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January 22, 2014


One of the most interesting types of collectibles is antique photographs.
They're relatively plentiful at flea markets and still quite affordable.

Many collectors narrow their acquisitions to a specific subject.
Today I'm featuring early photographs of little girls with their dolls.  


Antique dagurreotype, circa 1856, of Mary Ella Jenks (born in Pawtucket, RI, in 1850), holding her Izannah Walker doll. Ms. Walker, one of America's earliest female doll makers, lived in the same town and was friends with the Jenks family. Follow link for the full story from the owner of this striking daguerrotype.
Daguerreotype, one of the earliest types of photography, dates from the mid 1830's.

The photo of Mary Ella Jenks of Pawtucket, RI, right, is a well preserved example of daguerreotype.  

The photograph, circa 1856,
shows Mary Ella holding an Izannah Walker doll.  Mrs. Walker was one of
America's first recognized doll makers and was a close friend of the Jenks family.




Having your picture taken during the Victorian period was a
very special event that only the wealthy could afford.  The
children featured today are well dressed and many of their
outfits were copies of adult clothing.
Note the small ring on her right hand.  The only 
marking on this photo is '1860'.  I wonder how her
life was impacted by the Civil War as she was just
7 or 8  by the end of the conflict.


This little girl looks more like a miniature adult than a child.



One of the frustrating aspects of black and white photography
is not being able to see the colors of the clothing, hair, eyes, etc.
Children's clothing was often constructed from their mothers' old
dresses.  Maybe that's why children often looked like tiny adults.



One of the reasons that outer wear was made from heavier dark
fabric is that it didn't show dirt as easily and lasted much longer.
Fragile, light fabrics were prone to become gray with age.









Imagine lacing up those boots.
Thank goodness for Velcro!



Generally, the more lace on a child's
outfit, the wealthier the family.




I love the puffed sleeves.



1901 is written upside down in the lower right hand side of the photo.
Given the young girl's style of clothing that is probably the year the
photo was taken.  I hope the doll and the little purse have remained
in her family.



Were these children impressed with the serious business of having
their picture taken?  Photography was not an instant snap like it is today
and poses had to be held for several minutes without moving.





Many of the dolls in these photographs were the photographers'
props.  You can tell by the stiff way the little girls are holding
them that they're not familiar and cherished.


These children have the same eyes!  Can you imagine
keeping all four completely still for the photograph?



A porcelain doll might have cost a full month's salary for a laborer.
Dolls and their clothing were handmade and were quite expensive.



When I found this photo I immediately thought, "Hansel and Gretel!"
Aren't they adorable?  The milk can was probably the photographer's
prop but I'll bet the cloth-body doll belonged to the little girl.

If you're thinking about starting an antique photograph
collection consider narrowing your acquisitions to a specific genre
or subject.  It makes hunting for additions that much more fun.

5 comments:

  1. This was a really intriguing post. A lot of these children have no expressions... I am not sure I could get my kids to just sit and pose neutrally. There would either be a smile, a frown or a funny face. I think focusing on a genre is great advice.

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  2. I enjoyed this so much..very interesting

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  3. I love old photos and these were just wonderful! I have some old tintypes of my family. Somewhere. I put them away for safe keeping. You know the rest.

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  4. Wonderful post. I love antique pictures too.. those beautiful, mysterious people.. I always like to imagine what happened after the picture.. what did they do? Go for lunch, a walk in the park, back to work?

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  5. It is amazing to me how many of the kids look mean or scared. I would hope my son's pictures look more happy go lucky or at least friendly. LOL

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