Category Archives: Photography

Grandmere Jeanneton: 1884



I was smoking my after-dinner cigar and reading Figaro on the esplanade in Strasbourg, when I was accosted by an old woman who inquired in French for the nearest photographer. She wore the common dress of the Alsatian peasant, and her dusty shoes indicated a long foot journey, but under her linen head-dress fell her white hair round a face that, sunburnt and wrinkled and wearing traces of recent tears, yet was so beautiful in its expression of tender goodness and touching resignation not unmixed with a certain pride, that I involuntarily addressed her as “Grandmere,” and forgetting that I had promised a friend to await his arrival, offered to guide her to her destination.

On the road she told me her simple story. She was a widow, and lived prior to the French-German war with her married son in a village, fifty miles from Strasbourg. They were well-to-do peasants before the enemy invaded their little village; but one morning they woke to find the Prussians encamped in their fields and making themselves perfectly at home. More troops arrived the next day and the following, until the quiet village was a big camp, where the enemy heaped up the stores needed for the siege of Strasbourg.

One dark night the camp was alarmed and a magazine containing among other stores a considerable quantity of powder was found on fire, and there was no doubt that it was the work of the inhabitants. Accordingly the next morning six of the most prominent or most patriotic of the inhabitants were brought before the Prussian commander, and after a short examination that proved nothing, without further trial, were shot in the square in front of the village church. The widow’s son was one of the six victims, and his wife, who became frantic with grief over his death, was the next morning found lifeless on his grave, thus leaving her infant son to the sole care of his grandmother.

The old woman now centered all her hope and all her affection in the little boy, and as he grew up she was fully repaid, for he loved his grandmother with an intensity often found in children who die young a love that was alone equaled by his veneration of his dead parents, his adoration of “la belle France” and his hate of the Prussians, for the old woman, who loved her country dearly, and never forgot that her husband fell fighting for it at “Solferino,” and that her son was killed by its enemies, instilled, perhaps unconsciously, both feelings in his young breast.

One day, when the boy was 10 years old, a Prussian official who inspected the village school was struck with his beauty and serious air, and addressed a question to him in German respecting his parents. “The Prussians killed them,” answered the boy in French. The official colored, and in a rebuking tone asked the boy why he didn’t speak German. “Because it is the language of my country’s enemies,” answered the boy fearlessly.

The official ordered him in arrest, and he was shut up in a chamber above the school-room, where he remained until night, when he boldly leaped from the window to the ground and, as he fell in a thick copse, escaped unhurt. The boy now fairly flew to his grandmother’s house, but as he was afraid of being seen and brought back to the school if he followed the road, he crossed in through the fields behind the village.

It was in the harvest and the grapes were ripe, so old Martin, the owner of the choicest grapes in the village, kept watch with a loaded shot-gun over his precious treasures. Softly he walks over the field behind the wine-press, when he hears something force its way through the grapevines. He stops and cocks his piece. He will now catch the thief who robs him of his biggest grapes. The moon is behind the clouds, out he sees the outline of a person running fast through the vines. “Halt!” he commands but the person never heeds him. He raises his gun–a flash–a scream–a fall of a body among the grapes, and when the old man arrives on the spot, he finds instead of the supposed grape thief a little curly-haired boy whose life is fast ebbing away with the blood that flows out and mixes with the crushed grapes; his black eyes are already fixed and glassy and it is with a faltering voice he whispers: “Give my love to grandmother and tell her– father! mother! I am coming”–his hands grasp the vines tighter, he raises himself to a sitting posture, the moon coming from behind the clouds shines on the wine leaves in his curly hair, a cry rises in his throat: “Vive la belle France!”–he sinks back, his eyes closed, and the orphan boy is gone.

“And it was me–me alone–who murdered him,” complained the grandmother when she concluded her tale. Her eyes were dry, but the muscles round the corner of her mouth worked convulsively and there was a great sob in her throat. “It was all my fault, the result of my unforgiveness; holy Mary have mercy–” and the old woman ran the black beads of her rosary through her fingers, murmuring her prayers.

We arrived shortly after at our destination, the atelier of a French photographer, with whom I was slightly acquainted. I introduced my companion to him, and he, after offering her a seat, addressed some questions to her about her picture. She looked at him with wonder, and finally replied that she only wanted a picture of her boy. “Ah!” said the photographer, “a little boy, very good, where is he!” A tear dimmed the old woman’s black eye, and for answer she pointed up to heaven. “Oh!” exclaimed my friend, “dead! I do not like to photograph dead bodies, but still as monsieur brought you here I will make an exception; when did your little boy die?”

“When the grapes ripen he will have been gone a year,” replied the grandmother.

“But, my dear,” began the photographer, perplexed, when I interrupted him, and taking him aside told him the old woman’s story and how she had walked fifty miles on her old legs to procure a likeness of her dead grandchild.

“But, my dear fellow, what can I do? I am grieved, upon my word I am; but what would you have me do? I can’t photograph angels!”

