Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

Old photo of looking at photos

I do so enjoy the Sepia Saturday prompts because they encourage me to review the many photos I have on hand but haven’t used yet and I’m often surprised pleasantly at what I find. When one purchases albums and lots of loose photos from ebay, one never truly knows what one is going to get, as it were. So when this week’s prompt came up with a book featured, I wasn’t certain whether I’d be able to meet the prompt photographically or figuratively!

First up though, I found the CdV above of two young boys looking at a photo album. The album appears to hold cabinet cards, which would date the CdV after 1870. What with the ornate backdrop and prop table, I’d date this in the 1880s. The photographer was H. Noss of  New Brighton, PA. It’s difficult to discern much from boy’s clothing because it didn’t change all that much for 50 years. I do find it an interesting concept to consider that this is an old photo of the boys looking at photos which now would be old but then were brand new. My brain hurts!

Finger on the pulse of literature

Next up we have a classic silhouette pose showing all the pleats and fabric of a late 1860s dress. The skirt in particular clues me in that this is later 1860s because the skirt is more full in the back, whereas in the beginning of the decade the fabric was distributed all over in a bell shape. The way the skirts moved toward the back presaged the bustle dress which became popular in the 1870s. This dress is unusual in that you can see the deep hem and stiff lining of the hem. This was one method of keeping the skirts draped properly. The skirt hem was heavier and so harder to kick up and out of place. The lady has her hand resting on a pile of books on the table. This photographer was Whitney & Beckwith in Norwalk, CT.

Marking her favorite page

This lady is dressed rather conservatively in an 1860s fashion. At first I was tempted to say the card itself was 1870s because of rounded corners, but looking closely I discovered the corners had been rounded with small snips of a scissor to make them ease into a photo album better. The style of the photo puts it in the latter half of the decade. The woman is soft and round, perfect for the Civil War era look. She holds open a book, marking the page as though she will be turning back to that very sentence once the photo has been completed. The photographer was C. R. Fay of Buttolph’s National Gallery in Malone NY.

Weekly World News?

This one’s a 20th century home photograph mounted on a square card with an embossed frame around the image. The photo itself is a bit washed out by light coming through the window, but I certainly love how ole’ Uncle Fred was captured reading the evening paper. He appears as if he’s just looked up to say “yes, dear?”

Read all about it!

Do click over to Sepia Saturday. This prompt is bound to bring out some interesting photos!

17 thoughts on “One for the books

  1. usermattw says:

    These are wonderful! You’re right, the old photo of the boys looking at old photos is a fun mindbender. :-)


  2. Bob Scotney says:

    It would take away the fun in these shots if the books turned out to be photographers props. The two boys are great.


  3. Wendy says:

    I enjoy Sepia Saturday too. It’s fun to see what people discover, how they think, if they put a twist on the theme. Your posts always give me information to help me date my own photos.


  4. IntenseGuy says:

    What a nice collection of literary photos!


  5. tyrogers6200 says:

    You have a great collection of photos with books. I do so love reading your posts, you always give me such insights on dating photos. It is hard to date boys clothing so I feel your pain!


  6. QMM says:

    I agree you are very knowledgeable in dating the photos. Yes the women’s clothing are easier to do. I did not realize the importance of the deep hem but that would be right. Great collection. Thanks for sharing.


  7. Velvet Sacks says:

    These are great photos, and, as others have commented, it’s very interesting to read about the way you discern the age of the photos. I’m learning a lot from you.


  8. I especially like the rocking chair Uncle is sitting in the last photo.


  9. postcardy says:

    The first photo is my favorite. I found your comments about dating the women’s clothing interesting.


  10. Margaret says:

    Your commentary is so very interesting and adds life to these images – it really is exciting to look more closely :)


  11. Alan Burnett says:

    I agree with you, since Sepia Saturday went theme-based I have trawled through my photograph collection much more and got to know the various photographs much better


  12. Great selections..I so enjoyed the little boys looking at the photographs..one would not think of taking such a photo today:)


  13. Christine H. says:

    What a great selection. I love the first 1860s dress and your explanation of how they’re shaped. I’m not a big fashion buff in general, but I love learning about historical fashion trends.


  14. Jo says:

    You did well to find all these photos with books, and I enjoy hearing about the history of clothing.


  15. A neat mix on the theme. My only regret with sepia photos is that we can only guess on the true colors of clothing. Fabric sheen and stiffness from treatments like starching remind us how earlier fashions were very labor intensive. One clothing trivia I’d not seen before was in the first photo where the standing boy’s blouse is buttoned to his trousers.


  16. Terri Lynn Noss-Hagen says:

    A Facebook contact directed me to your site. Love it! Especially interested in the first photo taken by H. Noss of New Brighton, PA. He was my third-great grandfather’s first cousin. I am always on the lookout for photos by him as I work on the family history. Thanks for posting these wonderful pictures.


    1. Mrs Marvel says:

      Oh fabulous! Can you tell us more about him? Often just having the first name of the individual can help the historical photographic community.


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