The Irish in America


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Mystery Priest

Photograph pin, ca. 1890-1900

This “photo-pin” belonged to my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan.  Annie passed away in 1937, and this pin was among a small collection of cards, photographs, and memorial cards that made their way to my mom.  Click here to see a 1930s Christmas card from Annie’s sister Katie in Ireland.

I remember seeing this pin as a child and being puzzled as to why my great-grandmother had such a thing.  Who wore a pin with someone’s picture on it, especially a picture of a priest?  I didn’t get it, but I was relieved that the fad of priest-photo-pins didn’t carry over to the 1980s – the thought of wearing a picture of my parish priest Father O’Sullivan stuck to my cardigan gave me goosebumps!

Several years ago I became curious about the identity of the priest in the photo-pin, and I started to ask questions…

  • Could this be Annie’s brother, or maybe an uncle or a nephew?
  • When Annie came to the US, she worked as a housekeeper for Father Molloy.  Maybe this is him?
  • Were pins like this common or did she have this specially made?

I have never been able to answer these questions.  I know Annie had one brother, John, but I know nothing about his life, and I have seen photos of Father Molloy, but only as an older man and there isn’t a strong resemblance.

Maybe you can help me with the third question.  Has anyone come across an item like this, maybe in an old box of your great-grandmother’s treasures or at an antique shop?  The pin measures about two inches in diameter with a coppery, scalloped edge.  Leave me a comment if you have any ideas…

Check out this website for more on photo jewelry.