Woman in a daycap

For my final photograph from the Mearns Family Album, I have saved one of my favorites for the last. This photo was made probably in the 1870s, based on the lack of ornamentation on the cabinet card. I have often said that the older set hold onto their favorite fashions and this is a good example of that habit. This lady is wearing some fashions of the 1860s for her 1870s vintage portrait.

First, the daycap. The tradition of having ones hair dressed and covered reaches back through the centuries, and probably arose from a combination of tradition and necessity. During the Renaissance, Europe was going through a mini ice age and it was quite cold, so wearing a covering on the head helped keep people warm. There was also a modesty factor that compelled women to keep their hair confined in public but allowed their closest relatives to see it unbound. Now remember those traditions and fast-forward 300 or so years.

During the 1860s, these lightweight caps were worn indoors as a way of keeping the hair neat. The hair was dressed by drawing it back into a chignon of some kind. A chignon is really just an arrangement of hair in some sort of twisted arrangement, not limited to the sleek look that dominates today. Here you can see that her hair was parted in the center and the sides were turned under her ears, as was the style. A daycap was made from lightweight fabrics, such as linen, batiste, or lawn. This particular one appears to be starched, almost like the cap Amish women still wear today. I don’t know the significance of the drapery falling over her shoulders, but I know that many daycaps had them. If a woman were to leave the house for visiting, she would remove the daycap and wear a hair net and her bonnet. The hair net was not the snood many women wear at Civil War reenactments, but more like the fine threaded hair nets your local lunchlady wears. Yup! of course, some hair nets were made from silk threads adorned with beads and were rather lovely, but the hair net of which I speak was intended to blend into the hair color and not be seen. It was another means of keeping the hair tidy.

And of course for bed, everyone wore a nightcap.

From what I can see from the dress, it also has some remnants of 1860s fashions. The shoulder seam is dropped a good 2-3 inches down the arm, which was the dominant style of the era. The bodice opening is a wrap front, meaning that the front opening wrapped one side over the other and closed with hidden buttons or hooks. There is a fichu in the opening, which was probably part of the dress and provided a fashionable modesty piece. I have seen extant dresses with this same bodice opening, but the one that comes to mind is a sheer dress, which was worn in the heat of summer. The subject of our photo appears to be wearing a dark colored silk dress.

Although this is not to the theme of Sepia Saturday this week, I encourage you to click through and take in the variety of photos a simple prompt can bring in from around the world.


Ann Beatrice Scarborough


One of our final images from the Mearns Family Album is a photograph of a beautiful baby named Ann Beatrice Scarborough. I noticed than many of the Scarborough family photos were removed from the album. I can only guess that whoever wanted them missed this one because the identification information was written on the back. She was three months and one (day?) when this was taken. Her dress is gorgeous, with layers of eyelet and lots of lace, but she’s been placed on the ubiquitous animal pelt, ick.

The photographer was Lane in Brooklyn, NY.

Everetts, New York State

This person was identified only as Everetts, New York State, with the photo below labeled only as “& wife.”

Her dress is a bustle dress, dating the photo to 1885-1890. It is not an outrageous dress, very understated. She has some type of flower at her throat, so this could possibly be her wedding portrait.

This young man was also labeled only Everetts, New York State. My guess is the person making the identifications intended to go back and write in their first names but never did for one reason or another. This particular photo looks like a collodion print with its slight lavender tint, putting the date post 1894.

The three photographers were (possibly) M. S. Squyer of Auburn, NY, Pomeroy of Rochester, NY and Ernsberger in Auburn, NY.

Washed out

We are going to give Iggy’s brain a rest today with an unidentified photo of a gentleman from the Mearns Family Album. The pose is the side portrait, and unfortunately the lighting from above was a bit too bright. It reminds me of what I learned previously about Ivoryettes, and I wonder if the photographer W. W. Cowles was not very good at this style of photography.

Van Sickle, West

Today’s photograph is identified as Van Sickle, West. I assume that means that the first name was lost to the ages. This lady kind of looks like the mother in yesterday’s photograph. What do you think? She is wearing pince nez spectacles that have a little chain that wraps probably around her ear, which was a known method to keep track of one’s glasses.

On the back corner of this cabinet card was written:

Taken Dec 24, 1889. Do you think this is the same woman or not?

This photo was made by Stewart & Yoost at 56 Main Street, Oneida, NY.

Cute Tykes

These lovely children are placed in the Mearns Family Album next to the photo of Minnie Johns. Considering the news that Iggy found yesterday (that she had suffered from typhoid and her husband succumbed to it) it is unlikely that these were her children. You see, Minnie married Robert T. Groves on February 5, 1890, and in August that year it was reported that Robert Groves had died. Not quite enough time to produce two lovely children. Minnie was definitely a friend of the family as Rutledge Gifford was an usher at the wedding. Perhaps they knew each other from school or church. How sad to be married just seven short months.

Now back to the children. The boy looks a lot to me like the boy in the following photo.

What do you all think? While the pair of children was photographed in Geneva, NY and the small family was photographed in Columbia City, IN, we know that the family and friends of the Mearns lived in both areas. It is possible they moved from Indiana to New York. Tomorrow I’ll show you another photo I think is of this family and you can weigh in on that too.

Our first photographer was Theodore H. Wood and the second was Dot’s Studio.

Minnie Johns

This photo from the Mearns Family Album is identified as Minnie Johns. I don’t recall seeing this name among the many relations that Iggy has found, but it’s entirely possible I am just not remembering well. The photo can be dated to the 1890s because of the scalloped edges of the card. You can also see the puffed sleeves of her dress and the high collar that were both popular in the 1890s. The photographer was W. C. Bell at 6 West Market Street, York, PA.

UPDATE: Iggy found that Minnie Johns, daughter of Rev. John Henry Johns of the Presbyterian Church of Zion, married Robert Grove on February 5, 1890. In August 1890, Robert passed away after an illness and Minnie was suffering from a bout of typhoid. Minnie’s father and husband are buried next to each other in the Zion cemetery that Iggy visited earlier this year, and the graves are not far from William L. Mearns. Rutledge Gifford was an usher at Minnie & Robert’s wedding. Happily, Minnie survived the typhoid fever and went on to remarry W. R. Stephens on February 5, 1893. What an odd coincidence that she selected the same date for her second wedding as her first! The same minister preceded over both wedding services as well. Check the comments for more detailed information and excerpts from newspapers. Thank you Iggy!!

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