Researching

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I had the Joseph Walter Home Children photograph a long time before I was able to find out anything fact-wise. On arriving home the day I purchased it, I did a Google search, but it came back with zero results. Not surprising, considering how old it looked.

At least four years passed before I had any concrete facts about the place. Until then, all I had to go on was the photo itself, and from the looks of it, life at the Home did not look good for the kids who lived there.

Then one day I did another Google search. I had done many over the intervening years, but this time something came up – a newspaper article from 1912 that described the Home as a wonderful place that did good work.

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To be frank, it  was a relief. I had spent so much time thinking of how awful things must have been there that to learn this might not have been the case was a bit anticlimactic. I chalked my conclusions up to innate cynicism and gave a little shrug.

Then, using the site that popped up in the Google search, I looked up the name of the woman credited with running the Home, Mrs. Julia Anna Baker.

My initial hypotheses about the Home turned out to be correct.

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By the time I finished my research several years later, I had more than 450 newspaper articles, court documents and other materials, all of which I used in the writing of the book.

It was an all-consuming process, but I am very happy with the result.

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Starting Point

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The first time I saw this photograph, it was hanging in an antique store with a $50 price tag affixed to the lower right corner with Scotch tape. It was almost a decade ago, and while $50 is still a large amount of money to me, it was even more so then.

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So, instead of buying the picture, I decided to stare at it until I had memorized all of the details. Fifteen minutes later, I was still staring, but now I also was contemplating whether the picture would be worth the expense. I decided to think about it.

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I spent the next hour wandering around the store, but finding myself back at the picture every few minutes.

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I was not the only one who stopped to look. Amid the clutter, the photograph was like a magnet drawing everybody in the store to it. Like me, they all stopped to stare for long periods of time.

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As any collector can tell you, a piece that garners that much attention is not likely to stay put for very long. By the time the hour was over I had decided to buy it.

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It was the best $50 I ever spent.