Historical Rabbit Holes

At the end of William Frassanito's seminal work "Early Photography at Gettysburg," he mentions photographs by an obscure photographer:

One of the most obscure series of Gettysburg stereos produced during the period of memorialization was taken ca. 1890 by a J.G. McPherson of McKeesport, Pa. (to date I have examined only one view from McPherson's series).

I have actually found three of McPherson's Gettysburg views and three of his Antietam views. I have also found one of his Johnstown Flood views.

I really wanted to have some of his images in my upcoming book about Antietam images, but I wanted to get up to McKeesport to find out a little about him first, and I have proceeded to do just that - I went up there and found little.

Which reminds me of a story: When Mary Todd Lincoln was asked about how she met Abe, she said Abe came up to her at a party and he said that he wanted to dance with her in the worst way, and then he proceeded to do exactly that.

Anyway, I took a two-day trip up to McKeesport to see if they had any of his images. No luck. What they did have, though, was his first name. I got that within ten minutes of being there.

It is at a moment like that that I find myself wondering how far I need to go with my research to make the time worthwhile. Obviously I would hope to go further than his first name, but how far? I spent three more hours and found neither an obit nor a grave site. He was not mentioned in the thousand pages of G.A.R. records I perused. I did have two addresses for him and went to those locations and took photographs. But, how much do I know about those locations? One of them looks like it was there in 1889 when he lived there, but if I take the time to search the deeds, how relevant is that to people who are curious about Antietam photographs?

Now, the answer, of course, is that one often finds the best stuff while looking for the trivial. Like hunting for gold, that huge vein might be an inch away when you give up the hunt. So, being new to this whole 'historian' thing, I will follow whatever rabbit holes his name leads me down, time permitting, and try to parse out what is of value to readers of my books and find somewhere else to record what may be meaningful to someone down the road.