Flat Head

 

Sometimes a number of factors combine to cause us to double take a pretty picture. This photo in particular looks rather mundane upon first glance. The subject is centered nicely, her hair is arranged, her expression is appropriately moderate. One may not look beyond these traits and be completely satisfied with the image.

Not me, though.

I noticed that the particular hair arrangement this lady chose, along with her chin being tilted slightly downward, makes her head look flat on top. Unfortunate. Probably in person she looked lovely and within the norms of her fashion choices. Combine with this that one of her eyes seems to be slightly droopy, or less opened than the other, and she looks less put together to the discerning eye bent upon picking apart the portrait. She looks, in fact, a bit sleepy.

All that withstanding, this is a nice image, and is the first I can recall with a green border. Typical borders in the 1860s were black, some red. According to various sites, the thin line puts this in the 1862 range, and the size of the image puts it in the 1860-1864 range. The dropped shoulders of the dress that can be seen matches this general dating.

The photographer was J. Beard at 8 Old Bond Street, Bath.

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The flip

There was a time when a curled cow lick was desirable in a man’s hair. Today is not that time, but the time of this photo was. The fellow had his hair oiled as also was the fashion, and combed nicely to one side to play up the cow lick. The shape of his mouth is interesting, with the upper lip more pronounced, making it look like he had just been startled. Let us hope that was not the case. :-)

The photographer used was Thomas Birtles of Northwich & Knutsford. I found a reference suggesting he was in business 1865-1876. However, further research uncovered that Thomas Birtles did not officially take ownership of this studio until 1878. He had been an assistant to John Longshaw, a well known photographer in Warrington. Born in 1838, Birtles first attended art college, became a drawing master and tutor, before health concerns took him back home to Warrington. He went to work for Longshaw, married Emma Longshaw in 1860, and upon the death of his employer, took over the studio with his brother in law, Edward Longshaw. Evidently, Edward left the business rather quickly, and Birtles continued on independently, opening studios in Northwich and Knutsford.

Birtles was a prolific photographer, known not only for people, but also indoor and outdoor scenes, upper and lower class people as well as industrial and construction photos. He even photographed his own dinner table set for a wedding feast. He and his wife had eleven children, many of whom went into the photography business with their father supporting several studios. Thomas Birtles was long in business, well into the 20th century, and transitioned his work from ambrotype to collodion and on to more modern methods after that. His sons continued the business well into the 20th century.

For further reading about Thomas Birtles, the Warrington Museum has published the book Warrington’s Photographers. There are many of Thomas Birtle’s images there as well as many from John Longstreet and others.

 

Handsome face

The unidentified subject of the CDV above has what could be considered a classically handsome face: strong jaw and mouth, slight mustache, straight nose, evenly spaced eyes, set into a well shaped face, not too wide & short, not to long and thin. His clothing appears to be nicely made, and while I don’t understand why his necktie looks like it is touching his bare neck in between the collar points, I do admire it’s pattern nonetheless.  His hair style is what caught my attention, though. What was once very popular and considered to be stylish is now an interesting “flip” of the hair on top, with some bushy fronds on the sides. It was probably oiled to death, too. He looks like he needs a wash, shave and a haircut, to me. But c’est la vie, he was probably considered to be just “the thing” to the ladies in his town!

The photographer of this paragon of the past was Stanley, of Lewiston, ME.

Frazzled

SCENE – DRESSING ROOM – MISS LIZZIE DRESSING AND CONVERSING WITH LUCY, HER MAID

Lucy: Miss Lizzie, you have spent so much time on your dress and adornment, the corsage on your bodice is divine! You will look a picture of virtue and chastity for your wedding portrait.

Miss Lizzie: oh, thank you Lucy, your assistance with these balloon sleeves was crucial to getting them stuffed properly so they drape nicely and give me such an attractive figure.

Lucy: Yes, the silk can be tricky, but once you work with it you never want to make a dress of anything else again.

Miss Lizzie: Oh dear, Lucy, what shall I do with my hair?! I’ve got my sitting in half an hour at the photography studio and I just cannot think of a pretty way to dress it. What do you suggest?

Lucy: I suggest back combing the top and allowing small wisps to float attractively around your head, like a halo. You are such an angel, after all!

CURTAIN

You tell us, audience, did they accomplish their goal? Or does Miss Lizzie just look frazzled?

Baby Bad Hair Day

Continuing our bad hair day examples, this sweet baby had curly hair which made it difficult for her mama to dress it with any sort of style.  Her hair is wildly trying to escape whatever pomade or oil may have been used on it, and it just looks adorable.

Baby also is wearing a cross that looks giant on her, and knitted booties. I’m guessing she was around 10-12 months old, because she is sitting up very well and holding on to the chair for balance.

This photograph was made by Crosby, in Lewiston, but what country is unknown.

Bad Hair Day?

Up for review today is a CDV photograph from the 1860s. The child is solemn faced but hopefully after the photo was struck she perked up to a happier mein. I’m calling this item 1 in a series of “bad hair” photos to feature over the next few posts.

Her hair is wildly curly, but tamed enough for the center part which was important for identifying gender in children. Remember, these were the days when boys wore skirts for their first few years, so fashion trends dictated that boys had a side part while girls had a center part. This maybe came from adult fashions for hair styling. Her dress appears to have a small dot pattern or perhaps a pattern in the weave. You can see one growth tuck across the skirt and the hem looks to be 4-5 inches deep. Good for a growing girl! The sleeves are also quite loose and long on her. As well, the bodice is baggy to allow for a longer period of use.

The dresses for children buttoned in back. I believe this was a trick to keep young ones from undressing themselves and maybe it was held over to kinder aged children. If anyone knows the fashion history on this I’m very interested in commentary! Miss Curly Top is wearing a necklace with a large pendant on it. Maybe a family piece, or her first locket.

The photographer here was Rundlett Bros. Photographers in Watertown, WI. With the inclusion of cherubic baby photographers in their backmark, we can infer they specialized in children. Also of interest, the children are holding a portrait of a corseted woman. The front of the card has lovely red border lines, one thin, one thick. Combined with square corners on the card, this puts the date in the 1864-1869 range.

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