Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

Today’s photo is also courtesy of Ray Jackson. It shows a lovely cabinet card sized wedding portrait of a young woman and her husband. I read on Patches of the Past that even though the most wealthy could and often would wear white dresses for their marriage, many women simply wore their best dress and a wedding bonnet. The bonnet consisted of flowers, ribbons and netting, and was a sentimental piece the bride could keep and treasure, while her best dress was worn again and again. This particular bride also has a floral adornment across her bodice which could have independently signified this as a wedding photo. You can also see that trailing from her bonnet are the ribbons tied in lovers knots with flowers. Some have suggested that the number of knots would signify the number of children the couple would have. Yikes!

The dress our bride has chosen to wear is a simple first bustle era dress, dating the photograph to 1870-1876. One way we know this is first bustle, I learned recently that the dresses were “one complete dress” whereas in the second bustle era, there was a skirt, over drape and bodice, all working together. I find it strange that she chose to wear white shoes with her dark colored dress. I once read that Laura Ingalls wore a dress of dark red merino wool for her wedding, so I am picturing this dress in that fabric.

The photographer was most likely Henry Levin(e), found in Chicago directories to have been in business in 1876 and possibly partnered with Jacob Maul, although the records are a bit confusing. He is later found at the same address in 1892.

6 thoughts on “Wedding bonnet

  1. IntenseGuy says:

    The both have rings showing –

    I’m convinced there was at least a “convention” that the man sat while the woman stood at his side… It might be a photo-dating aid if I could only find some “documentation” for it.

    Such dour expressions… maybe the idea of all those diapers to wash?


  2. aubrey says:

    Wearing a white dress symbolized extreme wealth – only the rich could afford to have them cleaned properly! Gosh, bride and groom don’t even touch, sometimes there is at least a hand placed on a shoulder…something to prove that they were at least in the same room.

    (thanks for explaining first and second era bustles, never quite understood that…)


  3. If she were sitting her bonnet wouldn’t show as well..the flowers on her bodice are very interesting. Interesting about the knots too..and I always confuse those bustle periods..I am glad you can keep them straight:)


  4. Her bodice appears to be separate from the skirt and that is my understanding of Victorian dresses through out the decades (with the exception of tea dresses). I’ve actually handled real dresses from this era and made some replicas and of these, all of them had the bodice and skirt separate. According to the Victorian pattern site Truly Victorian (http://www.trulyvictorian.net) both eras did the two to three peice options with the third peice being an overskirt/apron option.) The early era overskirt appears (generally speaking) more layered and ornate and the later era goes with more of a draped asymetrical look. This lady does not have an over skirt (though her bustle may or may not have been a separate peice). You can sometimes tell with the sleeves. Hers appears to have the shoulder join up at a more “modern” level instead of the slightly dropped level of the early era. The biggest clue to me is the fringy bangs in her hair style. That was very common in the 1880s. In my amature opinion, I think this is a later bustle era dress.

    The confusing bit for me was the location of the photographers stamp (on the bottom and not the back as would have been more common in the 1880s.) This photo is a mix of confusing clues is it not!

    If you recall your source for figuring out early and late bustle era dresses I’d love to see it. If there is a gap in my learning I need to fill it!


    1. Mrs Marvel says:

      I appreciate your input – I am definitely not a clothing historian! :-) As to the location of the photographer’s mark, I have seen them front & back, only on the back, only on the front, throughout the 70s-90s. It seemed to be the photog’s personal preference. The 60s is where we definitely see the mark on the back, sometimes only a rubber stamped one at that.


  5. Crystal says:

    Can anyone PLEASE tell me the name of the man in this picture? He looks IDENTICAL to my father! It’s uncanny! I’m convinced this is a relative somewhere down the line.


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