Tintype Girls: 1890

Posing for the photographer. Source: theantiquepoole.com

Posing for the photographer. Source: theantiquepoole.com


The Heart of the Photographer Grows Sad When He Sees Them.

They come in late in the afternoon, all talking at once.

“We want our tintypes taken.”

“Yes, all together?”

“In a group.” “Any particular style you’d like?” “Oh, we want something picturesque. Yes, we want it artistic—an outdoors scene, you know.” The photographer quickly wheels up a mountain view for a background, waltzes a wooden looking “rock” into the foreground, props up a rustic “fence” at once side and throws down a shaggy grass-suggesting mat before it. While he is composing this medley from the inexhaustible beauties of nature the girls discourse on the subject in hand.

“Bell, you sit on the rock and I will stand beside you. Grace can lean on the fence and May, you sit on the floor. We ought to have a book to be looking at. Ah, here’s an album, that will do. Dora, which side of my face would be the best to have taken?”

“The outside,” said Dora promptly.

“I wish we had a parasol,” says Grace.

“Be quick as you can,” interrupts the photographer, realizing how precious is every moment of the fast fading light. Dora bestows upon him a look which plainly says “with intent to annihilate;”

“We pay you by the job, not by the hour. Do not presume to hurry us.”

At last they locate themselves according to the dictates of their own sweet and wayward fancies.

“Ah, my,” exclaimed Belle from the rock, “what an awful uncomfortable thing this is to sit on!”

“Put your hands on my shoulder, Grace.” Finally all seemed in readiness, when, just as the photographer is about to remove the cap to expose the plate, May suddenly exclaimed from the door:

“Hold on a minute! Grace, you ought not to be standing; you are too small. Change places with me.” Then ensues a general scrambling and rearranging, Belle improving the opportunity to try for a softer spot on the rock.

“Am I looking at the right place?” May anxiously asks of the photographer, as if the sun would certainly fail to do its desired work if her head was not turned at just the most becoming angle.

“Yes,” replies the much harassed personage addressed, heroically choking back unholy utterances. “Sit perfectly still now.” He removes the cap, and a brief and blessed silence ensues. When he replaces the cap for a moment, the chorus breaks out:

“Oh, my goodness—dear me—I never—why, I was just___”

“Keep just as you are,” says the photographer, authoritatively, unexpectedly removing the cap again, and thus effectively shutting off the threatened deluge of remarks.

The poor light necessarily made the exposure unusually long and when at last it is over a volley of deep and revengeful groans comes from the girls as the photographer disappears with his plate.

Then the tongues were loosed.

“My, I feel all tied up in a bow knot.” “Goodness, but I’m tired standing so long.”

“I never knew anybody to be so long taking a tintype.”

“Oh, I feel as if I had just had a tooth pulled—so thankful it is over.”

“Oh, see this picture of some girls in a boat. Why didn’t he say he had a boat?”

“I don’t think he is very agreeable, anyway. All he thinks is to get it over with.”

“Oh, here he comes with the pictures.”

Now they gather around the man with the pictures, all talking excitedly.

“Oh! Oh! Just look at me.”  “Just see the way my eyes look.”

“My head is held too high and I asked you___.”

“Oh, see how my dress looks,” etc. , till at last they release the artistic treasures long enough to have them put in envelopes.

Then they pay for them and go out, leaving the long-suffering photographer free to relieve his overwrought nerves in any form of speech he thinks will be most soothing to his feelings and expressive of his sentiments.

Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 3 November 1890: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Many are the fancies of the photographer. We have previously looked at the fad of ladies being photographed as Egyptian mummies, some stories of spirit photography here and here, and the promiscuous giving of personal photographs, as well as an interview with a post-mortem photographer.

The long exposures in the early photographic process were discomforting for all but the dead. Much advice was given to persons about how to obtain a good result: Blondes should wear lighter colours than brunettes, but no one should wear white. Fair hair must be powdered in order to appear its natural colour in the photograph. Freckles must also be powdered. Sitters should not load themselves down with “gewgaws and haberdasheries,” to show all that they have got in worldly goods. “Unless you can smile naturally to order, don’t attempt to look pleasant, for the result may be heartrending.” And, finally,

In striving to look natural while having your picture taken, imagine yourself a desperado, just planning a bloody murder and you will unquestionably be successful. New Orleans [LA] Item 15 January 1881: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

2 thoughts on “Tintype Girls: 1890

  1. Pingback: Hints on Dressing for the Photographer: 1865-1921 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

  2. Pingback: Baby’s Pitty Itty Picture: 1911 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s