Flat Head

 

Sometimes a number of factors combine to cause us to double take a pretty picture. This photo in particular looks rather mundane upon first glance. The subject is centered nicely, her hair is arranged, her expression is appropriately moderate. One may not look beyond these traits and be completely satisfied with the image.

Not me, though.

I noticed that the particular hair arrangement this lady chose, along with her chin being tilted slightly downward, makes her head look flat on top. Unfortunate. Probably in person she looked lovely and within the norms of her fashion choices. Combine with this that one of her eyes seems to be slightly droopy, or less opened than the other, and she looks less put together to the discerning eye bent upon picking apart the portrait. She looks, in fact, a bit sleepy.

All that withstanding, this is a nice image, and is the first I can recall with a green border. Typical borders in the 1860s were black, some red. According to various sites, the thin line puts this in the 1862 range, and the size of the image puts it in the 1860-1864 range. The dropped shoulders of the dress that can be seen matches this general dating.

The photographer was J. Beard at 8 Old Bond Street, Bath.

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The flip

There was a time when a curled cow lick was desirable in a man’s hair. Today is not that time, but the time of this photo was. The fellow had his hair oiled as also was the fashion, and combed nicely to one side to play up the cow lick. The shape of his mouth is interesting, with the upper lip more pronounced, making it look like he had just been startled. Let us hope that was not the case. :-)

The photographer used was Thomas Birtles of Northwich & Knutsford. I found a reference suggesting he was in business 1865-1876. However, further research uncovered that Thomas Birtles did not officially take ownership of this studio until 1878. He had been an assistant to John Longshaw, a well known photographer in Warrington. Born in 1838, Birtles first attended art college, became a drawing master and tutor, before health concerns took him back home to Warrington. He went to work for Longshaw, married Emma Longshaw in 1860, and upon the death of his employer, took over the studio with his brother in law, Edward Longshaw. Evidently, Edward left the business rather quickly, and Birtles continued on independently, opening studios in Northwich and Knutsford.

Birtles was a prolific photographer, known not only for people, but also indoor and outdoor scenes, upper and lower class people as well as industrial and construction photos. He even photographed his own dinner table set for a wedding feast. He and his wife had eleven children, many of whom went into the photography business with their father supporting several studios. Thomas Birtles was long in business, well into the 20th century, and transitioned his work from ambrotype to collodion and on to more modern methods after that. His sons continued the business well into the 20th century.

For further reading about Thomas Birtles, the Warrington Museum has published the book Warrington’s Photographers. There are many of Thomas Birtle’s images there as well as many from John Longstreet and others.

 

4 Similar Photos

Here’s a funny set of photos I received as part of a large lot. They were not together or in any sequence, just randomly found in the pack of 50 CDVs. But as I sorted them through, I realized these four photos have much in common. Can you catch all the similarities? I feel like this is one of those games where you spot the differences haha.

The hat in picture one and four is the same hat. It may be on the same lady, but the dress is different.

The necklace in photos two, three and four is the same. It has a very distinctive chain which made it stand out to me.

But what about the necklace in picture one? It may be the same locket on a different chain.

All four photos were made by Birtles of Northwich and Knutsford. The card backs are identical, suggesting they were made at least within the same year, if not during the same sitting.

What do you think? Are at least two of these faces the same? I think photo 3 is a young lady and one, two and four are her mother.

 

Sisters?

SD CDVs 6 SD CDVs 1

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.  The 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

Costume of Wingaker

SD CDVs 2

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

SD CDVs

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

Edmund Tomkins

Edmund Tomkins W

Uncle Edmund

Edmund Tomkins back W

Lucy & Emily’s Dad

Today’s photograph is of Uncle Edmund Tomkins, either from America or who went to America. Uncle Edmund is sporting a rather wispy beard and mustache that makes me think there is an unfortunate scratch or blemish on the surface of the image. He must have been proud of it to wear it for his photograph, but in my book, this is not something to memorialize.

According to the back of the card, Uncle Edmund was also Lucy & Emily’s Dad. He may also be related to our previous subject, Uncle Taylor from Sheffield, as the handwriting on the backs is the same. They don’t look at all similar in their facial features, so possibly are in-law uncles or from opposite sides of the family. We can never know.

The photographer selected by Uncle Edmund was Helsby & Co, 34 Church Street in Liverpool, England.

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