Scrolled borders

Mounted Tin Types 13 W

Nice goatee and pink cheeks

Mounted Tin Types 11 W

Striped bodice and bow

These two tintype photos share the same scrolled border as our last photo of the middle aged woman, and for that reason I suspect they were made by the same photographer, and are family. I can’t decide of they are married or siblings, however. What is your opinion?

Mounted Tin Types 13 Back W Mounted Tin Types 11 Back W


Here are the backmarks of these two photos. T. M. Saurman at the corner of Main & Green Streets in Norristown, PA was a young photographer in 1870, just 23.

Thomas M. Saurman was a busy man! Born in about 1846, in 1860 he was living with his mother and family in Norristown, PA. One of the people living in the home was Frederick Spane, a painter, and someone who’s name comes up as an artist & photographer in the Norristown area. It is possible Saurman learned his trade from Spane or was inspired by him.

In 1870, Saurman was married to Eliza Davis (married in 1867) and they had a child Mary V born about 1870, as well as Eliza’s brother Charles Davis living with them.

The 1880 census is a bit sparse on information, showing Thomas living with his mother Catherine, along with his brother Othenel, aged 26, and they are both photographers. Also listed is Mary, age 17 and daughter in law to Catherine, as well as James, a 7 month old, listed as son of the head of household, which was Catherine. Maybe he was actually Mary’s child. It’s difficult to sort.

Finally, the 1900 census shows Thomas at age 55 still a photographer, his wife Eliza at age 53, daughters Mary age 30, Edith age 26, Norma age 15 and Mable age 12. Son Louis age 24 was a photographer and James age 22 was a druggist.

Here’s some more of the fun stuff. Thomas Saurman was awarded three patents. First was a print cutting apparatus in 1872. Next was a method to improve the drying of photographic plates in 1874. Finally was an improvement to a tobacco smoking pipe in 1902. Further, his son James was in the news for his pharmacology work.

Next time, another Saurman photo with a different card that will have you saying “awww.”

Softly falling jowls and a wardrobe malfunction

Mounted Tin Types 2 W

Is her dress coming open here?

A nice tintype of an older lady, maybe in her 50s? I have heard a lot of talk lately about tintypes adding years to a person’s face, so unless I see actual age signs, I’m a bit hesitant to guess. However, this lady does have the drooping eyelids and softly falling jowls of middle age.

From what I can see of her dress, it is a gathered front bodice with dropped shoulder seams, putting the dress in the 1860s. Unless my eyes are deceiving me, it looks like the front opening of the dress has popped open a smidge, showing a glimpse of the white undergarments or lining.

I read a little bit about dating tintypes in paper sleeves, and while I am confident this image is from the 1860s, I’m not certain as to what part. There was a style of paper sleeve called a cartouche that was popular until about 1865. The cartouche was characterized by an oval opening and decorative motifs around the opening. What makes me uncertain about this one is that the motifs are in the corners of the card. I’m not well versed enough in 1860s cartouche sleeves to know if that is exactly what this is. But, I’m leaning toward the second half of the 60s, or even the very end of the 60s. The card itself is CDV sized to fit with the popular styles of the time.

The style of motifs correspond with some other images I found in the same lot, so I am going to assume they were made by the same photographer, which was T. M. Saurman in Morristown, PA. My research into Saurman confuses me further on dating this particular image. He was found in the 1870 census to be only 23 years old. Could he have been in business in 1865 at only 18 years old? I find that unlikely. So this is probably not a cartouche in the style that was popular until about 1865, but an updated version for the use of photographic artists who made tintypes well until the 1900s. More on T. M. Saurman in my next post! Don’t go away.


Mother & Daughter lean on their fingers

Mounted Tin Types W

Hello, dearie

Mounted Tin Types 1 W

Oh, Mother!

I found these two mounted tintypes in an online auction and loved the fact that they are clearly mother & daughter AND that the subjects are in the exact same pose.  They even have matching embossed stars on the border around the photos.

I asked some very knowledgeable friends of mine about the coat that Mother is wearing, in the first image above. They tend to agree it is a garment called a sacque coat, meaning any sort of coat that buttons at the neck and is loosely hanging on the body. It ends around the waist or hip line. This particular specimen has trimmings around the hem and very large buttons that appear to be decorative rather than functional. A pocket is also evident, with something tucked inside. Perhaps it was a handkerchief or small book. The coat was probably made from wool or wool flannel, and lined with polished cotton or silk. I say “probably” because even though we don’t see the actual details of the garment, these are the most common materials for outerwear at that time. I bet it was very warm and comfortable! We don’t see much detail about her dress, except that it has a small collar and she is wearing a lovely brooch.

Second in line is the daughter, who has a bolero style over bodice with a white Garibaldi style bodice under it. This was a very popular style for young people. The over bodice is similar to the sacque coat in that it fastens at the neck and hangs loosely around the body. You can also see her large belt buckle. The dress was probably made from a fine wool, and the over bodice was likely lined with polished cotton in a solid brown or black (the most common lining in extant garments). The Garibaldi bodice was possibly made from fine cotton lawn, sheer wool or silk, depending on the family’s financial situation.

Neither card has a backmark, so I cannot tell anything about the photographer or geographic location where the tin type images were made. Each tin type is approximately 1 1/4″ by 1 1/2″, and is affixed to the mount with a sheet of thin paper glued over it. The mother’s card was trimmed down, presumably to fit into a frame or photo album. They are lovely representations of the American Civil War era or slightly thereafter, definitely pre-1870s.

