In a box of old photos that were handed to me for all of 10 minutes to do a quick scan was a few photos that were a bit unusual.
I had not thought that I would ever identify more than one or two of these photos. I had, early on identified one as Robert Gransden. He had been easy as another relative had a similar photo and we had been able to compare them and confirm. There are a few other photos that are of similar looking people that are obviously Gransden family members. Over time I will, no doubt, begin to identify who they are. But the vast majority of the photos I have no idea of even where to start.
Today I decided that it was time to identify one of those photos. I wanted to know if it could help me to place one of my ancestors in Victoria in the early 1860’s. Edwin Gransden had worked on Edward Stone Park’s Run. Edward Park had been the Aboriginal Protector for the area, so if the photo that I had could be identified to a time when Edwin was on Edward’s run, then it would give me more of a sense of how close his contact with the Indigenous group was. So I decided to put the photo that I had, up onto the ‘Unknown Photos of Australia’ FaceBook site.
Within a short time, I had responses, asking questions and making suggestions. One of the first things we looked at was the boys spotted skin. On researching, we quickly found that the skin discolouration he had was called Vitiligo. This information gave us some different directions to research in. Another person pointed out that the boy’s boots looked pretty good and that he looked like he may be a boxer rather than an itinerant worker.
Shortly after that, it was pointed out to me that the features of the boy were not Indigenous Australian, but rather more African. I can’t determine faces very well, so I am unable to pick up regional differences like that.
Further searching revealed another photo of the same boy but about ten years later. It was possible to determine that it was the same person because of the pattern of spots on his torso, face, and arms due to the Vitiligo. This photos came up on that of a ‘Circus Freaks’ page. I then found another photo, doing similar searches using the words Troupe and Freak, etc, of the same boy younger, but this time with a large snake.
Finally the Jackpot. Another researcher found a name, ‘The Leopard Boy.’ Along with that name was another photo and a history of the boy. All of which meant that I could then search for him on Trove and find an article about his travels in Australia.
After we found a name for Mungo, it was easy to go to Trove and find when he was in Australia.
So the boy in the photo is called Mungo Park. His stage name is ‘The Leopard Boy, ’ and he was in Australia around 1875. All for the price of asking. Such an amazing result.
All of the photos in this article should be out of copyright and in the public domain. However, I was unable to locate correct sources for the photographs. Most of them were on Pinterest with no attribution. If there is a problem with the use of any of the photos please contact me. The top one is in the Gransden Family personal collection. It is the two below that I do not have details of.