Two women from the 1860s

SD CDVs 4

This is a very nice mid to late 1860s image of two women. They appear to be mother & daughter. Note the lovely details:

  • Dropped shoulder seams with sleeve caps, and look at the trim on the standing woman!
  • The darker colored dress features a ribbon trim design at the sleeve cuff
  • Coat sleeves on both dresses to enhance the elbow area
  • Both women have some type of jewelry at the neck of her dress and the lady on the right looks to have a belt.
  • Fine, slicked back hair which was the fashion, parted in the center and dressed in back.
  • The standing woman is holding something in her hand, maybe a fan. She also has a wide band of trim at the hem of her dress.

As we know, colors did not photograph the same way they do today, so these dresses are quite likely beautiful colors and the one that appears lighter might actually be darker than the one that appears darker. I only wish we could see them in their true colors to appreciate the colors these ladies chose.

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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.

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.

facial hair HSilfverling facial hair 1.1 Red Velvet 9 Red Velvet 8 July 2

AlbumCMurray027 AlbumCMurray024

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

SD CDVs 9

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

Eldorg, Iowa

SD CDVs 3

This is a CDV from the 1860s. We can tell by the card mount details – square corners and the “thin line/thick line” borders. These were popular in the first decade of CDV portraiture. I believe it might be from the second half of the decade due to the image using the full size of the card.

I chose this photograph because of the interesting clothing the subject is wearing. After having researched the Swedish, Dutch and Norwegian ethnic clothes for my previous few posts, I am wondering if this woman is a recent emigrant to the United States showing off the ethnic costume of her homeland.

The back of the card shows the photographer name was Ed. Hudson, in Eldorg, IA. I have checked this over and over and it is very clearly a G at the end of that word. There is an Eldora, IA, but no records so far for an Eldorg. So, could it have been a typo on his cards? Yes, it could. Eldorg is a known surname, so we can guess that someone in the order or print process made a boo boo.

Eldora is a town in the center of Iowa, just NNW of Des Moines. At the time of statehood in 1846, Iowa had been part of the Indian territories and had numerous treaties to dissolve tribal claims to the fertile land that American settlers coveted. The original plan for Iowa’s footprint was much larger, but being as all the territorial negotiations were taking place during the time leading up to 1860 and the American Civil War, territories had to consider whether they would be a slave state or a free state. Northern politicians figured that if they created smaller states, there would be more land to create additional states, thereby increasing the number of free states. Also happening at the same time, if one free state was added, a “matching” slave state had to be added, to keep the balance. Once Florida was added as a slave state in 1845, Iowa petitioned for and received free statehood in 1846.

The population statistics of Iowa’s ethnic makeup are (happily) available online. According to FamilySearch.org, in 1860 (just the time we are looking at in our photo above) there were 674,913 residents in Iowa. Of those, 16% were immigrants, and of all immigrants, 51,503 were from German and Scandinavian countries (Germany, Norway, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark), so 7% of the Iowan population.

The costume, with it’s apron and wide shoulder straps, reminds me of the Swedish and Norwegian costumes seen in the Cyclopedia of Costume. It would be interesting if someone versed in these ethnic styles could review the photo and lend an opinion on the ethnic origin of the clothing. It is about the only lead we have on the subject, as her name was not written on the card back.

Additional Information

Iowa Ethnic Groups – FamilySearch.org

The Path to Statehood – Iowa Pathways – via Iowa Public Television iptv.org

A Cyclopedia of Costume – via Google Books

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

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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