A noise of romping children was now heard and two boys, about 8 and 10 years old, came running into the atelier, crying at the top of their voices: “Oh, papa, voici!”

“Hush, children!” said the parent, “go away; I am busy,” and the happy boys disappeared laughing in the next room. A sudden idea struck me and turning to the old woman, who looked wistfully at the door through which the boys escaped, I asked her if she had kept any of her little boy’s clothes. “Indeed I have, monsieur!” she answered. “I have kept everything belonging to the little dear,” and opening a bundle she carried with her she continued: “Here is the best dress and (her voice sunk to a whisper) the last I ever saw him wear.”

I now took the photographer aside and made him acquainted with my plan for “photographing angels,” and after obtaining his promise of carrying out my instructions I persuaded the grandmother to leave her grandson’s clothing in the atelier and follow me to an inn, where I left her to the care of the buxom hostess.

Two days after the photographer sent for her and on her arrival handed her a picture at sight of which the old woman began crying freely. “My boy! my own darling boy! It is the clothes I spun every thread of myself and his pretty curly hair but why does he cover his face so? Won’t he look at me?” she asked suddenly, looking up from the picture that represented a little boy kneeling in a chair with his folded hands before his face.

“Oh!” remarked the photographer, “he is saying his prayers.”

“Yes, yes, I know! he is praying for his poor old grandmere. Oh, my darling boy!” and the great tears rolled down her wrinkled cheeks. “God and our lady bless you, messieurs!” said she when she grew calmer. “I am now going to pray by my boy’s grave until I follow him;” and refusing all aid for her trip home, but pressing her newly found treasure fast to her brave old heart, “Grandmere Jeanneton” left us.

As to the picture, our readers have of course all guessed that the photographer dressed his oldest boy in the poor peasant boy’s clothes; and who would not practice such a deception to see the tears that rolled down Grandmere Jeanneton’s aged cheeks?

The Argos [IN] Reflector 25 December 1884: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil was formerly in service in the household of Mrs Marrowfat, the society medium and shudders at the impostures by which that clever lady enriched herself at the expense of the desolate and sorrowing. And yet, somehow, Mrs Daffodil cannot bring herself to condemn the photographer who gave such consolation to the aged Grandmere who had lost everything.

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.


Baby’s Pitty Itty Picture: 1911

His “Pitty Itty Picture”


“Yes, it’s the very first time he ever had his photograph taken, so, of course, we want to get the very best picture possible, and —no, grandma; I don’t think, after all, that we’d better try to have it taken with his little rattle in hand. Do you, Aunt Harriet? You see, he would be apt to want to shake the rattle at the very moment when the photographer wants him to be perfectly still; but I don’t believe we can get him to keep perfectly still for ten seconds. He is really the most active child I ever saw, Mr. Photographer. He doesn’t even lie still in his sleep. I really think that it is nervousness more than anything else. The doctor says that the child is perfectly well. In fact, I never saw a healthier child. He has never been sick a minute, and he is six months old today: I didn’t want his photograph taken any earlier than that, for I think that a baby hardly ever has much expression until he is about six months old, although every one says that our little Reginald is different from most babies in that respect. His Aunt Lucy was saying yesterday that he had the most intelligent expression of any—oh! I want several negatives taken, and see which one I like best. His grandma — that is, my mother here — wants one just head and shoulders; and his other grandma is very anxious to have a full figure, with him lying on a pillow we brought with us. His Aunt Lucy wants us to try and get a profile of him for her, for she says he has really a remarkable profile for a child of his age; and I want one picture with him in my arms, and his dear little cheek cuddled up to mine; and then we think it would be nice to have him and his two grandmas taken together; and I want one with him and my mother and myself all in it, showing three generations. I think that—better not fuss with his hair, grandma. Those little curls are about right, and I hope they will show good in the picture. So many people rave over his hair. My sister has a baby boy, ten months old, and he hasn’t a third as much hair as our baby has; but then he has never been real well, and he weighs a pound less than our baby, and—yes; we will be ready in just a few minutes. We want to slip on his best dress. We brought it with us in a box, so that it wouldn’t be all mussed up by him wearing it. Then we brought his best little cap, that his Aunt Jennie sent him from out West, and we want one taken with it on to send to her. This odd little rattle we brought is one his grandma had when she was a baby, and she thinks it would be nice to have it in his hand when it is taken. I am expecting his father in every minute. He said that he would meet us here at—here he is now! Here we are, papa, baby and all, and—see him hold out his little hands to his papa! He did that when he was only four months and one week old, and a friend of mine has a baby, eight months old, that has never yet held out its hands to any one. I want one photograph with the baby in his father’s arms, and—be careful, papa! Don’t get the child excited, or it will be so hard to get him still for his picture. The moment he sees his father he wants to romp and play. He is so full of vitality and—no, Aunt Kitty, I don’t believe that we’d better all go into the operating-room with him. I think that if his papa and his two grandmas and I go it will be enough. Too many might distract him and make it hard to keep him still. Is your father coming in, papa? You know, he said when he was over to the house last night that perhaps he would try to come in, and we thought that maybe we would have him and you and the baby taken together, as you all have the same name. I do think that it is nice to hand down a family name from one generation to another, and—yes, we will be ready in just a moment, as soon as—now, mamma’s baby is going to have his own, owney, itty picture taken, so he is, and he must be ever and ever so—what? Baby isn’t going to cry! Oh, ray, my! Tut, tut, tut! He won’t cry long. He never does. A cousin of mine has a baby that will cry all night, but, of course, the poor child isn’t well. I don’t think that well babies ever cry much, and I know that—papa, you’d better step out of sight until I get him ready. He wants to go to you when you are around. I do hope that the pictures will come out good. You see, we want to have some of them enlarged if they are good, and, as I say, it is his first photograph, and—baby doin’ to have his own, owney, pitty itty picture taken—yes, he is! The picture man will show baby itty bird—yes, he will! Baby must be good. Hand me a safety-pin, some one. Have you his little comb, grandma? Aunty Lou, supposing you moisten a corner of my handkerchief with water. There is a tiny smooch on one cheek. There, I think he is about ready. I do hope the picture will come out good! We mean to have more taken on his first birthday, and every birthday after that, and—no, papa, I’d better carry him into the operating-room. Tome, baby, and have his owney, own, pitty itty picture taken!”

