Thaxter P. Spencer didn't realize what he had. "Another picture of Hellen Keller," says the ex naval captain, 86. "It seemed like something no one would find very interesting." Instead the 1888 photo, part of a trove Spencer donated to the New England Historic Genealogical Society, may be the earliest shot of Keller with her teacher Anne Sullivan. Taken on Cape Cod, where the two were visiting, the picture once belonged to Spencer's mother, who met the 8-year-old deaf and blind girl that summer. "She remembered having her face 'explored' by Helen," says Spencer. "My mother was terrified."

  • Contributors:
  • Anne Driscoll/Boston.