Today’s CDV for review is a fine image from America taken during the Civil War era. Although the card bears no backmark, so we can’t identify the photographer, it does have the remnants of stamp adhesive. During the Civil War, Congress passed a revenue tax on luxury goods. Beginning in 1862, items such as playing cards and telegrams were assessed a tax that was used to help fund the war. In 1864, photographs were added to the list of items considered luxury goods, and therefore taxed. Customers were charged the fee for their photographs, plus the additional revenue tax. The tax was repealed in 1866, but many photographic cards bore these stamps, which were applied and cancelled by the photographer. They became popular with collectors, and so we now have many photographic cards that show the evidence of a stamp once having been there, but that was removed at some point.
The color and denomination of the stamp would have indicated the value of the purchase. The tax went from 1 cent all the way to 1 dollar – which at that time was quite a lot of money. Most photographs carried a 1 or 2 cent tax stamp. For more reading the tax stamps, see the links below this post.
The type of gilded framing of the image is also a clue that this is a Civil War era image. This ornate decoration as well as embossed decorations were popular styles of framing the images. There was a trend in the early years of CDV photography to center the image with almost no background, which to our modern eyes looks a bit like a head floating in space. I would imagine that the addition of framing helped to emphasize the image, and also allowed the owner to place it into a simple frame.
This subject’s adornment is also interesting. You can see she has a small white collar above her neckline. It is not a “peter pan” style collar as was very popular, but it is a simple band. The collar was detachable and protected the garment from the dirt and oils on a person’s skin. When it became soiled, it was removed and laundered, then basted back into place. The fabrics used for dresses were the types that could not be easily laundered – wool, silks, and blends of these fibers with cotton or linen, for example. So, collars and cuffs were made to be removable and laundered, while dresses were spot cleaned as needed. The bow tie she is wearing is probably pinned into place, rather than tied around her neck.
You can also see that she has some type of hair covering, such as a decorated net. The hair is glossy, as was fashionable at that time. It was drawn back over the ears and dressed in some fashion, then covered with a net to keep stray wisps from looking untidy. The net is not a “snood” – a word coined in the 1930s. The net was made of fine threads that covered the hair and were of the same color as the hair for the most part. The net could be decorated with a band of ribbon, making it look like a headband.
All in all, this is a fine image from the American Civil War era, and I’m very pleased to share it with you today!
Tax stamps during the Civil War – via Old Photographic
Revenue stamps – via Wikipedia
Dating Old Photographs with Tax Stamps – via Genealogy Bank