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.

 

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.

The Faded Girl

Faded girl W

Where are you, sweet child?

Faded girl back W

Decorative backmark for May & Co.

This later 19th century photograph, a CDV, once showed a pretty child, posed upon a chair, with round baby face youth looking out at her parents. Today, we know she was there, but over time the image has faded to a grainy suggestion of its former glory. I don’t know enough about vintage photographic processes to even suggest what has caused the photo to fade so badly. Perhaps it was exposed to direct sunlight, or perhaps it wasn’t developed properly in the first place.

The photographer was May & Co, of Station Road, Northwich, England. Northwich is in the county of Cheshire, northwest of London. I found a reference in an 1892 directory for Northwich, to a George Austin May & Co, photographer in Station Road.

 

A photo of a painting

Portrait W

A portrait from the 1830s or so

When photography became popular, it was not only seen as a way to capture living images of people, but also as a means to share older images. This CDV is an example of a photograph of a portrait or miniature that was painted in an earlier decade. I’m not very good with men’s clothing, so please chime in if you know better, but I’m guessing this portrait was made in the 1830s. Perhaps this was a beloved patriarch of a family. This could also be a memorial card given to friends and distant relatives when the subject passed away – in the 1860s.

The photograph was made by W. G. Helsby Jr in Denbigh and Ruthin. These towns are near coastal Wales, a bit southwest of Liverpool, England. The two towns were connected by a railway which was established in 1860 and used for approximately 100 years, closing in the 1960s.

Portrait back W

Helsby’s Studios backmark

Note that part of the backmark indicates “other portraits copied as miniatures or enlarged to life size or delicately finished in oil or water color.” ¬†This image is clearly a copy of a portrait.

 

In remembrance

Isa W

Striped bow tie

 

Isa back W

A memorial card?

From Gloucester, England we have a portrait of an older gentleman photographed by S. S. Soley. Someone inscribed on the back “In Remembrance of 17th Oct 70.” The date could possibly be 12th or something else, there seems to be an extra scratch of ink and it looks like a 4 upside down or an H. Regardless, this image can be fairly well dated to 1870, which was possibly the date of death of the man pictured on the front.

 

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