Growing up so fast

I think this photograph might be an older version of our Communion boy featured in my Button, Button Sepia Saturday post last weekend. Take a good look at the two and you decide. This young man is a fine looking example of youth on the verge of manhood in the late 19th century. Might this be a graduation photo? He is quite tall and slender, with light eyes and hair. I bet the young women in town all though he was quite a catch. This is the last photo from the Leaf Album. It has been a treat to look at these photos and speculate who they might portray, and also to discover more about the photographers in Ohio in the 1890s. I just wish there was some way to find names for these people; it makes me so sad to think of them this way, leaving us asking who they were?

The photographer Albert Adkins was born in England in 1865, emigrating to the US in 1871. He was in the photography business 1895-1900 at least. He died in Cuyahoga in 1932.


Another Cleveland Family

I can’t quite tell if the child in this photograph is a boy or a girl. The usual clue of the part in the hair is either not well defined or the parents chose to eschew that tradition. The child is sweet and round faced, with soft hair with maybe a bit of a curl? Baby is also holding some sort of a toy in their hand. When my daughter was learning to walk I would give her something to hold because when she was distracted she would walk just fine; when she was thinking about it she fell all over the place. I do not recognize the parents from any of our previous photos in the Leaf Album.

The photographer was the family-preferred Freedle in Cleveland.

Cleveland beauty

The latest installment from the Leaf Album features a beautiful young woman with soft curly hair and a lovely and intricately decorated bodice for her dress. The portrait was clearly masked to show off the ruched neck, lacy bib and intricate embroidery or applique work. The bodice also has some fringed trim, and while you might be tempted to think there is a big button on the left, it is a flaw on the image.

When I look at these old photos I remind myself that these lovely images are – for the majority – unretouched, not airbrushed to give the appearance of flawless skin and there was virtually no use of make up at this time. In my mind, this young lady puts all the Oscar award ceremony lovelies to shame.

The photographer was W. F. Zapf on Broadway in Cleveland. While I have found other photographs made by this photographer, for some reason he was not in the directory that has been so helpful on previous Ohio photographers.

Button, button

The Sepia Saturday prompt this week is shoes. I love shoes – every shape, style and fashion of them. From 3″ platforms to plain Keds and everywhere in between, shoes have long been a love of mine. For my pocket book’s sake, I have forced myself to give up the shoe shopping, besides the fact that I can’t wear high heels any longer due to a couple foot injuries – non shoe related, btw.

Shoes have always been an influence on fashion and vice versa. Whether they were the 4″ platform shoes women in Elizabethan England wore to avoid the refuse in the streets or the dainty little skimmers popular with Jane Austin, when a shoe style became popular, fashion adapted. When hemlines changed, shoes adapted. Today, in addition to a couple photos of cute kids, prepare yourself for a brief history lesson on high button boots.

A beautiful girl posing in Detroit for her First Communion or Confirmation portrait. She is wearing a floral garland in her hair along with a veil, has a lovely white lace dress that stops just below her knees and she is holding something in her left hand, maybe a prayer book? Below the dress we see her black stockings and black high button boots. High button boots became a fashion in the 1870s when hemlines were fashionable at the ankle, rather than dusting the top of the shoe. Previous to the high button boot was the ankle bootie favored by Queen Victoria, and in America they were called “The Balmoral” or “Bal” style. They laced up and gave no support to the ankle. But, when the dress hemline inched up a bit, more of the ankle was exposed. Heaven help us, we can’t have that! So, industrious shoe designers came up with a taller shaft of the boot, fastened with buttons rather than laces.

A young man in his first short pants and double breasted coat holds a prayer book close to his side and sports a boutonniere on his lapel, all on top of his high button boots. High button boots were the dominant boot style for men and women through the end of the century. In the 1880s, James Morley began production of high button boots with a new sewing machine attachment that more securely stitched the buttons. The making of one pair of boots from start to finish could be accomplished in 15 minutes. Boots featured between 12-20 buttons depending on individual style and taste, and either a scalloped design around the button hole or a simple and plain lap. As the style continued into the 1890s, actresses and dashing women favored the high button boot for it’s fashionable method of hiding the ankle while hinting at the leg. The iconic Gibson Girl is shown wearing high button boots in the Edwardian style after 1900.

