Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past


This photograph shows a handsome gentleman photographed by Major Moulthrop, a famous photographer in New Haven, CT. Moulthrop was known as one of the first photographers in the area, and at his death was lamented as one of the oldest and longest in the photographic arts. The Photographic Times and American Photographer published an obituary of his death March 14, 1890. According to that publication Moulthrop took up photography sometime in the 1840s as a daguerrotype artist, and had previously been a landscape artist. Moulthrop lived 1805-1890. An advertisement for the studio from 1853 can be viewed here, and you will notice he was in the same building.

Concerning the subject of the photograph, I contacted a local history expert about his clothing. I have seen the stripe down the side of trousers worn by calvarymen, but I don’t know much about this as a fashion for men in general. It could have just been a fad, or this person could have been a retired calvaryman still using his old uniform pants. Hopefully I will hear back from the expert and be able to update you with some more information. Initially I thought the photo was from later in the century but the square corners belie the decade as the 1860s. He could be wearing his military style trousers as a badge of honor for service during the Civil War.

UPDATE: I heard back from my contact, a curator of many fine historical groups in and around Southern California. His opinion is that this is not a military person, but the trousers could in fact be military surplus. The style a la militaire was a fairly common fashion throughout the ages, so it is possible that this gentleman admired some famous US Calvary officer, or simply liked the combination of striped trousers and that style of facial hair. The remainder of the clothing is common civilian clothing, a morning coat, white shirt and striped tie.

3 thoughts on “Trouser stripe

  1. I hope you find out..could this man have been in a band? IF it is not Civil War related, that may be a possibility:)


  2. I thought he might be a bandsman too, but the open jacket and bow tie don’t fit the typical garb of a musician who would surely pose with an instrument. I like the calvary idea as his beard and hair fit the dash of an ex-horseman. New Haven is a port so could he be a naval officer? Would a merchant sea captain have trouser stripes?


  3. Tim Kindred says:

    Just to play the wag, the word is Cavalry, not Calvary. :)

    Calvary is where the Romans executed Jesus.

    And as to the stripe, the problem is also one of color interpretation. It could be yellow, red, dark blue, crimson or even black. Now, yellow DOES appear to be black in period images. Red lightens up a bit more and so is easier to ID. Both US & CS armies used a 1.5 inch stripe in dark blue or black for sergeants, and 3/4″ for corporals. Most enlisted didn’t have any stripe. Officers NORMALLY had a welt of color sewn into the outside of the trouser seam, rather than a stripe. There are, of course, exceptions here and there, but they are just that: exceptions.

    The stripe color designated the branch of service. Yellow for cavalry, scarlet for artillery, dark blue for infantry, crimson for ordnance as well as Hospital Stewards, and so forth. The Confederacy, depending upon the state, used both dark blue as well as black for infantry, and black was also used for CS Staff. So there’s that bit of confusion.

    Honestly, judging from the pose and all, I’d say either he was a Confederate wearing his old trousers just after war’s end, replacing his uniform jacket with a sack coat, or he’s simply got a nice fashion sense and added a stripe. :)


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