the day of the event rather than later in the day - nearer the time of the event. Also, there is no date written on the original photograph or any other information of any kind. It is still possible that the image was shot the day of the eclipse noted in the diary, but the fact that are no telescopes or cameras on tripods on the roof or in the backyard (save the camera taking this image) suggests that this photo was not taken on that day. Wylie does write, however, that he remounted the telescope in the garret window, but there are no garrett windows at Wylie House (note however that T.A. Wylie in other documents does refer to the attic of Wylie House as "the garrett" and that there is a west-facing window in the attic). It is possible that Wylie, “Brown” (we assume Samuel Brown Wylie) and “Allison” (we assume local photographer J. B. Allison) were at Allison’s portrait studio which more likely than not would have had a skylight window like most photographers did in those days. These skylights let in natural light upon subjects being photographed. The garrett window Wylie writes about could be Allison’s skylight type window from which they could observe and photograph the event and not at all worry about having their equipment out in the elements. He also writes that “I had nearly run myself and Brown down” could mean there were many trips for the two of them between Wylie House and Allison’s studio in preparation for the event. T.A. Wylies diary entry for August 8, 1869 reads, in full (for that part that discusses the eclipse): "Yesterday -- witnessed the total eclipse of the sun, a most magnificent sight. The corona splendid, radiated, extending on an average about 1/4 diam. of moon's disc, all around. On the lower limb & northern or night limb, there was tufts of flame shining with brilliancy. Did not notice the rose color. The darkness was not great. Saw Arcturus, . The light seemed greatest N.E. & S.W. greater on N.E. To the N.W. & S.E., it was greyish. -- The light of the sun reappeared as a point of dazzling brilliancy on the right limb of the sun. -- The birds flitted about alarmed. The cocks crowed. Noticed a bat flying about. The whole landscape had an unearthly unnatural aspect. Did not notice the duration of the totality, but it seemed to be about a minute. Had been engaged with Allison endeavoring to Photograph the sun, but when the totality came on, we both broke and ran to see it, & let the important moment pass. We had taken several during the progress of the eclipse, but I fear they do not amount to much. The eclipse terminated exactly by my watch at 6h 1 9m, began about 4.20. In preparation for the eclipse I had nearly run myself & Brown down. -- Made a contrivance to attach to the telescope for taking the pictures. Cleaned the fixings -- remounted the telescope in the garret window. Friday being cloudy could not try experiments. Prof. Ballantine & Kirkwood, Col. Foster & Mr Lee of Charleston, witnessed the eclipse from the top of our house.--" (NOTE: Wylie includes a drawing of the "contrivance" off to one side of his text in the diary).

building name:

Wylie House, Andrew (1835)

building name:

Old Treasure House (1835)







other place name:

Second Street (307 East)


Buildings & Grounds


(Andrew) Wylie House


People on roof (oversized drawer)