Category Archives: Cabinet Cards

The Smoking Club


Thomas Hofer Fulpmes cabinet card. Private Collection.

This turn of the century group of five teens, three smoking long porcelain pipes, seems to be enjoying a lazy day lounging around on the grass. Their homburgs and fedoras look more 1920s-30s, which I find perplexing. I’m not excluding the possibility this cabinet card is post period and from the 20s, even if their suits would look a bit dated in less rural areas.

This photo was taken by Thomas Hofer in Fulpmes, Austria. I googled a bit about Fulpmes and was taken aback by how gorgeous this mountain village is. Today it has just over 4,000 residents, mostly fueled by tourism. I imagine it was much smaller a century ago.

This is what these boys saw every day:


(only slightly jealous :-)

But to come back to the card…The picture takes the whole front, the photographer info on a back stamp. To me the grass appears brown and battered from the melted snow of long winter months. Was this taken in early spring?


6″ x 4.5″cabinet card


back of card stamp.

The photographer called himself an “amateur”. Perhaps he was only taking photographs for his own pleasure and did not own a business, or he was just starting out.

Victorian man of Illinois

Cabinet card.

1880s-1890s Cabinet card.

The higher the collar, the higher you are in society…? :)

I picture him spending long evenings in the family library, in the flickering light of a gas lamp reading book after book and newspapers while debating politics over a glass of whiskey. What a proper, educated gentleman is supposed to do.

Cabinet card of Czech virtuoso violinist Jan Kubelík

Violinist Jan Kubelík cabinet card by Mally, Chicago. Private Collection.

Violinist Jan Kubelík cabinet card by Mally, Chicago. Private Collection.

Jan Kubelík

BY Carl Sandburg

Your bow swept over a string, and a long low note quivered to the air.
(A mother of Bohemia sobs over a new child, perfect, learning to suck milk.)

Your bow ran fast over all the high strings fluttering and wild.
(All the girls in Bohemia are laughing on a Sunday afternoon in the hills with their lovers.)

When I came across this beautiful cabinet card I instantly recognized the violinist. This young man’s tousled hair is unmistakable and the pose is typical of him, his violin looking highly polished under his arm, his bow hanging low on his hand.

I’d previously written another post about Jan Kubelík last March, illustrated with a real photo postcard I don’t have in my collection.

Born July 5, 1880, Jan went on tour for the first time to the United States in 1901-02 when he was only 21 or 22, already an internationally renowned musician. This cabinet card was made on his first visit to Chicago.

Because Jan’s rising fame straddled the period when cabinet cards fell into disuse as real photo postcards took their place, cabinet cards of Jan are rare. There are more pictures of him on real photo postcards and I have not seen this particular pose before.

Here are two more shots of Jan from the same period I found online (he’s wearing the same style of slim overcoat on all his portraits):

A few fact about Jan Kubelík:

  • His recordings contributed greatly to the success of the gramophone.
  • He married a countess in 1903, Anna Julie Marie Széll von Bessenyö, had eight children with her and remained married to her until his death in 1940. All his children became musicians.
  • His sixth child, son Rafael Kubelik, became an internationally renowned conductor, violinist and pianist in his own right. In 1950 he became director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
  • In spring 1912 Jan performed a concert of painter Jean Dominique Ingres’ favorite musical pieces on the deceased artist’s violin (who knew the painter could play too?). This recital inspired attending French painter Georges Braque to paint Violin: “Mozart Kubelick” (sic). A year later the painting was included in the Armory Show, the exhibition that introduced modern art to America. The painter had misspelled the violinist’s name, giving rise to puns about cubist Braque being the one who put the “cube in Kubelik” and the “art in Mozart”.

Photographer: Mally. 570 W. 13th St. Chicago. For reference, Mally is the same studio as Prencel & Mally found on other Chicago based cabinet cards.

A Fine Victorian Profile

Profile. Cabinet card. Private collection.

1870-80s profile portrait of young man. Cabinet card. Private collection.

The top left of the card is a bit damaged, but nothing to detract from this anonymous sitter. He’s wearing his hair cropped short which gives him a more contemporary look. Really, he could blend in at a posh wedding today, and to think this portrait is only 130 plus years old, making this fine gentleman about a century and a half years old.

I first came across this one on tumblr, shared it on this tumblr account and by chance acquired it since. So yes, if you come from tumblr you already saw this one from me, but this is a new scan. :)


Photographer: Atherton’s. The back is blank.

A Fashionable Edwardian boy

Well dressed Edwardian boy. Cabinet card. Private Collection.

1890s-1900s well dressed Edwardian boy. Cabinet card. Private Collection.

This little boy was extremely well dressed with his wool overcoat and cap with the double-breasted gingham suit. Every single piece of his outfit looks new. With the lack of backdrop and the picture looking so crisp, it feels modern made too.

He’s wearing his gloves instead of holding them. His parents must have loved how this portrait came out. While the photograph was decently preserved, the card itself is less so. It is dark green, clipped at the bottom, and has no photographer info or name.

Four 1880s Brattleboro cadets 

1880s cadet buddies. Caleb L. and John C. Howe. Brattleboro. Cabinet Card. Private Collection.

These four teens from Brattleboro, Vermont were most likely cadets, maybe in a marching band?

Photographer Caleb Howe chose to take this picture horizontally, preferring to catch the boys in close-up. One of them is smiling and the others seem comfortable in front of the camera.

The card has yellowed with the passing of time.

Back of card.

Caleb Howe & Son. Back of card.

Photographer: Caleb Lysander Howe & Son (John C. Howe). Brattleboro. Vermont.

Caleb Lysander Howe (1811-1895) was a highly respected photographer in his home state of Vermont. He began his craft on the road in the late 1840s. During the Civil War he photographed a great number of soldiers who queued at his studio door for a chance to get their portrait taken. He also photographed Union General John W. Phelps on a card with the similar backing.

Howe’s son joined him in the business in the early 1880s. Since his initials appear on that cabinet card as well as the one I have I believe these were made a couple of decades after the war, by the end of the general’s life who passed in 1885.

Caleb Howe was also a singer and musician. There is a page dedicated to his life that is worth a look. There you can see the John W Phelps card.

Carl E. Brown of Fitchburg, MA

Carl E. Brown. Moulton. Fitchburg. Mass. Cabinet card. Private Collection.

Carl E. Brown. Moulton. Fitchburg. Mass. Cabinet card. Private Collection.

I got this one thinking the boy had a scar on the right cheek. When I received it there was nothing…It must have been something on the seller’s scan. It’s one of those things that happen… :)

No matter, it’s still a great portrait.

I found Carl E. Brown on a 1920 census. He was born in Illinois circa 1879 and lived in Lunenburg, MA, a tiny little town right next to tiny little town Fitchburg where this picture was taken. Fitchburg and Lunenburg are about 40 miles west from Boston. He went on to marry a lady named Georgia M. from Vermont. With her he had two children, Thelma born in 1902 and Carl E. born in 1904.

This picture was taken when Carl was around twelve or thirteen in the early 1890s.

And finally, I get a cabinet card with an elaborate design on the back with lovely flower patterns and a camera vignette.

C.J. Moulton. Artistic Photography. Fitchburg, Mass.

C.J. Moulton. Artistic Photography. Fitchburg, Mass.

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