May 21, 2023
If there is one thing I enjoy more than almost anything else it's trying to fill in the gaps of Old West stories with illustrations that might pass for the real thing or at the very least be authentic to the times.
On this note, I was rather surprised to learn that there are no known photos of Jesse James' mother, Zerelda, when she was a young woman. She was described by those who knew her as being "radiantly beautiful" in her youth and being almost six feet tall. Add to that her strong personality—it was said she was "not afraid of the devil himself." It's no surprise that many have claimed Jesse took after his mother.
So, I'm looking for photo reference to accurately illustrate the wedding of Robert Sallee James (no known photos of him either!) to Zerelda Elizabeth Cole on December 28, 1841 at Stamping Ground, Kentucky. Mark Lee Gardner suggested I Google "wedding daguerreotypes" and man did that kick up some cool images.
This last one is actually from the 1840s and it has a couple things going for it. Notice the tight, slim sleeves on the gent's coat. Seems odd to our eyes but that was the fashion in the forties. Even though the previous photos, above it, are more 1850s, and it's only about ten years off, think about the difference in fashion between the 1950s and 60s. That's why it's imperative we keep it as close as we can to the time frame. I also like that the photographer had her standing, which may have been the case with Zerelda if she was taller than her husband. We don't know how tall Jesse's father was, but for the sake of illustrating, this is probably the route I will take.
A few sketches tomorrow.
“A good marriage is one where each partner secretly suspects they got the better deal.”
—Old Vaquero Saying