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<2017 July>

by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, 27 July 2014
Clothing Clues for Women in Old Photos: Bloomers
Posted by Maureen

In 1849, a group that advocated reform dress for women advised them to wear "Turkish dress." That meant a billowy pant that ended below the knee, worn beneath a shorter dress.

This illustration is from sheet music composed by William Dressler in 1851. He called his piece "The Bloomer Waltz." When Elizabeth Smith Miller wore the style to visit her temperance friend Amelia Bloomer, the press began referring to these "trousers" as bloomers. Women's rights reformers claimed they were healthier than the restrictive corsets and dress styles then in fashion. While a few women wore bloomers, including Civil War doctor Mary Walker, shown below, the trend never caught on with the general public.

But by the 1890s, the bloomer was back.  It was a safety and modesty issue for women who wanted to ride bicycles.  As this illustration in an 1895 Puck magazine shows, both men and women wore them.

By the turn of the century, women's colleges adapted the style for female athletics such as basketball teams like the one here from Smith College (found on Wikipedia). Bathing suits of the early 20th century also featured the bloomer look.

Bloomers remained in fashion for women attending gym classes into the mid-20th century. Those forward-thinking women of the 1850s would be happy to know that they were trendsetters.

Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1850s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | women
    Sunday, 27 July 2014 17:12:16 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 21 July 2014
    Solving Old-Photo Mysteries: Clues in Tintypes
    Posted by Maureen

    Our ancestors didn't document every second of their lives with photography. Instead, they saved their pennies and visited the studio for a variety of special milestones.


    At 3-1/2 X 2-1/4 inches, this tintype is a popular size called a "bon-ton." It was buried in a family trunk with other unidentified, undated images. Leona Humphrey knows it's up to her to figure it out. As she wrote in her email, "Except for one cousin of my dad's, I'm pretty much the only living person with any idea of the possible family." 

    I've felt this way about a family mystery and I'm sure that many of you have as well.

    Here's how the photo clues and family history details line up:
    humphry collage2.jpg

    I've created a collage of the picture and some interesting details in this photo of a mother and her four children. Where's Dad? For some reason, he's not in this image.
    1. The fichu collar on the mom's dress was popular in the circa-1880 period.
    2. Painted backdrops in the 1880s often looked like living rooms. In this case, the large piece of "furniture" angles towards the group, looking like it's going to fall on them.
    3. Both girls wear pinafores and wide collars. The wide collars were also popular in the late 1870s to early 1880s.  Pinafores stayed in fashion for decades. Flip through any 19th-century women's magazine and you'll find instructions on how to make a pinafore.

    Mom's hair is a variation of the frizzy bangs of the 1880s. She's arranged her bangs in oiled curls on her forehead. This particular look appeared in the early 1880s. View more examples of hairstyles for men and women in my book Hairstyles, 1840-1900.

    Leona wonders if this could be her great-grandmother Guro Sannes and her four children. Guro (born 1845) had Jergen (born 1866), Arne (born 1869), Tilda (born 1874 and Leona's grandmother) and Gunhild (born in 1882). All the children except for Gunhild were born in Valle, Norway. The family immigrated in 1882, and Guro gave birth to Gunhild in Grand Forks County, ND. 

    It's clear that this image could have been taken in the early 1880s, a time frame that coincides with immigration data.  The biggest problem is that the ages of the children don't match the other details. 

    It's possible that Guro continued to dress in older-style clothes in the late 1880s, but even rural women followed fashion trends and adjusted some of their attire.

    If this picture were taken in 1882, Jergen would be 16; Arne, 13; and Tilda, 8; Gunhild wasn't born yet. The oldest boy in this picture is definitely not in his mid teens.  If the photo was taken later to include the fourth sibling, the other children would be much older.  The four siblings in this image are fairly close in age.
    • Could this tintype represent other family in Norway?
    • Is it possible that this woman was a close friend of Guro's and wanted her to have a memento before she moved to America?

    I'd start by looking at family history data for collateral lines to see if there is a family with four children close in age.

    It's also possible that this photo is someone Humphrey's relatives knew. It wasn't unusual to have multiple tintypes made of the same image to give copies to both friends and family. 

    The backdrop in this image could be a clue to where it was taken.  I'd also contact historical societies in the Grand Forks area to see if they have a photo collection and have images by a photographer that used that backdrop. Start with the Grand Forks Historical Society.  

    If Leona is on social media, it's definitely worth posting this photograph online, too.

