Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

Gems 4

Was this a couple, relatives, siblings?

Moving right along in this little gem album we have this pair of young adults. A woman and a man, both dressed nicely. I do wonder if they were related, married, or somehow knew each other. It is of course possible they had never met.

Gems 4 - Lady

Buttoned up

Our lady here has a typical 1860s bodice, fitted to her with a buttoned front, white collar and a brooch of some kind. The buttons look to have been functional as opposed to a bodice closed with hooks and eyes with decorative buttons on the front. Both were acceptable methods of dress closure. Possibly at the waist, the opening had a dog-leg and the skirt closed to the left of center. This made it easier to get into and out of dresses without tearing a seam. Also of note is that this lady’s hair is dressed with something on top, maybe a cap?, and ringlet curls in the back. While it appears she had a side part, in actuality the angle of her pose to the side makes it look that way, and in fact she has a center part.

Gems 4 - Man

Howdy do, ma’am

I do so love this straw hat. It looks like a narrow brimmed bowler, made in straw with a wide band around the crown. The bowler hat was invented in the 1850s, and was originally made of metal as a riding hat. The fashion soon became popular because top hats were not practical for riding. Bowler hats were produced in beaver, felt, silk, straw, and probably wool. At first look, I assumed there was a scratch on the image, but on enlargement, I think he had a bow or cockade of some kind on his hat (see the left side of the brim).

I recently became acquainted with Heather Sheen of Creative Cockades. She made me some beautiful reproduction President Lincoln mourning cockades from black silk ribbon and reproduction gem tintype buttons. She has dedicated quite a lot of time and energy to researching and reproducing these interesting textile accessories in an historically accurate manner. Throughout history, from ancient Rome to modern political campaign buttons and ribbons of support (pink ribbons, red ribbons, etc), cockades have been used to show political affiliation, membership in a group, military awards, or patriotic fervor, among other things. Sheen told me that not only were cockades used to make a public statement they were also incorporated into military insignia and regalia. Whether indicating nationality, rank, or regiment, a man’s cockade told other soldiers important information about him. During the American Revolutionary War, officers were made to wear a cockade on their hat so others would be able to quickly identify ranks – important in an army that lacked uniforms! Our modern medals and ribbons worn by soldiers on their dress uniforms may have, in part, evolved out of this tradition. Sheen says that in particular, if a medal has colored rings around it, it likely has evolved from a traditional, historical cockade.

While we cannot tell what this man’s cockade signified, we can romantically surmise.

More information

Historical Overview of Cockades

Ribbons of Support: the history and uses of cockades

History of Cockades (with fabulous images of people wearing them!)

Bowler hats on wikipedia

Men’s Hats: a brief history and a look at the hat in the 21st century 

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