Tag Archives: 1890s-1900s

Early Colombia Portrait Company button photograph

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Detail of 1890’s to early 1900’s button portrait. ©bahc/c.ryan

This portrait is a beautiful early example of tin buttons the Chicago based Columbia Portrait Company used to make. The three founders Thomas J. Ogara, Thomas J. Durkin, and C.M. Stumcke incorporated in 1893 and the company was successful for nearly half a century before closing its doors in 1940. The name of the company was inspired by the Chicago’s World Fair of 1893 where they must have made their introduction. They made fine oil reproduction portraits and framed button “bubble” photographs they then began to sell on the road across the country.

So let’s talk about this young gentleman. I believe his portrait is very likely the reproduction of a cabinet card/cdv/tintype. The picture is sharp  and he was dressed to impress. His tie stack is impressive too, is this a large gemstone set with smaller ones? (I’m tempted to say they’re diamonds). The button is a smooth matte; unlike the later celluloid examples I’ve seen which have a plasticity or “bubble” effect to them. This portrait looks more like a tintype. I wonder if the young man was at the fair and had it done then and there.

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The button portrait is 6 inches in diameter, not counting the brass frame with hook. The logo is at the back center.

When I saw this button portrait I knew I had to have it. I was thrilled to find a tintype-like photograph in this format, with the sitter easily fitting in this collection. It needed quite a bit of cleaning up too. I usually keep originals alone but I’m looking to find out how to renovate the frame and cover a few age stains.


The Weeping Ghost was my friend

The Weeping Ghost. 1890's-1900's cabinet card. Private Collection.

The Weeping Ghost. 1890’s-1900’s cabinet card. Private Collection. (Click for larger image)

I’m in love with this cabinet card. On the left, a young man is weeping, holding a handkerchief to his face as he fades into the backdrop and chair, while the other one is engaged, solid, to lend an ear at his disembodied friend. Those Victorian sensibilities!

I am not 100% certain the ghostly effect was meant to happen, but I would not be surprised if it was intended because it all feels perfect as is. The light, airy lace curtains on the sides help give this photograph an ethereal effect. I could write a story inspired by this beautiful photograph.

Close-up.

Close-up. Click to enlarge.

On the close-up you can better see the expression of concern. And here’s the whole card as is:

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This Victorian Cupid

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Cabinet card. Portland. Private Collection.

There are some pictures that attract me like a moth to a flame, and this is one of them.

This young man’s face and expression remind me of cherubs in classical paintings of the same period. He also reminds me of a very young Robert Frost.

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Logo on back of card.

Photographer: Conanb. Artistic Photographer. 478 1/2 Congress St. Portland. Maine.


A gorgeous portrait

Cabinet card. 1890s. Private Collection.

Cabinet card. 1890s. Private Collection.

I love everything about this cabinet card; the pose, the handsome subject in his flawless attire, and the set-up with the vase and curtain taking half the space in the background. This young gentleman doesn’t look a day over twenty- if he even was- but he was married already. His swept hairstyle adds to the youthfulness.

Photographer: Atelier Muller. Barenstein Weipert. Germany.


Ribbons, medals and a parasol

Close up of tintype. Four wearing ribbons and medals. Private collection.

These four are definitely Americans wearing ribbons on the chest. One has the two crossed flags with an eagle at the bottom. The other ribbon reads I was sober when I came. :) Two of these gentlemen also wear a medal next to the ribbons. I think this was an electoral or semi formal military event, and the three in light clothes are wearing military uniforms with the black tie tucked in. One’s wearing a fancy black ribbon bowtie I’ve also seen worn with uniforms but seems to have been less common. They’re all wearing the same hat too.

The gent to the back right chose to wear a civilian suit with pins on the lapel, but he looks to have a uniform shirt and tie on under the coat. Maybe this event wasn’t formal enough to require a strict dress code. Interesting too that one of them is wearing a double buckle belt (maybe only interesting to me but worth mentioning…)

The chinese parasol made me laugh; it adds a soft, even humorous touch to this group portrait.

I think this was taken in the 1900s. Finding out what event the ribbon with the flags was for would help date this picture more accurately.

1/6th tintype. Private collection.

Tintype in mat with flap.


Victorian young man of St. Johnsbury, VT

Ivorygraph. St. Johnsbury. Vermont. Boston. Young man. Cabinet Card. Private Collection.

Ivorygraph. St. Johnsbury. Vermont. Boston. Young man. Cabinet Card. Private Collection.

A near pristine high contrast three-quarter portrait from circa 1880-90. I’m very pleased how well this cabinet card was preserved. Except for a couple of tiny scratches, it was carefully stored and looks amazing for its age. The cardstock is unblemished and still its original color: a lovely, clean shade of cream.

The back of the card is blank, and unfortunately this fresh faced budding gentleman with the Windsor tie wasn’t IDed.

Photographer: Ivorygraph. Hastings. 26 Eastern Avenue. St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Branch of 146 Tremont Street, Boston.


The Smoking Club

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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:

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(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?

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6″ x 4.5″cabinet card

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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.


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