Two women from the 1860s

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This is a very nice mid to late 1860s image of two women. They appear to be mother & daughter. Note the lovely details:

  • Dropped shoulder seams with sleeve caps, and look at the trim on the standing woman!
  • The darker colored dress features a ribbon trim design at the sleeve cuff
  • Coat sleeves on both dresses to enhance the elbow area
  • Both women have some type of jewelry at the neck of her dress and the lady on the right looks to have a belt.
  • Fine, slicked back hair which was the fashion, parted in the center and dressed in back.
  • The standing woman is holding something in her hand, maybe a fan. She also has a wide band of trim at the hem of her dress.

As we know, colors did not photograph the same way they do today, so these dresses are quite likely beautiful colors and the one that appears lighter might actually be darker than the one that appears darker. I only wish we could see them in their true colors to appreciate the colors these ladies chose.

Fancy Hat

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Up for your perusal today is a lovely young couple from Devon who sat for their photograph in the late 1860s or even early 1870s. I think. I’m basing my assessment on the woman’s clothing as usual, and her dress seems to show a skirt that is elliptical, possibly trending toward the early bustle period, but not quite there. We do know that as skirts got bigger, hats got smaller and taller, to try to counterbalance the eye being drawn to the skirt. This skirt is fairly plain, but the bodice has some lovely trims and of course the hat is quite delicious. This young wife also has earrings, a large bow at her throat and a pin holding that in place. I wish we could know what colors her dress was!

I assume it is her husband seated, as this is a somewhat personal pose, with her hands on his shoulders. He is wearing some type of uniform, I think. The cap looks a bit like a conductor’s cap, so perhaps he worked on the trains. He’s also got a vest and a necktie to complete his costume.

The photographer was J. Grey at 60 Union Street, Stonehouse, Devon.

Welcome reddit visitors!

Just a few days ago, I noticed a spike in traffic coming from reddit, so I’d like to say “hello” to all the folks finding their way here from there. I gathered that the reason people were coming here was due to a link in a discussion about 19th century beards. I have long stated my love of 19th century facial hair, and often refer to Century of the Beard for additional information. As I dug into the thread, though, I discovered that many people were claiming that an 1890s photograph was FAKED because it was too clear and almost looked modern.

Aside, I have many fabulous beards and mustaches archived in the facial hair category, don’t be afraid to click that link, my little hipsters! There are chin curtains and handlebars you could only dream of!

While there have been many photoshop fakeries circulated on the internet, and of course it is possible to age a modern photo to look like a vintage image, it is simply arrogant to assume that a photograph that is clear and detailed could only have been made in the 20th century! Matthew Brady – one of the most well known and respected photographers of the 19th century – made startling and detailed images of the American Civil War which stunned the public. Also, it is silly to think that advances in lenses, collodion processing, wet and dry plate technology, and shutter speed were only made after the turn of the century. Frankly, there are photographers today still using antique cameras because they provide detail and warmth – something digital cameras often fail to capture. Furthermore, faces don’t change all that much. I have many examples of dopplegangers plus there have been many circulated on the internet showing the likeness between modern actors and people photographed 150 years ago.

From my own collection, here are some shockingly clear photographs that I can guarantee were not photoshopped or faked. The wet plate photographic process is well documented for capturing clear, detailed and layered images that show depth and warmth. See below the photographs for further reading about the heady, early days of photography. Some collodion images from the 1890s were not as susceptible to the yellowing of age that other methods were, and so they may feature a lavender, purple or strong gray tint. It doesn’t take much effort to figure out if an image is faked or not, but I think the immediate doubt of a vintage photograph only reveals the cynicism of a populace that has been fooled too many times, don’t you?

I think it is also valuable when scanning a photograph to include the margins of the bristol board, because it shows color variation between the card and the albumen print. While it is possible to adjust image properties, why would you? The photo is as it was 100+ years ago and that is the real treasure in these old photographs. Below find eight images that have not been altered, sharpened, or had their contrast changed in any way since they were scanned. Enjoy!

