Susan McSparrow

Susan McSparrow – Warren?

This is a gorgeous 1890s era cabinet card of Susan McSparrow, found in Tennessee last year. In the middle of the back is the name Warren written in pencil. At first I thought it might have been her married name, but I really don’t know. It could be the name of someone the card was given to, or the name of a town where she lived. Susan looks to be in her 30s to 40s in this image, and while her dress does not display the typical 1890s traits of balloon sleeves and high neck, the edges of the cabinet card are in a deckle style that was not available before the 1890s. Susan may have been a simple, conservative woman who really liked and felt good in this dress. It is also possible this is a reprint of an older photograph made for some reason – marriage or death are two possibilities.

With good reason, this is a beautiful example of understated embellishment. The front closure of the bodice is hidden in the pleats, and there are two rows of soutache running alongside that. You can see some gapping of the pleats on the lower front, suggesting that the bodice has an inner layer where it was fastened using hooks & eyes. This is not uncommon to find on vintage dresses. Note the fine lace at the upper edge of her collar. While lace today is scratchy and would probably be uncomfortable to have so close to the neck, lace at this time was made with natural fibers or rayon, so would likely have been much more soft to the touch. She also has a bar pin at the neck closure that is possibly attached to the second piece that is at her breast bone. That piece looks like it may be a watch – you can see that the chain emerges from inside the dress. Her coif is spectacular and beautiful, but again, understated elegance.

This is such a beautiful image, I am delighted to share it with you today. The photographer, C. C. Shadle, was a well respected photographer in Kittaning, PA. Born October 17, 1845 in Clarion, PA to Issac and Mary Shadle, Christopher C Shadle first was an engineer before taking up his father’s business of photography. He was in Apollo – operating in an old schoolhouse, then Tarentum, and finally settled in Kittaning in 1869. He was in business in 1865, at which time tax records show he paid the Federal Luxury tax on photographs that was established to help defray the costs of the Civil War. He paid at that time $5.80. Each photo was taxed at 10%, and there is some equation that can tell us how many photos he collected the tax on, but I get confused on how much to multiply – it was either 58 or 580. This is important because it can suggest how prolific he was. This tax was paid in October 1865. If he was paying that much per month, then we can extrapolate how much he paid in tax, and then how many photos he took per year, etc etc. (click here for more info on the tax) He was noted to have a very well appointed and conveniently located gallery in town, and also employed apprentice photographers learning their trade. Shadle also owned a farm outside of town in addition to the studio in town. He thrived in the photography business until his unexpected death in 1904 at the age of 59, which was recorded not only in the newspaper but also the U. S. Presbyterian Records. He had been a trustee in the First Presbyterian Church. The gallery was sold to John Leister at that time. Shadle was married to Jane and they had 4 children.

Other McSparrow Photographs

Bruce D McSparrow

Mrs. S. M. McSparrow

Further Reading About C. C. Shadle

Excerpt from Biographical And Historical Cyclopedia Of Indiana And Armstrong Counties, Pennsylvania, 1891 via pa-roots.org

Biography of William S Otto, employed by C. C. Shadle, via pa.roots.org

History of Apollo, via Google Books

Biography of John Ralph Leister, via pa-roots.org

Listing of obituaries from the National Underwriter, vol 8, September 1, 1904, via Google Books

Two women from the 1860s

SD CDVs 4

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.

Gilded framing

SD CDVs 13

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

Top hat, bowler hat, slicked hair

Gem Hats 2 W

More fabulous hats

Here is the second page of the wonderful Haberdasher book and just look at these wonderful chapeaux! The one at top right has the look of a top hat, but I believe it might be a high bowler. Frankly, I don’t know much about men’s hats…ladies bonnets, now I could talk for a while on those! I shall have to do some research on these toppers to find out more about them. Anyone who knows more is welcome to comment! Note that while all three hats shown have a dip in the center front, the men each wear their hat to their best advantage, and thereby result in a different bit of flair. Top left looks a bit dour, top right looks formal and lower right looks dapper. Not to be left out, lower left looks very glossy. Hair was handled so very differently by 19th century people than it is today! Hair oil was encouraged so the shiny hair would look healthy. Can you just imagine running your fingers through that hair? I sure can’t. Ick.

