Saturday, December 2, 2017

Historical Series (#8) 1858-1860's Ambrotype - Early Photography

I've finally completed my early photography collection, with this 1858-1860's ambrotype. The ambrotype came after the daguerreotype, (the earliest form of successful photography). 


Her dress is from the late 1850's. This silk and satin dress is a very good example of an 1858 dress. The wide flowing sleeves, (almost medieval looking), and the very full skirt with hoops. Our lady appears to be around 40-50 years old. She's holding a book. Did she like to read? Was she scholarly? A teacher? It could also be a prayer book. I've decided to call her Jane. After Jane Eyre, one of my favorite classics.


Ambrotypes were often hand tinted. You can see our lady had her cheeks tinted. They were also sometimes gilded for embellishment. It's faded, but her brooch, the front of her dress, and cuff show remnants of shiny gold gild.


The case is wood with leather embossing. Inside is embossed red velvet, and a fancy frame. There is also faded gold paint, which made a pretty vine design around the inside of the case.



The metal latch is intact, and there's spiral, sort of sun burst design engraved on the metal.


While the daguerreotype image was produced on a shiny silver plate, the ambrotype was exposed onto a small piece of glass. Ambrotypes were produced between 1850 into the late 1860's, until the tintype replaced it.

If you remove an ambrotype from its case and hold it up to a light background you can see how the image appears as a negative. Earlier ambrotypes were produced with two panes of glass, the image sandwiched. Later ones like mine were made on a single sheet of glass. The single sheets are more delicate, because the image is directly exposed on the back of the glass; making it impossible to clean without damaging the photograph irreparably.


To view the ambrotype photograph properly, a dark background was needed. Dark paper or cloth was usually used in the back of the union case. Later on some ambrotypes had a dark lacquer applied to the back of the image.


Collection complete! The daguerreotype, ambrotype, and tintype were the earliest forms of successful photography.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Historical Series (#7) Antique Cabinet Card 1880-1890


Cabinet Cards were introduced in the 1860's. The photograph was usually applied onto heavy cardstock, which came in all sorts of colors. Darker colors of cardstock were usually more expensive to purchase. My Cabinet Card is circa 1880-1890, of a brother and sister around three to six years old. (Little boys often wore dresses back then until they were breeched). It was taken by a photography studio in Piqua Ohio. 
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Historical Series: (#6) Victorian Advertising 1800's - Wanamakers Philadelphia


Wanamaker's was Philadelphia's first department store. John Wanamaker founded his first store, a mens clothing store with his brother-in-law in the 1860's. Which was called Wanamaker & Brown. The advertising card above has a copyright date of 1876.


In 1876 Wanamaker opened his larger scale department store at 13th & Market Streets in Philadelphia. The advertising card below for Alexandre Kid Gloves is circa 1876-1880's.

An 1895 map of Wanamaker's. Source: philageohistory.org
Rumford Yeast Powder antique trade card. Circa: 1860-1880. Baking powder used to be called yeast powder back in the day. The back of the card has a grocery store location for 21st & Market Street in Philadelphia.
A New York Industrial Insurance advertising card, circa 1880's. I love the price rates for the life insurance back then (10 cents a week!)


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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Historical Series (#5) 1850's Daguerreotype of a Little Girl

I've always been interested in photography. After I got an antique tintype, I wanted to try and collect all the early photography types. I've wanted a daguerreotype, because it was the first successful photographic process. Invented in the late 1830's it was named after the inventor Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre

Daguerreotype photographs are made by exposing the image on a highly reflective piece of silver plated copper. If you view a "dag" straight on it looks like a mirror and the photograph appears as a negative. The photo is best viewed at angles. (Back in the day you would have to sit still for over a minute while getting your photograph taken, which explains why a lot of people didn't smile for photos back then!) 

My daguerreotype is not in the greatest condition. It's over 160 years old. The glass is scratched, it's missing the front of the union case, the leather is peeling. There's also a lot of oxidation on the metal frame and the photograph itself. But you can still see the image of the little girl quite clearly. This would have been taken around the 1850's and the little girl appears to be around 4-6 years old. There's no identifying information, so we don't know her name or where she was from.