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1880s photos | children | | Tintypes | unusual clothing | unusual photos | women
    Monday, 21 July 2014 15:39:04 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 13 July 2014
    Time Travel Vacations Using Stereographs
    Posted by Maureen

    This summer one of the most popular books is another installment of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series (soon to be a mini-series). The story revolves around a World War II nurse who falls through a crack in time in a stone circle and ends up in mid-eighteenth century Scotland.

    We don't have to visit a stone circle to time travel. Photographs let us peek into the world of our ancestors.

    Previous generations took time to enjoy the season whether they traveled afar or to the nearest water venue. Many of the places our ancestors visited are no longer standing.

    For instance, residents and visitors to Philadelphia went to the Smith's Hotel and swimming pool on Smith's Island. The whole island is now gone.  The island once stood in the middle of the Delaware River. In the 1890s the U.S. government removed both Smith's Island and Windmill Island. You can read more about the venue on Philadelphia's Lost Islands. It's also possible to see what the swimming hole looked like by browsing the Library of Congress photo collection.

    The bright green card stock of this stereograph dates it to the mid to later 1860s when this color was common.  In 1868, card manufacturers began rounding the corners. This card still has square corners.

    A stereo card features two nearly identical images that appear 3D when viewed through a special viewer. This is the nineteenth century version of  going to the movies wearing those special glasses. 

    Here's one side of the image showing men using the slide.

    Take a trip into the past by browsing the Library of Congress site.  Start by searching a place name.  Then select an image.  When you do this is what you'll see.

    You'll be able to select the size of the image you can download. Options are underneath the image.  Cataloging information includes the photographer's name, date of publication and usage facts. On the lower half of the page you'll see links for subject, format and collections. At the very bottom you can click the bookmark link so you can revisit the same page.

    These links make it very easy to view other images on a similar topic such as "Swimming pools--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--1860-1870."  Or if you want to see more stereographs from the 1860s click that link.  

    It's easy to take an armchair trip into the past using stereo views.  Try it and see.

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | stereographs | summer
    Sunday, 13 July 2014 16:12:24 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 06 July 2014
    Old Family Photos on Cloth
    Posted by Maureen

    Jeff Fee wrote and asked if I'd ever seen a photograph like this before—it's on silk. 

    The answer is yes. I actually own one, of my paternal grandmother. Based on my grandmother's birth year of 1892 and her approximate age in the photo, it was made circa 1910. It's a head and shoulders view of her in a gorgeous dress. 

    The picture Jeff submitted is a full view of a man in work clothes:

    FeeSilk .jpg

    Photographs on silk debuted in 1879, when a silk manufacturer in Lyon, France, coated silk with light-sensitive salts of silver. According to the Oregon State Journal dated January 18, 1879, the firm displayed various sized silk pictures including copies of "old master" paintings.

    Photographic fads took many forms from those little gem tintypes no larger than a thumbnail (thus giving them a nickname) to these lovely images on cloth. You're probably familiar with photographs on metal (daguerreotypes and tintypes), glass ambrotypes and of course, paper-based prints. Photo chemicals applied to a variety of surfaces could result in an image. For instance, I own a set of china teacups with a little girl's picture on them.  In Jeff's case, his photo is on a piece of silk.

    Jeff has questions relating to his picture:
    • Who's depicted?  The man is Jeff's great grandfather, John Henry Ruble (1863-1940) He lived in Wood County, West Virginia before moving to Haydenville, Ohio in the 1920s.
    His work clothes could date from the late  19th century to the early 20th. He wears a collared work shirt, rolled-up jeans and a hat to shield his face from the sun
    If you examine the left side of the picture, there seems to be someone standing there. This suggests that this picture is a copy of a section of a larger photograph.  It's possible that this is a work photo where he stood with several co-workers.  he worked at a sawmill circa 1900.
    • Why was it made? It's 5 inches by 14 inches in size—not a standard size for a picture. It's difficult to know why this image was copied. Jeff surmised that perhaps it was for the man's funeral. That's possible. It's also possible it was made as a 25th anniversary present in 1913 
    • When was it made? Images on silk were commonly available in the early 20th century, which is likely when this photograph was produced. 
    • Who made it? Many of Jeff's relatives frequented Loomis Photographers in Parkersburg, West Virginia.  It's possible the studio advertised this photographic method in newspapers or a city directory. A local historical society may have other examples of this type of picture.

    Jeff's image already has started to fade. If this is an important part of his family heritage, it would be worth seeking out a professional photo conservator with experience working with images on cloth to see if the fading can be stabilized. An online directory of conservators is on the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1900-1910 photos | occupational | preserving photos | unusual surfaces
    Sunday, 06 July 2014 15:33:01 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]