Biographical Sketch for DGT-0016: Pennsylvania to Ohio, An Irishman’s Tale

Here is a fully cased, daguerreotype of Abraham Styles Milliken, who was born in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania on May 17, 1785. Seventy-five years later Abraham died near Zanesville, Ohio, on August 4, 1860, just eight months before the first cannon volley of the American Civil War.

Unknown, “Abraham Milliken, brother to Patience Milliken Prior”, Ohio, Sixth plate daguerreotype from Scovill, c. 1850-1855. Collection of Terry Ownby, PhD.

Technological Aspects of this Daguerreotype

This particular daguerreotype, using a Scovill Manufacturing Company “EXTRA”[i] sixth plate, is an excellent specimen from the early 1850s. Unfortunately, the daguerreotypist did not leave their mark on this image. The case is moderately embossed, typical of the late 1840s to early 1850s, with a single clasp. An ornate, rich wine colored cover pad is in excellent condition, as is the pinch pad. A late 1840s style preserver was used in conjunction with an oval, sandy-surfaced mat, typical throughout the later daguerreian era. Minimal tarnish appears on the silver surface of this image. Since the original paper packet is no longer intact, we are able to fully observe this image and see that Mr. Milliken was wearing light colored slacks with his dark frock coat and waistcoat. Additionally, without the paper tape, the plate manufacture’s hallmark is clearly visible. He is posed against a plain, light colored background. Lastly, on closer inspection of his face, we find is a considerable amount of freckles on his face, possibly indicating he was fair skinned from his Irish descent.

Sixth plate daguerreotype without perserver and mat.

Close-up view of “Scovill Mfg’ Co.” hallmark stamped into corner of plate.

The hallmark, or manufacturer’s logo, was typically stamped into the corner of the daguerreotype plate. Most often these plates where made as a large single sheet known as a “whole or full plate”.  There is disagreement among historians and researchers as to size standardization[ii] and there certainly were differences between continental Europe and English speaking countries[iii]. For my discussion in this paper, I will use the American size of 6 ½ ” x 8 ½ ”. These full plates were subsequently divided further to give us half plates, ¼ plates, sixth plates, ninth plates, and small 1/16th plates. In true capitalistic form, manufacturers sold their stamped plates to distributors, who in turn, sold them to the daguerreian operator. Once the daguerreotypist obtained the full plate, which had been stamped in one corner by the manufacturer, it was cut into the aforementioned smaller sizes. As can be seen in this process, only one final plate, say a sixth plate, would bear the hallmark while the remaining five cuts remain forever unidentifiable.

In the specimen under consideration here, I was delighted to open the preserver packet to discover the Scovill hallmark impressed into its corner. The Scovill Manufacturing Company began its work in a former gristmill in Waterbury, Connecticut, where they produced brass buttons and other sewing paraphernalia, back in 1802[iv]. By late 1839 or early 1840, James L. M. Scovill and W. H. Scovill, began production of American-made daguerreian plates for the budding photo phenomenon that was about to sweep the country. In 1850, the company was incorporated as the Scovill Manufacturing Company and the hallmark illustrated in the image under examination came into use.[v]

 Socio-historical Aspects of this Image

 What was discovered under the image packet however, yielded a treasure trove of information about the sitter in this daguerreotype. Hidden under the packet were two hand-written notes explaining who this gentleman was. The first tells us he is Abraham Milliken, brother to Patience Milliken Prior and when he was born. No death date was written, indicating this note had been placed in the case prior to Abraham’s death in 1860. A second note, written in a different hand and different style paper, explains to us “Abraham Milliken Sr. bro to Gus’s grandmother Patience Milliken Prior, Mrs. Jns [sic] Prior.” Thus, armed with this valuable information, a little genealogical sleuthing revealed an interesting family story associated with this gentleman born during the late 18th century.

Origninal hand-written notes from family members providing genealogical data about the image’s sitter.

According to family historians[vi], Abraham Styles was a second generation American born Milliken. His grandfather, Thomas Milliken was born circa 1730, in Londonderry, Ireland (Northern) and reportedly migrated to America with his brother prior to 1760, and initially settled in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Within the decade, Thomas had been granted several hundred acres (about 400) in Juanita County, Pennsylvania and he had married another Irish pioneer’s daughter named Jane MCConnell. At the outset of the American Revolutionary War, he joined the 2nd Regiment in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and eventually arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Purportedly, he eventually served as a spy and afterwards was assigned to General George Washington’s staff. After suffering extensive hardship, exposure to the cold and lack of adequate rations, Thomas was released to his home in Pennsylvania, where he shortly died thereafter.

Before and during his service in the Revolutionary War, Thomas and Jane had at least six children. The first child was John Milliken, who was Abraham’s father. John was born in Pennsylvania in 1766 and died 77 years later on January 17, 1843, in Pennsylvania. John was married twice during his life: first to Pamelia Styles, sometime around 1783 in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Pamelia (some sources call her Permilia[vii]) was the daughter of Abraham Styles and Patience (surname unknown). His second wife was Mary Campbell and they wed in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, around 1794. From this second marriage, John sired an additional 16 children! During the Revolutionary War, John served in several local militias as a private soldier.

John and Pamelia had four children, with the first being Abraham Styles Milliken. The three other children were Rhoda, Thomas (who died as a child), and Patience (Prior). After the deaths of their mother and brother Thomas, Patience (who as still a baby), and the remaining siblings were raised by their maternal grandparents: Abraham and Patience Styles, in Greene County, Pennsylvania, near a place called Pumpkin Run.

The family history begins to fade after their childhood, but we do know that when Patience was 18 years of age, she married John Prior, on July 29, 1812, in Greene County, Pennsylvania. At some point after this event, the Priors and Abraham Styles Milliken appear to be living near Zanesville, Ohio. To date, research has not revealed Abraham’s occupation upon arriving in Ohio. However, records indicate he became intertwined with the Rex Family[viii], also from Pennsylvania. His sister, Rhoda had married Jonas Rex in 1808 and Abraham had married Hatty Huffsdale (Rex), the widow of Edward Rex, brother to Jonas. This was his second marriage. His first marriage was to Jane Hufty, daughter of Jacob and Sarah (Barclay) Hufty, and they had eight children.

More research needs to be done to uncover the reasons for Abraham Styles Milliken and his associated family members’ removal from Pennsylvania to Ohio during the early 19th century. What occupation and social position did he hold? No matter how much I discover about these early images, there’s always more to learn.

Terry Ownby, PhD

[i] Historic Camera. (n.d.). Scovill Manufacturing Company. Retrieved from

See also: for additional information on this company’s earlier hallmarks.

[ii] Mace, O. H. (1990). Collector’s Guide to Early Photographs. Radnor, PA: Wallace-Homestead Book Company.

[iii] ARCHALTFOTOKONZERV. (2004). Sizes of the Daguerreotype Plates. Retrieved from   

[iv] (2011). Scovill Manufacturing Company. Historic Camera: History Librarium. Retrieved from

[v] Mace, O. H. (1990). Collector’s Guide to Early Photographs. Radnor, PA: Wallace-Homestead Book Company. See also, Craig, J. S. (n.d.). Scovill Mfg Co. Retrieved from

[vi] Page-Clark, J. (2001). The Page-Clarks from Poole, Dorset, England. Retrieved from

[vii] Leckey, H. L. (1977). The Tenmile Country and its Pioneer Families: A Genealogical History of the Upper Monongahela Valley. Green County, PA: Green County Historical Society.

[viii] Ibid.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Is there documented evidence that Abraham in the son of John Milliken? Thank you

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