Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Big Skirts and Bustles

I've been working on sorting through our newly digitized glass negative images to see what more we can learn about the collection. Women's fashions are a huge help in this endeavor! 

According to the Vintage Fashion Guild:
The round hoop of 1860 evolved into an oval hoop by 1864. As the skirt developed, the back emphasis saw the creation of the first bustle, which had appeared by 1868. The big, soft, high and very draped bustle skirt enjoyed its popularity for 8 years.
Based on the large round skirt, we can date photos like this one to c. 1855-1868...

and photos like this c. 1868-1876.

Once I sorted the photos by skirt shape, I searched for other clues. I noticed that all the large, round hoop skirt photos have plain backgrounds, while the others have decorative backgrounds. 

I also noticed that the round hoop/plain background photos feature some recurring props:

This chair...

and this small table draped with a tablecloth.

They also feature this distinctive floor pattern:

With these clues in mind, we can come up with a rough time period for some of the portraits of men and children, which don't give us any helpful skirt shapes!

This photo features the distinctive floor pattern, chair and plain background seen in many of the photos of women with round hoop skirts, so we might assume it was also taken c. 1855-1868.

This photo also features the chair and floor seen in the 1855-1868 photos.

Interestingly, this floor, plain background and chair, as well as a round hoop skirt also appear in a print of a young girl that our blog reader April Marinoff noticed on Ebay back in October.

The Ebay listing included a photo of the back of the print, which has a dated tax stamp on it and the photographer imprint. What a breakthrough!

The imprint tells us that the print is from House & Faries, photographers in the rooms over Hazelrigg's Drug Store in Greensburg. The tax stamp was cancelled in 1866.

House & Faries was probably a partnership between George W. House, son of Isaac and Magdalen House, and Timothy C. Faries. Faries served during the Civil War with the 12th Ohio Infantry. In 1880, he was a photographer in Indianapolis, but after that he changed professions and became a dentist. He died on 27 December 1912 and was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.

George served with Indiana's 26th Light Artillery Battery from June 1861 - May 1864. After the war, he moved back and forth between Greensburg and Danville. He was living in Danville in 1870 and in 1893 (according to the census and a Hendricks County history). He died in 1905.

14 April 1905, The Greensburg Standard

The negatives also closely resemble some photos shared with us by blog reader Brenna Green, which have yet another photographer's imprint on the back:

Nina Bird, c. 1870

George House had a younger brother, Isaac, who is listed in the 1870 census as a photographer in Greensburg. Since George was living in Danville at that time, it looks like Isaac (Ike) took over his brother's studio. 

This gives us a pretty good idea that many of the negatives are from the studios of George W. House, Timothy C. Faries, and Ike House, and that they were taken c. 1865-1870. Preliminary research, based on the first 25 scans, led us to believe the photographer was Asbury Wilkinson, who was also a post-Civil War Greensburg photographer. But based on the new scans, the photos match up more closely with the ones we have by House & Faries. If you have photos in your collection by any of these photographers, please scan them and send a copy to me! The more prints we can compare to the negatives, the closer we can come to definitely identifying the photographer. 

In addition to the photos taken shortly after the end of the Civil War, we also have a number of negatives that look more like the one with the bustled dress and the decorative background. These photos seem to have been taken at a later time and by a different photographer. Check back tomorrow to find out more about this portion of the collection!

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