Tag Archives: civil war era

Clear blues within a frame, within a frame -and a theory on those unbuttoned waistcoats of the Civil War era

Carte de visite. J.W. Gould. Ohio. Private Collection.

1860’s Carte de visite. J.W. Gould. Ohio. Private Collection.

A handsome sitter from the 1860’s with very light blue eyes!  Several points to make about this portrait:

I like that the picture was framed within the border lines of this carte de visite.

Also, the way he tied his neck ribbon is interesting.

And he chose to open his waistcoat with the top and bottom still buttoned, like many Civil War soldiers did on the pictures of the era…Was he a veteran in civilian suit? A good chance, the lines and corners of this CDV date this picture to be between 1864 and 1869. The next decade saw the rise of a civilian fashion trend where men wore their coat with the top buttoned but not the bottom.  The thought behind it was to show the waistcoat, but I have a theory on it. I think the trend emerged out of respect for soldiers whose uniforms were standard issued and were too small for their frame…For example, the trend of bushy beards became popular with mature Victorians when they wished to imitate the soldiers who fought the Crimean war. I believe people were looking up to those brave boys and adopted their style…so why not the way a coat or waistcoat is buttoned?

Photographer: J.W. Gould. Main Street. Carrollton, Ohio.

Civil War era Mr. Burghy with the curly hair

CDV. Private Collection.

Civil war era 1862 CDV of dandy Mr. Burghy. Private Collection.

Just what is going on on top? It looks like a big swirl. How this could stay in place while the gent wore his hat demands an explanation. I’m not sure if the curls on the side are entirely natural or ringlets.

The hat next to him is a “John Bull” most commonly worn in the 1860’s. The back of the CDV is blank but has his last name and is dated May 24th, 1862. Mr. Burghy was a dandy if ever there was one, and he seems to have come from a well-to-do family.

Late 1860’s working class little brothers

1860's working class little boys. CDV. Private Collection.

1860’s working class little boys. CDV. Private Collection.

These two seem about the same age but they don’t look like twins, fraternal twins maybe? If you look closely there is a contrast of personality between them. The one to the left looks like he ran everywhere and climbed everything in sight while the other looks more calm and poised. The unbuttoned jacket, the couple of stains on the trousers…the left one looks a bit more shabby than the other one, probably the most terrible of the two whose parents couldn’t keep clean for more than an hour! He has a furrowed brow, probably questioning the photographer’s use of a body stand for him and not his brother!

There’s no expensive furniture on this one, the photographer choosing instead to hang a flowered drape from the ceiling down over a small round table.

Photographer: A. Chapman. Oneonta, N.Y.

‘Bowery Boy’

Bowery Boy. Personal Collection.

Bowery Boy. Private Collection.


This one feels special to me. This young man walked the streets my characters roam in their little universe. He has kind eyes, don’t you think? And he was right smack in the middle of the slums.

Photographer: Riker. 234 Bowery, N.Y.

Mr. Talmage of Landisburg, PA

Civil War era Jonely. Personal Collection.

Civil War era Mr. Talmage. Private Collection.

with the tax stamp.

with the tax stamp.

“Yours, Truely [sic] F.W. Talmage” written in the back in tiny and beautiful (yet hard to read) cursives.

We can estimate this CDV to be from between 1864 and 1869 by the border style with one thick line, the other thin. Then we can narrow it down further to in-between 1864 and 1866 because during those two years the tax stamp helped fund the Civil War.

Photographer: J.T. Couch & Co. Landisburg, PA.

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