Because so many tiny buttons were on the boots, the button hook was invented. At first, they were a luxury item, but as they became more common they were viewed as a regular dressing accessory, much like a hairbrush and mirror. Button boots were considered more secure than laced boots because they didn’t come unlaced or loosen with wear through the day. Certainly there were many other styles of boots available for men and women, but just a quick browse through an antique ladies’ magazine will reveal that the high button boot was considered the most fashionable, the most modest, and the most necessary type of boot for ladies to wear. Men were encouraged to own a pair of laced shoes for bad weather, a pair of Oxfords for the summer and a pair of button up boots for all other occasions.

After the turn of the century, the high button boot lingered until World War 1. In 1914, rationing of leather and other goods necessary pushed the boots to the side and frugality took hold. The rise of hemlines and the flapper fashion demanded new shoe styles and the Mary Jane and T-strap styles took hold. In America, President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 announced that high button shoes would no longer be indexed on the Bureau of Labor Statistics charts. While they had waned for many years, the high button boot was officially “over” after a good 30+ year run of dominating shoe fashions.

These days, you can custom order high button boots if you are interested. They run a little on the pricey side, but I can tell you, custom boots will fit you and only you forever.

Step on over to Sepia Saturday for more great posts about shoes!

Make tracks!

Photographers featured are Emhuff in Detroit, Michigan and Hebbel in Baltimore, Maryland.

Big sleeves & mangy fur

The latest entry from the Leaf Album and all I can say is wow. That fur is really disreputable; I can’t imagine what the photographer thought this would say in an artistic sense about his young female subject. Her dress is quite statement enough, in my opinion. The sleeves aren’t as large or prominent as the last big sleeve image from the album, but they really don’t do much for this lady’s look. They appear to be 3/4 bell sleeves, almost pagoda sleeves. Then there is some sort of lacy undersleeve and the lace adornment at the neckline. The fabric is checkered as well, so it makes me dizzy to look at it too long. Finally, the gathered blouse style bodice just makes the whole thing look sloppy to me. Sigh, the things women will do for fashion! She is fairly young, so perhaps this was the height of style for young women in the mid to late 1890s.

The photographer was Freedle, a clear family favorite.

Cleveland Family

This cabinet card from the Leaf Album was trimmed on one side probably to make it fit into a frame or picture window in a photo album. Fortunately for us, the photographer information wasn’t removed as is so often seen. The family of three features Father, Mother and a little boy. Judging by his large blouse and floppy necktie, he is over 5 years of age and mother was fond of the “Little Lord Fauntleroy” look that was  popular in the 1880s and ’90s. Mother’s dress appears to be an 1890s fashion to me with the frills on the bodice and puffed sleeves. She is holding something in her hand. At first I thought it might be a daguerreotype but it looks more rounded, so perhaps it is a prayer book? Father is rather nondescript in his clothing except the piped edges of his lapels and the watch fob visible hanging from his vest button hole.

The photographer was most likely Alfred M. Morton, known to have been in business in Cleveland in the 1890s. Unfortunately I didn’t find anything else. To identify these photographers I have been using an ebook titled Artists in Ohio 1787-1900, a biographical dictionary. Someone took the time to compile loads of helpful information and I highly recommend it for researching photographers and their history.

Baby in a white dress

Today we have a round faced baby. This family was certainly all about the frilly white dresses, weren’t they? It’s not possible to tell from the clothing or hair whether this was a boy or girl. In some regards, it looks like a boy to me, but then I think the mouth is delicate and could be a girl… My guess is that Mother was behind the drape, steadying the baby.

The photographer was J. M. Didero, at 1370 Broadway, Cleveland, Ohio. Joseph (fmly Guiseppe) Didero was born in 1849 and was in the photography trade as early as 1883 under his birth name. By 1884 however he had changed his name to Joseph and was working in Lorain. He operated his studio in Cleveland between 1892-1900 at least and he died in 1918. It is interesting to note that the address is just a short way from the Freedle studio.

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