Click the images below for a bit more detail.

Gem Hats 2 TL Gem Hats 2 TR Gem Hats 2 BL Gem Hats 2 BR

Wide Lace Collar

Wide Lace W

Beautiful lacework and ringlet curls

This British woman in her middle age posed for a portrait with Thomas Fall of Portman Square, London, and others. Her bodice is covered with an elaborate lace collar that is edged with fine rondels and fastened with a brooch. You can just see the buttons of her dress and so it is likely the dress opened independently of the lace, and the lace either laid flat over top or was fastened with hidden hooks on the shoulder. Unfortunately we cannot see any more of her dress. Her hair was pulled back in a full, pompadour style and then ringlets were added behind her ears. I cannot tell if the ringlets go all the way across the back of her head. It would be a sight to see!

There are two possibilities about this fashion choice. One is that she is older and the ringlets were her preferred style when she was young. Another is that she isn’t as old as she looks and is simply emulating a fashionable hairstyle of her time. Vintage photographs, CDVs and cabinet cards of the 19th century in particular, can make people look much older than they were.

According to the backmark of the CDV card, Thomas Fall had studios at 9 & 10 Baker Street, Portman Square W as well as 6 Fitzjohn’s Promenade, Finchley Road, Hampstead NW. Note his post script, which indicates that he has all negatives for the previous 15 years, representing nearly 70,000 sitters. Would that we could view those negatives and records now!

Wide Lace back W

Thomas Fall of London and Hampstead

 

Bowler

Bowler W

Bowler, mustache and wavy hair

Today’s CDV shows us a later 19th century image of a handsome man, posed in front of a faux baluster. These types of scenes were designed to set the mood as pastoral, elegant, and otherwise affluent. He is wearing a fine coat, buttoned only at the top. This is a known style for menswear in certain periods of the era. He also has a neckcloth and vest visible beneath his coat, and even a chain for his watch just visible at mid torso. I particularly like his wavy hair, so I’m happy he chose to hold his bowler hat instead of wear it! Also notice his mustache, a fine specimen if ever there was one.

Bowler back W

Birtles, Northwich and Knutsford

The photographer who made the image was T. Birtles of Northwich and Knutsford.

 

Checkered

Checkered W

Checkered fabric and wide lace collar

This CDV from Leicester shows us a round faced young woman in her Sunday best dress. The bodice is called a fan front as it has a darted inner lining that fits close to the body, and the outside fashion fabric is gathered at the waist, creating a loose fan shape from her waist to shoulders. Hidden inside the folds are the fasteners, but you can just see her waistband as well and it appears to have buckled a bit during her sitting. Her sleeves are called double pagoda sleeves. The shape of the sleeve was narrow at the top and wide open at the hem. These are doubled as they have an upper sleeve ending around her elbow with a lower sleeve that reaches her wrist. Underneath that, she would have worn undersleeves of lightweight cotton that tied onto the arm above the elbow and had a small cuff at the wrist. The bodice then has a wide lace collar that is held together in front by a large oval brooch. These styles combined tell us the fashions are from the late 1850s. The style of the fan fronted bodice lingered into the 1860s but the collar styles changed to small peter pan style collars made of white cotton. It is possible this is a reprint of an earlier image.

These descriptions of course are all generalizations because there is always one exception to every rule, but for the most part they hold true. The hairstyle also suggests the 1850s. Although a center part and oiled hair was popular through the end of the ’60s, rolling it over rats at the chinline to create a wide face was introduced in the ’50s and was the dominant style. In 1860s images I often see women with their hair parted and oiled but without the rats to add volume.

A hair rat, by the way, is a small pad of hair used to provide volume. As women brushed their hair every day, hair naturally came out, and it was collected in a hair receiver (small covered porcelain dish) on her vanity. Once the receiver was full, the hair was collected and sewn into a hair net. It was far more economical than purchasing a rat and of course was a guaranteed color match as it was the woman’s own hair. Hair nets were fine spun cotton or silk and matched the woman’s hair color as well. Think more of the “lunch lady” hair net than the bright colored “snood” of the 1930s.

Checkered back W

W. Rowe, Photographer, 82 High Street, Leicester

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