PS I’m giving you a buzz cut right off the bat from the 1880s.

facial hair HSilfverling facial hair 1.1 Red Velvet 9 Red Velvet 8 July 2

AlbumCMurray027 AlbumCMurray024

Additional Resources

The American Museum of Photography

Tintype Photographs via Collectors Weekly

Identifying Antique Photos via Photo Tree

History of Photographic Processes via The British Library

Video on the Wet Plate Collodion Process via J. Paul Getty Museum

Pretty girl with hand tinting

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This is a beautiful image of a lovely little girl from the late 1860 time frame. I am targeting this date because one of the remaining corners of this card is clearly square. The rounded corner didn’t really become popularized until the 1870s. I say late 1860s because the image takes up the full card, which was more common post 1865. The card is badly damaged, I suspect by silverfish or other paper eating insects. The front and back of the card both show strange damage which looks a bit like how termites work their way through wood.

Our young lady is unfortunately quite washed out by the photographic process. We can’t know what color her dress was, and we can’t assume it was even white! I learned long ago that certain colors photographed as black, white and gray, even though they could have been yellow, blue and red! Thankfully the photographer tinted the sash and ribbon ties on the dress in a lovely light blue, added pink to her cheeks, and even colored the chair upholstery green and the wooden frame brown. She has lovely lace on the hem of her drawers and notice her shoes! They are quite high fashion.

The photo was made by R. Taylor at 16 Gt Ryrie Street, Geelong, Australia. I couldn’t find anything to explain what Gt would mean, but I am wondering if it means “great” as in “Great Ryrie Street.” I didn’t find any references to that street, however. There is a “Little Ryrie Street” so maybe Great Ryrie Street simply evolved into Ryrie Street. Ryrie Street is just a short walk from the water of Port Philip Bay. Geelong itself is near Clifton Springs and not too distant from Melbourne. Coincidentally, there is now an antique shop located at 16 Ryrie Street. As you can see in this picture, it’s in a very old building, and maybe it even housed the photography studio at one time. These kinds of connections are just fascinating to me.

Moorabool Antique Galleries, Geelong, Australia

Gilded framing

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Today’s CDV for review is a fine image from America taken during the Civil War era. Although the card bears no backmark, so we can’t identify the photographer, it does have the remnants of stamp adhesive. During the Civil War, Congress passed a revenue tax on luxury goods. Beginning in 1862, items such as playing cards and telegrams were assessed a tax that was used to help fund the war. In 1864, photographs were added to the list of items considered luxury goods, and therefore taxed. Customers were charged the fee for their photographs, plus the additional revenue tax. The tax was repealed in 1866, but many photographic cards bore these stamps, which were applied and cancelled by the photographer. They became popular with collectors, and so we now have many photographic cards that show the evidence of a stamp once having been there, but that was removed at some point.

The color and denomination of the stamp would have indicated the value of the purchase. The tax went from 1 cent all the way to 1 dollar – which at that time was quite a lot of money. Most photographs carried a 1 or 2 cent tax stamp. For more reading the tax stamps, see the links below this post.

The type of gilded framing of the image is also a clue that this is a Civil War era image. This ornate decoration as well as embossed decorations were popular styles of framing the images. There was a trend in the early years of CDV photography to center the image with almost no background, which to our modern eyes looks a bit like a head floating in space. I would imagine that the addition of framing helped to emphasize the image, and also allowed the owner to place it into a simple frame.

This subject’s adornment is also interesting. You can see she has a small white collar above her neckline. It is not a “peter pan” style collar as was very popular, but it is a simple band. The collar was detachable and protected the garment from the dirt and oils on a person’s skin. When it became soiled, it was removed and laundered, then basted back into place. The fabrics used for dresses were the types that could not be easily laundered – wool, silks, and blends of these fibers with cotton or linen, for example. So, collars and cuffs were made to be removable and laundered, while dresses were spot cleaned as needed.┬áThe bow tie she is wearing is probably pinned into place, rather than tied around her neck.

You can also see that she has some type of hair covering, such as a decorated net. The hair is glossy, as was fashionable at that time. It was drawn back over the ears and dressed in some fashion, then covered with a net to keep stray wisps from looking untidy. The net is not a “snood” – a word coined in the 1930s. The net was made of fine threads that covered the hair and were of the same color as the hair for the most part. The net could be decorated with a band of ribbon, making it look like a headband.

All in all, this is a fine image from the American Civil War era, and I’m very pleased to share it with you today!

