Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

Today’s photograph features a young person with a thoughtful expression. I’m honestly unsure if this is a young man or young woman. I’m leaning toward a female because the giant bow seems like an exaggerated version of the young boy’s fashion for Little Lord Fauntleroy. Also, the hair is rather poufy, which could be a lady’s style. The face is rather homogenous and could be either male or female depending on the age of the person. What do you think?

The photo was made by A. W. Phipps in New Castle, PA.

This 1870s-80s image features an attractive woman in heavily embellished dress. Note all the tiny pleats that surround the front of the bodice, as well as the netted trim on her neck tie. It has been carefully laid flat to show off the handiwork. Netting is among the lace techniques that I have never learned and seem to be fading into the past. She also has a pin in the center of her collar and quite large earrings. There is a visible headband or comb on top of her head, in front of her large braid crown. It’s a lovely, nicely composed image.

The photographer of this fine image was A. A. Line of Carlisle, PA, at the SE corner of Market Square and Main Street. The current presence of a Farmer’s Market in Carlisle has hindered my sleuthing, so we will have to simply imagine what the area looked like at the time.

This carte de visite photograph carries no back mark or other identifying information, leaving the handsome soul to be lost to the ages as unknown. I am guessing at the decade 1880s for the vintage of the image but I could be off by 10 years or more. I really don’t know much about men’s fashions, and definitely not enough to give an educated guess. Women’s fashions were so distinctive, it’s relatively easy to pin down at least a decade. Sometimes you can spot something that didn’t exist prior to a certain time and went out of fashion before another certain time. But, men just seemed to muddle along, changing lapel widths and necktie fashions, but all of the basics can be seen year after year in relatively anonymity.

I suspect this might be another transition dress – a dress from the 1860s that has been remade to suit the changing skirt styles of the 1870s. The volumes of fabric used on 1860s and earlier skirts made these prime candidates for remaking as skirt fashions changed. There was plenty of extra fabric to work with. In the early 1870s, I suspect women would have simply reused the existing bodice. This bodice has the wide round look that was popular in the ’60s. There is now an apron and a drape you can just see in the back. Remaking a dress was an economical use of existing clothing to create a new wardrobe.

This lady sat for her portrait at H. G. Pearce, Photographer, Providence.

This older fellow is identified as Jacob Black. Mr Black looks a bit like a pragmatist to me. He is accepting of this photograph sitting, perhaps because Mrs Black wants it. He sat for his image at W. H. Whitehead’s Parlor Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA.

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