Susan McSparrow / McSparrin

Susan McSparrin – Warren?

This is a gorgeous 1890s era cabinet card of Susan McSparrow McSparrin, 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.

UPDATE: A pair of site readers have helped to solve some of the mystery! Geno let us know that the name is McSparrin, and Katie P found that Susan McSparrin was married to Charles E. McSparrin. They and their son, Bruce Darlington, lived in Dayton, PA. When I get a little bit of time, I’m going to see what more I can learn about them. Thank you, Geno & Katie P!!

Other McSparrin Photographs

Bruce D McSparrin

Mrs. S. M. McSparrin

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

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4 Women

Sarah, Agnes, Maud & Pearl

Today’s photo is a lovely cabinet card found in the Great Tennessee Vacation Haul, and shows four young women. The back of the card identifies them as Sarah, Agnes, Maud and Pearl.  Sarah and Pearl are on the ends, with Agnes & Maud in the middle. I have no knowledge of their relationship. Could they be sisters, cousins, or simply great friends?

The clothing suggest the 1880s trending to the 1890s. Sleeves are puffed but not ballooned. Because they are seated it’s not really possible to guess if these are A-line or bustled skirts.

The photographer was J. E. Kester in Brockwayville, PA, which is located midstate. It was settled in 1822 and named for the Brockway family which first settled in the area. By 1925, the name Brockwayville had been shortened to Brockway. Brockway has always been a small town, with only 1.2 square miles, and in the 1880 census there were 360 people living there. Current population from the 2010 census is 2072.

I found many other photographs online by J. E. Kester, all seeming to be from the 1890s, as well as a Commemorative Biography indicating that Blanche (Luther) Kester, wife of J. E., was living in Brockwayville in 1898.

Side eye

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I just love this little image! The square-ish card mount is approximately 2.5″x2.5″, and the photo is mounted to the back, with a thin paper covering the back of the photo. The woman at first glance just looks the “usual” stern of antique photos. However, when you look closely, she must have glanced over at the photographer because her eyes are not tracking off the the right, but looking back at the viewer, and it makes it look like she is giving the side eye. Too funny!

Beyond that, take note of the lovely small tucks across her bodice. This work was sometimes done by hand, but there were also fabrics made with tucks in them. If it was done by hand, it’s beautiful but tedious to accomplish. The tucks – if sewn by hand – would be small and precise, with tiny stitches that could barely be seen. Hand sewing is truly becoming a lost art, because it takes much practice and sometimes better materials than we have readily available to us today. The dropped puffed sleeves of this garment suggest late 1890s or early 1900s, but without more of the dress I can’t make a better guess.

Her crowning glory of a hat has bows, flowers and feathers I believe, and looks like an amazing millinery confection. I wonder how on trend this type of hat was, or if it was just that old thing?

Stern face, pretty lace

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This fine Edwardian era photograph features a middle aged woman with a stern face. Her hair is twisted up on top of her head in a style popular in the early 20th century. Her high-necked dress has an embellishment of lace across the bodice and on the collar. Finally, there are six buttons front and center, which are probably non-functioning, meaning her bodice fastens in a different way. It is likely the dress has hooks & eyes, or less attractive workhorse buttons hidden by a placket.

The image is oval shaped in the center of the gray card. The card itself is about 3″ x 2″. I have two other photos that came with this one, and all were found in Tennessee.

UPDATE I forgot that this had been identified on the back as Mrs. S. M. McSparrow McSparrin.

Fancy Hat

SD CDVs 8

Up for your perusal today is a lovely young couple from Devon who sat for their photograph in the late 1860s or even early 1870s. I think. I’m basing my assessment on the woman’s clothing as usual, and her dress seems to show a skirt that is elliptical, possibly trending toward the early bustle period, but not quite there. We do know that as skirts got bigger, hats got smaller and taller, to try to counterbalance the eye being drawn to the skirt. This skirt is fairly plain, but the bodice has some lovely trims and of course the hat is quite delicious. This young wife also has earrings, a large bow at her throat and a pin holding that in place. I wish we could know what colors her dress was!

I assume it is her husband seated, as this is a somewhat personal pose, with her hands on his shoulders. He is wearing some type of uniform, I think. The cap looks a bit like a conductor’s cap, so perhaps he worked on the trains. He’s also got a vest and a necktie to complete his costume.

The photographer was J. Grey at 60 Union Street, Stonehouse, Devon.

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

Uncle Taylor

Uncle Taylor W

A droopy beard and whiskers

Uncle Taylor back W

Uncle Taylor

Do you think that Uncle Taylor was from Sheffield, or his last name was Sheffield? He bears a strong resemblance to Tomkins/Tom King, and I wonder if they were related somehow.

Uncle Taylor wore a nice three piece suit for his photograph and a bow tie. I notice that although his beard is quite full, his forehead is quite large. Is there some compulsion by men losing their hair to grow out their beard?

The photograph was made by Edward Atkinson at 8 Norfolk Row, Sheffield, England.

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