This is a CDV from the 1860s. We can tell by the card mount details – square corners and the “thin line/thick line” borders. These were popular in the first decade of CDV portraiture. I believe it might be from the second half of the decade due to the image using the full size of the card.
I chose this photograph because of the interesting clothing the subject is wearing. After having researched the Swedish, Dutch and Norwegian ethnic clothes for my previous few posts, I am wondering if this woman is a recent emigrant to the United States showing off the ethnic costume of her homeland.
The back of the card shows the photographer name was Ed. Hudson, in Eldorg, IA. I have checked this over and over and it is very clearly a G at the end of that word. There is an Eldora, IA, but no records so far for an Eldorg. So, could it have been a typo on his cards? Yes, it could. Eldorg is a known surname, so we can guess that someone in the order or print process made a boo boo.
Eldora is a town in the center of Iowa, just NNW of Des Moines. At the time of statehood in 1846, Iowa had been part of the Indian territories and had numerous treaties to dissolve tribal claims to the fertile land that American settlers coveted. The original plan for Iowa’s footprint was much larger, but being as all the territorial negotiations were taking place during the time leading up to 1860 and the American Civil War, territories had to consider whether they would be a slave state or a free state. Northern politicians figured that if they created smaller states, there would be more land to create additional states, thereby increasing the number of free states. Also happening at the same time, if one free state was added, a “matching” slave state had to be added, to keep the balance. Once Florida was added as a slave state in 1845, Iowa petitioned for and received free statehood in 1846.
The population statistics of Iowa’s ethnic makeup are (happily) available online. According to FamilySearch.org, in 1860 (just the time we are looking at in our photo above) there were 674,913 residents in Iowa. Of those, 16% were immigrants, and of all immigrants, 51,503 were from German and Scandinavian countries (Germany, Norway, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark), so 7% of the Iowan population.
The costume, with it’s apron and wide shoulder straps, reminds me of the Swedish and Norwegian costumes seen in the Cyclopedia of Costume. It would be interesting if someone versed in these ethnic styles could review the photo and lend an opinion on the ethnic origin of the clothing. It is about the only lead we have on the subject, as her name was not written on the card back.