Four men and a tintype

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This fine image is a tintype I found in the great Tennessee vacation haul at the World’s Longest Yard Sale. There was another woman and I who seemed to be on the same route, each of us rushing to find the photos at each individual stall. I felt lucky to find this great piece, because look at all the character here!

We have a stringy beard and hard, hard gaze on our seated fellow; a bowler hat hiding at the side of the young gent to the left; a droopy mustache on the standing fellow to the right; and oh, so much angst in the face of the kneeling dude.

These characters make me wonder and imagine what they were up to…was it no good? Did they go on to rob a bank or help the poor? They sure look like a group of vintage bad boys to me! It is impossible to know, but these great old pictures make us consider just who they were, don’t they?

Veterans

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Four Great War soldiers

Today is Veterans Day, November 11. You may have heard that Veterans Day originated with the Great War, the war to end all wars, World War I. Originally called Armistice Day, it was a moment of silence observed at 11:00 a.m. on November 11th, because that was the time designated in the Armistice Agreement for an end to hostilities on the Western Front. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918. In the days before internet communications, explicit and defined times and dates were important so that everyone got the message loud and clear. The armistice was a success and World War I came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919, and ultimately the fall of Berlin.

The Great War sadly was not the war to end all wars.

One hopes that these four soldiers returned home from battle, healthy and able to pick up their lives, but we can never know. The photo carries no identification on the reverse. World War I also gave rise to the term “shell shock” which today we would call post traumatic stress disorder. 100 years ago, there was no treatment for this syndrome. Men were expected to deal with it and get on with their lives. I can only imagine how terrible it must have been.

Thank your local veteran today, for their sacrifices and service to your country. It is not an easy job to perform, and in America, can be woefully under paid, under supported and unsung. While we find it easy to wear yellow ribbons, the colors of our flag, or put up signs saying “we support our troops,” our Veterans Administration is underfunded and our Veterans hospitals are understaffed. Not only do our active duty military suffer daily, but their families make deep sacrifices – deployments separating parents, family deployments to foreign countries and frequent moves, children changing schools annually – and sometimes, they make the greatest sacrifice of all in the death of their military family member. Veterans are frequently affected with long term consequences of their deployment and the action they have seen, both physically through illness/injury, but mentally through PTSD and the deep scars left by the missions they conducted. It cannot be an easy life to live, and we must appreciate every man and woman who choose to live it.

Read more about Veterans Day and the history of this holiday

History of Veterans Day – via Office of Public Affairs, US Dept of Veterans Affairs

Why do we wear a poppy? – via The Telegraph UK

In Flanders Fields – poem written about WWI

The Remembrance Poppy – via Wikipedia

Sailors

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Item #1 – E. B. Scott

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Item #2 – A sailor from Tennessee

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Item #3 – E. B. Scott & another sailor

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Item #4 – a deck shot

I found these photos in what I call “the great Tennessee vacation photo haul.” A couple months back I teased you about these, a large collection of photos I gathered at “the world’s longest yard sale” in Tennessee. I have a massive collection of photos and holiday cards to share with you, and these four seemed like a good place to start!

The photos have inscriptions, as follows:

Item #1 – Front labeled E. B. Scott

Item #2 – no inscription

Item #3 – The background is the Bay. The guy with me is Earl Scott from Johnson City, Tenn.

Item #4 – This was taken on the Starboard side of the Quarter Deck looking aft

Anyone who knows vintage military uniforms is welcome to comment on what you think may be the era of these photos/uniforms. As it is, I can’t really make a guess because the photos themselves follow a style that was popular for 20+ years.

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.

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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

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

Costume of Wingaker

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For your review is a fine image of the ethnic costume of Wingaker Sweden. Wingaker, or Vingåker as it is found in English language, is a town in the central southern third of Sweden.

I found images in the Cycopeadia of Costume that are quite similar to the dress on the middle subject of this image. The apron worn over the dress and the high cap she is wearing is referenced as “ordinary clothing.” I can assume this to mean every day clothing, but the author of this resourceful book spent literally half a sentence on the costume description, unfortunately. I would happily take input from anyone who knows anything about Swedish ethnic clothing, the linen caps, or anything else that can enlighten us.

The studio is once again Eurenius and Quist of Stockholm. There is faint text that references C. A. Soderman, Skulpt but I am unsure how that relates to the studio. Perhaps Eurenius and Quist purchased the image or licensed it from Soderman. I have no clue.

This photo and the previous one of the Norwegian clothing both have a faint pencil mark on the back that says MP but I have no idea what that means either. I wish I had been able to find other photographs by the studio or that referenced MP. It seems like they were once owned by the same person for some reason.

Further Reading

A Cyclopedia of Costume or Dictionary of Dress by James Robinson Planche, Publisher William Clowes and Son, 1879, pp 346

Ethnic Costume of Norway

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This wonderful cdv shows an ethnic costume from Norway. It has been carefully hand painted so as to bring out the navy colored breeches, green vest and red coat of the man, and the green, yellow and red decoration on the woman’s dress. The costumes are fascinating and were probably much more beautiful in person!

The photographer probably made a series of images of ethnic costumes, but this is the only painted image I came across during a recent trip to San Diego, CA. It does make me wonder how this particular cdv found its way from Sweden, where it was made, to almost the border between America and Mexico.I did a little bit of research on the costumes themselves and there is a rich and diverse ethnic costume tradition in Norway. These clothes could be wedding attire, as one website I found referenced women wearing a type of crown or headdress with their wedding clothes. The man’s costume looks similar to one I found from Sunnmøre in the southwestern part of the country. A person more familiar with the many regions and costumes of Norway can better pinpoint where these clothes were from.

The photographers were W. A. Eurenius & P. L. Quist of Stockholm. They were decorated photographers, with silver medals awarded them in 1865, 1866 and 1867. I have one other image from these photographers, also an ethnic costume. Come back soon and take a look.

Further Reading

Bunad – Norwegian Traditional Costumes – My Little Norway

A Cyclopedia of Costume or Dictionary of Dress by James Robinson Planche, Publisher William Clowes and Son, 1879, pp 344-348

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