Merry Christmas


A trompe l’oeil design

Kathy and Karen Klein appear to be reading or singing from books, but this effect is called trompe l’oeil meaning “trick the eye.” The photograph is overlaid by the line art, making it look like the girls were caught in the act of singing or reading. The line art consists of the books, bells, holly, pine boughs and ornaments.


Pretty Poem

Poem Girl

Pretty as a poem

This CDV dated to the 1860s looks like a photograph of a painting or other type of illustration. That was popular for photographers to generate income in addition to their stock in trade. Photographs of famous figures, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, could be purchased at the same studio where an individual might sit for their own portrait. This particular image captured my imagination because of what was written on the back.

Poem Girl Back

A poem from Isa B

Along the right hand side it says “With compliments of Isaiah Black.” The poem goes as follows:

When the dove in eastern lands

Is loosened from its captive chains

How swift it flies o’re desert sands

To seek its own dear nest again.

Somewhere in other lands I stray

Or even cross the troubled sea

My trusting heart will never stay

But fly on friendships wing to thee.

This sounds a lot like Isa B is leaving and wants the recipient to be his friend. Nothing like underlining “friendship” to make sure the message is clear!

Unfortunately, the photographer of this particular piece didn’t use a back mark, and so we don’t know where the studio was located.

UPDATE: Thanks to site reader Juliette Kings, we now know the picture is of Evangeline, heroine of the famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie. The poem was published in 1847 and had considerable impact on both Longfellow’s career as well as culturally, as it tells the tale of the deportation of French Acadians from Nova Scotia by the British in 1755. The particular deportation was centered in Nova Scotia, Canada, but many Acadians made their way south to America, and eventually Louisiana where their culture and language formed the basis of the modern day Cajun culture. In the poem, Evangeline and her lover Gabriel are cast out of Acadia and become separated. Evangeline spends the rest of her life wandering through America, looking for him. It is a truly romantic poem that spans two sections, each with five parts. School children across America were made to memorize parts of it. …this is the forest primeval… It is available for free on Kindle and is only 44 pages long, and is well worth the moment you need to download it.

Further Reading

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Evangeline on the Maine Historical Society website

Overview of the epic poem Evangeline on Wikipedia

Free version of Evangeline to download on

Louisiana State Parks Longfellow-Evangeline Historical Site

Fancy masking


Scholarly scroll

This cabinet card has an interesting masking. I have seen similar masking and decorative imprinting in my collection. See below:

Rosalia Rudd Colter

Fancy Mount from Sistersville, WV

Irene Shoemaker Monroe

I might have one more that hasn’t been scanned yet. I suppose I ought to create a new category for this. In my research, I discovered this is called trompe l’oeil. The linguistic definition means “trick the eyes.” The artistic definition is of realistic imagery which creates an optical illusion of something being in three dimensions. It is a well known technique used as long ago as Greek and Roman murals, but was quite popular in the Baroque and Renaissance periods. There are many superior paintings that look as though the objects could be picked up and used, or simply items left laying on the table. Based on many examples I have seen at other sites, it is apparent the Victorian photographic goal was to make the subject appear to be in the scroll, clouds, flowers, etc. This technique is mostly seen in the 1890s.

The photographer for this unidentified subject was Geyser, at No. 9 Main Street, Bradford, PA.

Rosalia Rudd Colter

Rudd 9

I believe this to be a lovely photograph of Rosalia Rudd Colter, who was featured recently with her children. Rose / Rosa / Rosalia was the daughter of William Mann Rudd and Catherine Eliza Rudd. This photo is similar to the previous family portrait in her clothing and hair styling, although her dress and hair are different. Rose looks serene and lovely in this portrait. The framing of the image is also quite lovely and while I have seen similar types of framing I have not seen one quite as nice as this. Unfortunately, the photographer did not add his studio information to his cards. By the clothing this can be dated to the 1890s.


This photograph represents the third photographer in the little town of Cambridgeboro, PA. Apparently the town was doing quite well. The fancy masking of the photo is similar to the previous photo from the Red Velvet album. The masking must have been carefull applied to the negative plate but you can definitely see they were hand made via the uneven cut marks on the lower edge of this one. Die cut masks may not have been available.

The photographer was C. P. McDonnell, with a gallery located over the post office. Wilson’s Photographic Magazine in 1897 mentioned an advertising technique of Mr. McDonnell, which was to send a montage or collage of children’s photos to his clients. I suppose this was similar to today’s advertising slicks that come in the mail.

UPDATE: a reader suggested that the name is McDannell with an A and I agree. Sorry about that – I think I need better glasses!  :-)

Fancy masking

Staying in Cambridgeboro, PA we now have a lovely young lady who’s photo was masked in an interesting style. The image has been masked with a decorative shape reminiscent of a scroll. It is a shame we cannot see more of the dress the subject is wearing. I would like to know if the diagonal stripes go further down the chest or if those two are the only ones. The dress has another asymetrical feature in the line of buttons being off center.While she is young, you can tell she is already wearing a corset from the shape of her torso. Children were put into stays as young as four or five years of age to train their bodies for the more restrictive garments they would begin wearing as young ladies.

The photographer this time is Wishart. The deckeled edge of the photo tells us it was made in the 1890s, but I’d ventury early in the decade because of the dress style.

Fancy mount

I have seen this kind of fancy mount one other time, on my pictures of Irene Monroe, but considering of the hundreds of cabinet cards I own this is only the second one I’ve seen, I suspect that this fancy mount is somewhat uncommon. The photo dates from the 1890s based on the clothing, which appears rich and expensive. A silk certainly and I picture a jade green with yellow wheat pattern and the trim in ruby red. It may sound garish to our modern sensibilities but it would have been lovely to see!

The photographer was Theo. Brinkmeier of Sistersville, W. VA. Sistersville was originally known as Wells Landing and has an interesting history for such a small place. It sits along the Ohio River at a wide spot that surely looks like it will flood the next time the river rises. The story goes that Richard Wells landed at this spot, and established a trading outpost in 1802 which later expanded into a small village. Upon his death, two of his 22 children laid out the town in plots. These two children happened to be sisters, and so the village was renamed Sistersville in their honor. The small town epitomized the “brother against brother” concept during the Civil War, as it lies only 12 miles south of the Mason-Dixon. Men went off to join their respective side and fought against one another for four bloody years. Later on in the 1890s, the town enjoyed an oil boom and swelled from a population of 300 to 15, 000. I now wonder if the lady pictured above is a descendant of the founder Richard Wells – who had twenty-two children after all, great potential for descendants – or a wife of one of the oil men who came to town to reap the benefits of black gold.

The information above was gleaned from this delightful history and I hope you will click through and visit for more detail.

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