Fancy Hat


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.


The happy couple


This lovely couple was photographed by the Dolph Brothers studio in Erie, PA. The photo dates to the 1860s based on several factors, including the woman’s dress style, the border style and the squared corners on the card. I’m going to take you through my thought process on how I’m refining the date of this image.

The back of the card is occupied with a line drawing of an artist’s palate, as well as the name and direction of the photographer.  There was a trend postwar to use the reverse of the card for advertisements/accolades of the studio. The more there is on the back, the later in the era it was made. This of course isn’t a hard and fast rule, but a very common trend that helps photograph enthusiasts narrow down the dates an image was probably made.

To further the search, of course there is now the internet. I can’t imagine doing an analog search before the web, honestly! Crowd sourcing and collaboration, online city directories, genealogy websites, and other photography enthusiasts all combine to amass loads of information about photographers and photographic styles. Bear with me here, because sometimes to get to the conclusion, you have to take the scenic route.

This particular photographer, Dolph Bros, doesn’t seem to have readily available information about the actual photographers, such as names or ages, but what we do know is they had a bit of a penchant for military photography. They are well known for having photographed many members of the Union Army, in particular Colonel Strong Vincent. Vincent was shot during the courageous battle for Little Round Top during the days-long battle of Gettysburg on the other side of the state. While Joshua Chamberlain survived the battle and went on to civic greatness, Vincent did not survive his wounds, but is memorialized in Erie as a local hero. Not only does his statue stand before the Blasco Library, the first high school in Erie’s West side was named Strong Vincent High School. He died in 1863, so we know Dolph Bros was in business prior to Gettysburg which took place in July 1863.

Farrar Hall, in which the Dolph Bros studio resided, was built as part of the West Park Place commercial district between 1857 and 1865 – a block of commercial buildings bordered by 5th, Peach, Park and State streets, and intended to replace a number of wooden structures that had burned down in 1857. Farrar Hall itself was built as a joint venture between A. H. Gray, F. F. Farrar, William Caughey, and John Clemens and it was finished in 1860. The upper floor was occupied by an opera house that at its inception was grand, but by its demise was seedy. It was the original Farrar Hall, but later was renamed as the Park Opera House.

I was able to find via Revenue Collector a CDV made by Dolph Bros that has a tax stamp, so we know they were in business as early as 1862. I also found a reference to this studio in an online Erie City Directory for 1867-1868. That gives us a possible date range of 1862-1868.

So, my conclusions are:

  1. There is no evidence of a tax stamp on the reverse of the card. We can eliminate the earlier period of the Dolph Bros operations as when the image was made, and now we have a range of 1865-1868.
  2. The embellished backmark of the card was a trend toward the later half of the decade. This mirrors the 1865-1868 range.
  3. The portrait style showing the full body of the subject is also a post-war trend. Before this style, images often were as small as a dime in the center of the card and only showed the subject’s head. This reinforces the 1865-1868 range.
  4. The clothing shows us nothing remarkable or unusual that would call out a specific style or fashion trend, but in its common appearance again reinforces the date range of 1865-1868.


Should evidence surface in the future showing business operations through 1869, or some family member is able to identify this couple and prove a year it was taken, we would then possibly be able to refine the date even further. But until such time as we get more detail, I am going to stay with the 1865-1868 time frame. I’m also going to venture a guess that it could have been a wedding portrait.

Further Reading

Scanned examples of Civil War Tax Stamps, aka revenue stamps, via

A collection of Civil War Tax Stamps on this very website, Who Were They?

The history of West Park Place, via Living Places

A very brief history of Strong Vincent, via

Oh, Christmas Tree

Christmas Pix

A darling tree

Just because it is the day after Christmas doesn’t mean the holiday spirit has to end! Here’s a really sweet, small Christmas tree and a young couple. The tree has tinsel, garland, a couple ornaments, and even a small package underneath. The couple is quite well dressed as well!


Last in bed

Last in Bed

Last in bed puts out the light

Another fascinating stereoscopic image from about the 1890s, this time showing an intimate moment between man and wife. The card is #17 in a series and entitled “last in bed puts out the light.”

Last In Bed Cropped

As before, I pulled one piece of the image to manipulate a bit so we can try to see better what is happening. The couple are preparing for bed. Note that the lamp is on the woman’s side of the bed, so I wonder if she will get stuck with the domestic task. The man has draped his clothing over the foot of the bed and it appears the woman has draped her dress over a chair.

The card was made by Webster & Albee Publishers, in Rochester, NY. Apparently the cards were exclusive as they state “Sold only by canvassers.” I am not sure what a canvasser was.

Attractive couple from Bellaire



This unidentified couple from sat for Robert L. Henderson of Bellaire, OH. My mother tells me that the city is pronounced “Buh-lair” by locals.

I found a book entitled Centennial History of Belmont County, OH, published in 1901, which referenced Mr Henderson. He was born in Bellaire, in 1869 to father Robert and mother Hester. Robert Sr originally was from Richmond, VA, and was born in 1853. That made him 17 years of age when Robert Jr was born. First a saddler, he later joined the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad base in Bellaire, and lived there until  his death in 1895. His mother was living at the time of publication of the history, though no mention of her age was given. She originally lived in Wheeling, West Virginia, moved to Bellaire with her family – where her father ran a jewelry shop – and returned to Clarksburg, WV.

Robert the photographer was the oldest of five children in the family. As a youth he learned photography from his uncle, a Mr. Sellers, who later established a mobile photography studio. Robert stayed in Bellaire and opened his studio in 1896. He married Emma Coffman and they had two children, Paul and Mildred. The book also notes he was a Republican and a Christian. According to a West Virginia vital records search, they may have had an additional child named Charles.

Judging by the clothing worn by the subjects of the photo, this was made early in his career. The woman’s sleeves are consistent with something made in the 1890s-1900s. The photo mount is consistent with those used after 1900. She is looking directly into the camera, while he is looking off to the left of frame.

Hand tinted or not?

Girl under a tree

Girl under a tree

I have posted in the past photographs that were obviously hand tinted – a black & white photo that was painstakingly painted to look colored. Hand tinting was an art form in and of itself, and was very popular in Asia, Japan in particular. The photo above originally looked like a hand tinted image. Now looking at the enlarged and scanned image, it looks as though it might be a very faded color photo. What do you think? Take a look at some other hand tinted photos here, and compare them to this one. I’m curious what others think.

Sepia portrait

The happy couple

The happy couple

This photo of a mature couple features a long beard and an Edwardian styled dress. This dates the photo to after 1904. The lady’s hair is also more softly styled, an influence of the Gibson Girl style so popular around the turn of the century.

The photographer was probably G. C. Bauman in Burlington, IA. He was active beginning in the 1890s and has been documented as late as 1907. Bauman was also known to have photographed early Burlington, an area that has been registered with the National Registry of Historic Places. For a historical society, photographs of the early town must be a treasure! One wonders if the couple pictured above were important in the early town history, or simple residents. I think I’m going to contact the historical society and have a little chat.

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