Just a pretty girl in plaid

Plaid CW Girl

Pretty girl in plaid

I like this photo for the details of the clothing (no surprise there, right?). This girl is in a plaid dress that features dropped shoulder seams, long cuffed sleeves, a gathered bodice and a skirt over hoop with growth tucks. She has just a frill of lace on her neckline. Note that you see no buttons on the front of this dress. Children’s clothing buttoned in the back. I’m not completely sure why, but I have heard speculation it was so they could not undress themselves. Plaid and other types of busy patterned fabrics were popular choices for children’s clothing because it showed dirt less than a solid.

Photo by D. Clark

Photo by D. Clark

The photographer for this image was D. Clark of North Brunswick, NJ. I’m dating this photo to the 1865-1869 time frame because the image uses the whole card face, as well as the two lines of the border. There isn’t a tax stamp, so it was not from the 1864-1866 period. Prior to that, images were more typically small in the center of the card face. After 1870 the corners of the CDV cards were rounded.

Three men and a finger

Three Men

Now, listen here, boys…

Today’s post-Civil War era CDV shows us three men, two of them ostensibly listening to the third. The three men are all dressed nicely, slacks, vests, coats, etc., and are well groomed. The gentleman on the right of the image has his hand raised, finger pointed, as though lecturing the other two. They could be discussing anything from the recently ended Civil War, or the price of tea in China.

A few more details caught my attention.

  • The left hand seated fellow is holding something in his hand. I can’t make out what it is, and it looks for all the world like a cell phone, lol.
  • The men’s shoes are nice Oxford style shoes, one of the most popular menswear fashions ever, as they are still available today.
  • The fellow standing also seems to be holding something, in his far hand. It might be a glove or other textile item.
  • The photo itself was shot slightly off kilter, giving the whole thing a left leaning feeling, even though the print is placed relatively centered and squared on the card.

I date the photo to 1864-1866 due to the tax stamps on the reverse.

Three Men Back

3 cents per image, please

Although the stamps have been removed – probably by a collector – they were poorly removed and we can see the fellows paid 3 cents tax on the image. The tax was collected to help pay for damages and reparations from the devastating Civil War. Luxury items were taxed at certain rates, photographs included. The rate of tax was based on how much the individual paid for the item.

Painted Eyes

Painted Eyes

Solemn gentleman

At first glance, this CDV dated to the 1860s looks like a rather benign fellow with fluffy hair and a frock coat. Perhaps he has an intense gaze, but otherwise, he’s somewhat average. Until you look closely at his eyes.

Painted Eyes - Version 2


This is one of the few examples I have of the photographer having painted on eyes.  For whatever reason, the photographer did not like the appearance of the eyes and enhanced them on the negative prior to printing the image. I have read of this being done, so I was especially excited to acquire this CDV. I know, kind of sick haha. I imagine the subject had light colored eyes that did not show up on the photo very well. I have definitely seen that on many occasions. It is also possible he blinked or otherwise moved his eyes so they didn’t show up correctly. It is unfortunate that the photographer did such a poor job at enhancing the eyes though. They look like cartoon eyes.

Painted Eyes Back


As you can see from the back of the card, photographer S. C. Jewell didn’t make up new cards at the time he took this portrait. It appears the studio was purchased from D. D. Haines in Bourbon, Indiana. It is likely that to save on expenses, Jewell simply used the stock of mounts on hand until they ran out and he was forced to purchase more. I have not been able to find anything about either photographer in a cursory search. Of note, I do have another photograph made by a Haines in Albany, NY. To see it and the brief discussion of the Haines name, click the category Haines & Wickes Photographers. Based on the two lines on the border, the absence of a tax stamp, and the image taking up the entire face of the card, I am dating this to post Civil War, 1864-1869.

Pretty Poem

Poem Girl

Pretty as a poem

This CDV dated to the 1860s looks like a photograph of a painting or other type of illustration. That was popular for photographers to generate income in addition to their stock in trade. Photographs of famous figures, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, could be purchased at the same studio where an individual might sit for their own portrait. This particular image captured my imagination because of what was written on the back.

Poem Girl Back

A poem from Isa B

Along the right hand side it says “With compliments of Isaiah Black.” The poem goes as follows:

When the dove in eastern lands

Is loosened from its captive chains

How swift it flies o’re desert sands

To seek its own dear nest again.

Somewhere in other lands I stray

Or even cross the troubled sea

My trusting heart will never stay

But fly on friendships wing to thee.

This sounds a lot like Isa B is leaving and wants the recipient to be his friend. Nothing like underlining “friendship” to make sure the message is clear!

Unfortunately, the photographer of this particular piece didn’t use a back mark, and so we don’t know where the studio was located.

UPDATE: Thanks to site reader Juliette Kings, we now know the picture is of Evangeline, heroine of the famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie. The poem was published in 1847 and had considerable impact on both Longfellow’s career as well as culturally, as it tells the tale of the deportation of French Acadians from Nova Scotia by the British in 1755. The particular deportation was centered in Nova Scotia, Canada, but many Acadians made their way south to America, and eventually Louisiana where their culture and language formed the basis of the modern day Cajun culture. In the poem, Evangeline and her lover Gabriel are cast out of Acadia and become separated. Evangeline spends the rest of her life wandering through America, looking for him. It is a truly romantic poem that spans two sections, each with five parts. School children across America were made to memorize parts of it. …this is the forest primeval… It is available for free on Kindle and is only 44 pages long, and is well worth the moment you need to download it.

Further Reading

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Evangeline on the Maine Historical Society website

Overview of the epic poem Evangeline on Wikipedia

Free version of Evangeline to download on

Louisiana State Parks Longfellow-Evangeline Historical Site

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