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.

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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.

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.

The happy couple

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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 Revenue-Collector.com

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 goErie.com

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. The 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

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