Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

Today I attended a class on historical hair. Yes, I learned quite a lot about women’s mid-century hair styles and how to achieve them. It got me thinking about some of the hair styles I’ve seen in these many old photos. Click the images to enlarge them. The photo above, taken in Philadelphia, PA, is a CdV probably from the early 1870s based on the CdV card itself and some clothing dating. Of interest to me today is the hair. (I doctored this photo quite a bit so it would be easier to see as it is incredibly damaged and yellowed.) This lady has her hair parted in the center and pulled back with her ears exposed, and there is some treatment in the back.

The next CdV was made by a photographer known to have been in business in 1864 in Nashville, TN. The hair is elaborate, with a crown of some sort above a top braid and obvious side braids in the back. This is one of my favorites.

Here we have not only a lovely gown, but a simple hairstyle with side puffs or twists, it’s a little hard to tell. The hair is rolled back from the face and probably over a small “rat” which is basically a wad of hair sewn into a pad and inserted under the hair to add volume. Instead of rolling the hair out and over as we would be inclined to do today, the hair is rolled out and under, adding width to the face. This CdV was made in Cumberland, MD.

This image from Troy, NY also features the simple side twist over a rat, but possibly a top braid and also some sort of ribbon or lace day cap. I just love the pagoda sleeves on her dress!

Here we see a chignon in the back and what is possibly a top braid. The chignon was any sort of twisted hair arrangement on the back of the head, not restricted to the sleek vertical chignon we see today. This is an international CdV from Frankfurt, Germany.

Finally, my favorite, though I won’t be arranging my hair this way because it doesn’t look good on me. She has her hair crimped in front providing the waves, then pulled toward the back probably into a chignon, and sausage curls dangling to the side. This CdV was also made in Troy, NY.

4 thoughts on “A little about hair

  1. Widow Peters says:

    Uh…..I believe those are Pagoda (actually double Pagoda) Sleeves that you are referring to.


    1. mrsmarvel says:

      Oh you are right! I’ll change that. Oops! I knew they were pagoda and just wrote the wrong thing. That’s what I get for posting tired. :-)


  2. Widow Peters says:

    In the third cdv down the lady has two parts in the hair on the top of her head. The center hair appears to be pulled straight back and the sides brought down toward the ears.


  3. You took a class in hair..yes! I bet you learned something. I was reading recently about ears..and that some time periods the ears were not shown..they were covered by hair like in your one photo from Troy NY.
    I have been collecting some photos of different hair styles too as I find them almost as interesting as the dresses. Thanks for sharing your expertise! :)


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