Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

I have been told and have read many times that the Cartes de Visite (CdV) photographs were used as calling cards or visiting cards, and while I never doubted that, I always wondered what exactly was done with them. How did the hostess handle those CdVs taken at the door from visitors? I can now tell you how they were handled in two households at least.

Example #1

A pretty young woman in a basic post-Civil War 1860s era dress. The card corners are square and the borders date the card to 1864-1869. A nice likeness of this young lady.

On the back are notes in pencil. I have digitally played with this to enhance the writing. It appears to say “Mere Marra M. Winslow” across the top. Along the side and continued on the bottom it says “Presented to Mrs Joni Beber of Brasher by MMW.” I don’t know what was scratched out at the top of the card, maybe it was misidentified by the butler.

Example #2

A handsome young man in a similar setting as the previous photo – a scenic backdrop and a chair. This card is terribly yellowed and damaged. The back is even worse.

In adjusting the color levels it has turned almost pink, but it’s almost brown with age. The top portion says “Presented by Mist. Alesta ???rita Mabre.” I can’t quite make out the middle name and Alesta doesn’t seem correct for a man’s name. It might be Alestair but the handwriting doesn’t resolve into that for me. The bottom portion says “Taken from sir August 14, 1864.”

Being as the second photo does not have a photographer’s mark, I have no way of knowing where this young man was from.  The first photo was taken in Ogdensburg, NY.

5 thoughts on “Cartes de Visite

  1. IntenseGuy says:

    Looking at a map, we find Ogdensburg, NY is a upstate and near the Canadian border and the Staint Lawrence Seaway. Brasher, NY is a nearby neighboring town. There are some Winslow’s and Beber’s mentioned in Census records living in that area in the late 1860-1910 time frame.

    Marra appears to be rather masculine in appearance. I think “Mere” might be Mesdemoiselles – French for Mrs.?

    The photographer, as listed in the 1880 US census, is James M. Dow (b. about 1840) Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence, New York.


  2. IntenseGuy says:

    Someday, I’ll comment without typos galore.

    Ogdensburg, NY is upstate…
    Saint Lawrence…


  3. I am not sure how accurate the info was that I was given(I just acquired a large batch of CDV from a woman who gave me her narrative) She said that they would come and leave the card, now Ive been on old home tours and there typically is the parlor room for entertaining, Im not sure if they just left these at the door or in a dish or some type of holder, it was their way of saying they stopped by, like leaving a message, but she said it was also insulting not to reply to the caller. She also said these were typically people who led a life of leisure and were not out working. Not sure how accurate that is, but just thought Id pass it along. :) And Ive added you to my blogroll, love the site! :)


  4. I enjoy the thought that some people used calling cards. There are entire albums in which a collection of CdV’s could be held. Can you imagine being a young lady and having many men stop by and leave you a card? I know where some of those cards would have ended up for me..in the trash. I find it a very romantic thought..just think if you were spending the entire afternoon, resting and reading before getting up to have your hair done and to get dressed to go out for the evening..and when you went downstairs..you had many CdV’s to look at..and if you had sisters they may have had some too..that is why some are marked..so they wouldn’t be given to the wrong girl:)


  5. Ed Donnell says:

    if you take a look at the 1850,60,70,80 census records for an A* Mabre you will get A. mabie in Ostwego Ny, specifically an Albe Mabie , born in 1840. a Farmer, of good means, his net property (home/business) worth was 5,500 in 1880 , nearly five times the average laborers net property worth of 1,200. looking closely I seem to see a dot for a “i” on the last name on the card , which could be mabie not mabre, (who dots an R?) Albe mabie was 20 in 1850. Also the card is date 1864, but that does not mean it was taken in 1864, even today people tote around old family photos, so it could be 1 to 4 years old or more, photos where pricy back then, and card de visites were not for the common low wage laborers as you know. the more wealthy sometimes seemed to not let there wallets get in the way of the vanity and had photos several times a year I’m sure, but the more modest person such as a thrifty business man, or middle class merchent or tradesman (large farm owner) could afford a few cars for prospective ladies and important busines contacts I’m sure. anyways, just a thought, especially where the first card is from the smae region, and there are only 6 mabre’s (mabies) that that pop up on the 1880 census , and most in the same area of NY. check it out.


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