The union case is made of wood and covered in leather, though it's peeling now. What's interesting is the image of the urn in the middle. Which makes me think this was a mourning piece and the little girl may have passed away. Postmortem photographs were not uncommon back then, but her eyes seem too vibrant to me in the photograph for her to be deceased. I could be wrong though. Let me know what you think in the comments below. 


There's another interesting little detail on the metal latch. What looks to be a Star of David? So our little girl's family was possibly Jewish. 

Daguerreotypes are highly reflective, they have a mirror like quality. You can usually only view the photograph from an angle. Below you can see the reflection of the antique key I was holding. Notice how her image appears as a ghostly negative.




Postmortem photograph or not? Her eyes seem too vibrant to me... what do you think?
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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Historical Series: (#4) Photograph Postcards from the early 1900's

In the early 1900's photograph postcards were extremely popular. Think of them, as the selfies of the day. A lot of them were never mailed or postmarked. Most ended up in scrapbooks. I prefer collecting the postmarked cards, as it gives a more accurate time period, but sometimes a photograph is just too pretty to pass up. The postcard below is of a lady from the mid 1900's. It was never mailed, so there's no information about who she was, but her outfit and hat are gorgeous!


Ladies kept their hats on their head with hat pins. They could be up to 12 inches long! Check out this article from the Smithsonian: “The Hatpin Peril” Terrorized Men Who Couldn’t Handle the 20th-Century Woman.

This was another photograph postcard I picked up of two ladies, possibly sisters (or mother and daughter?). It was sent by Harriet in 1907 from Ladysmith Wisconsin to her friend Arthur. I'm not sure which girl is Harriet, but I like to think it's the right girl. There wasn't enough information on this card to find out exactly who Harriet was. But I believe I found her friend Mr. Albert Pierce of Foster City, Michigan.


The postcard says: Hello Albert! How is old Foster? I wish we were going to run up and visit you this summer as we used to. Remember me to everybody. Your old friend, Harriet.

I picked up this small 4x6 photo album on Amazon recently. It's faux leather, but it's got a vintage feel to it.  It's perfect for storing all of my antique postcards. 



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Friday, November 10, 2017

Historical Series: (#3) 1912 Postcard Mary E Pike - Ida Grove Iowa

I hope you're enjoying this series as much as I am. I've always been interested in history. I'm constantly reading, researching different subjects. Lately my newest hobby has been collecting old postcards, letters, photographs, etc. Mainly from the mid 1800's to mid 1900's.

This postcard from 1912 was the very first in my collection. I was instantly drawn to her photograph. Her hat, her dress. She's so striking and pretty. Her outfit reminds me of something you would have seen on the Titanic.

In the early 1900's photograph postcards were incredibly popular. Think of them, as the selfies of the day! A lot of them were never mailed or postmarked. I prefer collecting the postmarked cards, as it gives a more accurate time period and more information of the sender and addressee.

This postcard was sent by Mary E. Pike of Ida Grove, Iowa in 1912 to her friend Mrs. Harvey in New Hampshire. Mary's handwriting is gorgeous.


The postcard says: Dear Mrs. Harvey, How are you all? Well, I hope. Am having a vacation now. Am at Galva Iowa, but shall go back to work soon. Think of you all real often. Best regards to Jimmy & Bob. Are they in New York yet? I like this country fine, am having a dandy time. This is a poor (world illegible- picture?), but I thought I would send one any-way. Wish I might hear from you sometime. Tell Mr. H hello for me. Love & best wishes, Mary E. Pike, Ida Grove, Iowa.


I decided to do some sleuthing with the information I had. A combination of Google, findagrave.com, etc. I was able to locate Mary E. Pike, who became Mrs. Mary Ellen Schrader in 1915. She sadly passed away due to an illness in 1969 at the age of 76. I was able to locate newspaper clippings of her obituaries here & here.

Mary Ellen Pike was born in 1892 in New Hampshire. Her mother passed away when she was 8 years old, and she was sent to live with family in Iowa, though she later lived with an aunt & uncle and attended school in New Hampshire. She later moved back to Iowa and married. I can only guess that the Mrs. Harvey she was sending the postcard to would have been family or a friend in New Hampshire.


If anyone has any more information about Mary E. Pike (Schrader), would love to hear from you below in the comments!


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