Early Middle Age

This is the final image from the Red Velvet album, and depicts a woman in early middle age. She looks a bit tired, but cleaned herself up for the sitting. It is unusual that she is quite over weight. While people certainly had the ability to become obese in the 19th century, it wasn’t as common as it is today. Just chores around the house could be a chore – cooking required wood for the stove (chopping & hauling), iron pots and skillets were quite heavy and there were no electric appliances to chop or mix. Cows required milking, gardens required tending, and going to the store was an experience in itself. If the family had a horse & buggy, someone had to take the horse from the barn and hitch it to the buggy, drive the buggy, find parking, etc. then there was walking all around town for goods. The department store was not as prevalent as it is today, so vegetables came from the produce stand, meat from the butcher, bread from the baker, shoes from the shoe maker, dresses from the seamstress, hats from the milliner, etc etc etc. Depending on how far from town the person lived, they might save up all their shopping for one day.

This photo dates from the 1860s, as evidenced by the gold line and square corners, as well as the size and shape of the image (round or oval, in the center of the card). Also, the clothing is consistent with 1860s fashions for women.

I have found a great nephew of Franklin Francis Ford, our one firmly identified photograph from the album, and I’ve asked if they would like to own the album on the chance there are other Ford photographs within. I’ll keep you all posted on how that goes.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. usermattw
    Apr 25, 2012 @ 17:10:15

    Another photo blog I follow (dcphotoartist.wordpress.com) has recently been posting some of the 19th-century photos of “circus freaks” from his collection, including a few “fat lady” photos. What amazes me is that I look at them and think, “They aren’t THAT fat!” I find it fascinating how society’s relationship with body image has changed over the years, and it’s interesting to consider the idea that there was simply less obesity in those days for the reasons you mentioned.

    Reply

    • Mrs Marvel
      Apr 26, 2012 @ 15:31:46

      I read recently that American diets (high in fat low in fiber) in conjunction with less actual reason to move – cars, sedentary jobs, convenient appliances, etc – coincide with the obesity epidemic. Basically, if we eat and move like we live in the 19th century, we would be a lot more healthy. Just walking a short distance rather than driving the car helps strengthen the body.

      Reply

      • usermattw
        Apr 26, 2012 @ 16:53:53

        Yes, I completely agree! I was reading an Amish cookbook and surprised to see it list pie as a breakfast food, but it pointed out that the calories would be burned off working in the fields. I guess my point is that our culture has changed to where we see the woman pictured above and think of her as being fat but not unusual, whereas 150 years ago she could have hired herself out as a circus freak. (Of course, while I’m amazed at shifting body image standards, I guess I’m also glad for the shifting standards that have done away with circus freaks in the first place.)

  2. Far Side of Fifty
    Apr 26, 2012 @ 12:26:30

    I have noticed that men sometimes look portly! But few women have added weight simply because they were too busy, or did not have a big budget for food:)

    Reply

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