Additional Reading

Tax stamps during the Civil War – via Old Photographic

Revenue stamps – via Wikipedia

Dating Old Photographs with Tax Stamps – via Genealogy Bank

Sisters?

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I wanted to share these two photographs today because of the unusual shawl-like additions to these dresses. Although I titled the post “Sisters?” as a suggestion they may be nuns, but looking at them again, I wonder if they might have been Quakers. I’m not familiar with Quaker dress other than to say it was “unadorned” or “simple.” And nuns might have worn wimples, which these ladies are not wearing. A wrap for warmth would probably be more decorated, and at least fall a bit lower on the arms. These look like capelets or mantles, but again, I am out of my area of knowledge even there. In the upper picture (no background shown) the woman appears to have maybe a necklace on a black cord falling directly along the area where her garment meets in center front.

The photographs have no identifying information, nor do they even possess a photographers’ backmark, so I can’t tell you if they are from America, Britain, or anywhere in the world. ┬áThe only thing I can tell you with some certainty is that they are from the 1860s.

Please feel free to comment with any input. This is a mystery to me!

UPDATE: I should not be surprised, it was Iggy aka Intense Guy who found the image below, an example of Quaker dress in the 19th century. It is a modern reproduction made by The Costume Project for the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, located in Shropshire, England. They state that the reproductions are made from original patterns, so I’ll have to trust that this is an accurate representation of Quaker dress in England. Being as the CDVs posted above do not have any indication of where they were made, I can only say they look similar to this example dress, but cannot suggest any sort of other connection. I spoke to some clothing historians, and they thought the cape might have been a pelerine, but having looked up what a pelerine is, I’m not so sure. It’s defined as lacy, with long narrow points hanging down in front, fur and decoration. These seem too simple to be a fashion garment and lack the long narrow points.

37-2-1840s-quaker-lady-try-on-costume-at-the-darby-houses

Image from comestepbackintime.wordpress.com and identified as Quaker dress circa 1840s

Eldorg, Iowa

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This is a CDV from the 1860s. We can tell by the card mount details – square corners and the “thin line/thick line” borders. These were popular in the first decade of CDV portraiture. I believe it might be from the second half of the decade due to the image using the full size of the card.

I chose this photograph because of the interesting clothing the subject is wearing. After having researched the Swedish, Dutch and Norwegian ethnic clothes for my previous few posts, I am wondering if this woman is a recent emigrant to the United States showing off the ethnic costume of her homeland.

The back of the card shows the photographer name was Ed. Hudson, in Eldorg, IA. I have checked this over and over and it is very clearly a G at the end of that word. There is an Eldora, IA, but no records so far for an Eldorg. So, could it have been a typo on his cards? Yes, it could. Eldorg is a known surname, so we can guess that someone in the order or print process made a boo boo.

Eldora is a town in the center of Iowa, just NNW of Des Moines. At the time of statehood in 1846, Iowa had been part of the Indian territories and had numerous treaties to dissolve tribal claims to the fertile land that American settlers coveted. The original plan for Iowa’s footprint was much larger, but being as all the territorial negotiations were taking place during the time leading up to 1860 and the American Civil War, territories had to consider whether they would be a slave state or a free state. Northern politicians figured that if they created smaller states, there would be more land to create additional states, thereby increasing the number of free states. Also happening at the same time, if one free state was added, a “matching” slave state had to be added, to keep the balance. Once Florida was added as a slave state in 1845, Iowa petitioned for and received free statehood in 1846.

The population statistics of Iowa’s ethnic makeup are (happily) available online. According to FamilySearch.org, in 1860 (just the time we are looking at in our photo above) there were 674,913 residents in Iowa. Of those, 16% were immigrants, and of all immigrants, 51,503 were from German and Scandinavian countries (Germany, Norway, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark), so 7% of the Iowan population.

The costume, with it’s apron and wide shoulder straps, reminds me of the Swedish and Norwegian costumes seen in the Cyclopedia of Costume. It would be interesting if someone versed in these ethnic styles could review the photo and lend an opinion on the ethnic origin of the clothing. It is about the only lead we have on the subject, as her name was not written on the card back.

Additional Information

Iowa Ethnic Groups – FamilySearch.org

The Path to Statehood – Iowa Pathways – via Iowa Public Television iptv.org

A Cyclopedia of Costume – via Google Books

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