Caricature; wit and humor of a nation in picture, song, and story, 1911

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One can only pity the unhappy “Mr Photographer.” Mrs Daffodil previously wrote on the demanding “tin-type girls” who made his life a misery.

One photographer confessed to a reporter that he found infants to be trying subjects.

The artist was a heavy-eyed man; his hair was unkempt, his scarf was disarranged, and his coat-sleeves were turned up. He looked weary.

“I have just been attempting to fix a baby’s attention,” he said, in an explanatory tone, “by throwing handsprings behind the camera. When I showed the negative to the mother she made the inevitable observation that the face lacked expression. Can you put expression on the surface of a lump of damp putty?”

“Is it easier to photograph dogs than babies?”

“Oh, a thousand times. You can fix a dog’s attention and hold it for a time without difficulty. Then, dogs faces are more or less expressive. None of them has the look of stupidity that the average baby wears except the pug.

Pug dogs, by the way, are the easiest to take. All you have to do is to put them in front of the camera and they go to sleep at once. The most difficult dog I ever struggled with was an Italian greyhound. It was a delicate and extremely sensitive little creature, and endowed with almost human intelligence. It couldn’t keep its shadowy legs still half a second to save its life. We worked half a day, and succeeded at length in making a picture that was half satisfactory.’

“Do you photograph many dogs?”

“About 200 a year. Though work is done by a few specialists. The big photographers won’t bother with dogs.” New York Sun.

The Daily Globe [St. Paul MN] 3 January 1884: p. 3

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.

The Fatal Envelope: 1904

viewing corpse in coffin The Spectre of the Hall, author of Varney the Vampire 1848


Waiting Wife Across Sea to Get Picture of Husband in Coffin.

Friends in the New World Were Kinder Than Fortune.

A picture of her husband lying in his coffin will be received by the wife of Peter Weber of No. 89 1-2 Davenport street, in faraway Germany, instead of a long expected epistle containing money which would bring her to him. The photograph was taken yesterday in the rooms of a local undertaking establishment and will be forwarded to the wife.

The story of Weber is one of expectations which death with a relentless hand destroyed. Five months ago he came to this country, after vainly toiling for success in his native land. He had by economy gathered together sufficient funds to pay his expenses, but scrape as he would, eh could not gather sufficient to bring his faithful wife with him. At last she told him to go to the land of promise alone, and said that she would follow when he was able to send for her.

Weber came alone on his journey, he forfeited all his pleasure, and bought nothing but the sheer necessities of life. Each economy which Weber practiced instead of a hardship was a delight to him.

One day, his journey over, he reached Cleveland, and set about finding work at his trade of furrier. But the long journey and the few hours of relaxation had told upon Weber. The next morning when he attempted to rise from his bed, he fell back. The strange weakness which had seized him during the past few days, had him securely in its grasp. He was taken to lakeside hospital where the physicians diagnosed his illness as a severe attack of typhoid fever.

Repeatedly in his delirious moments, he raved of the sorrow which would come to his wife if he died and he spoke of the happy future which he had planned. But the end came Tuesday.

A few foreigners, little known to Weber, heard of the illness and had sent him to the hospital at their own expense, they too met the expenses of his funeral. A modest casket was purchased and the preparations completed for a simple burial. They also decided to send a picture of the casket, the flowers and her husband to Mrs. Weber. Yesterday a photographer was hired to go to the undertaking rooms.

The top of the casket was opened, the flowers placed at the foot and the friends gathered about the coffin. A flashlight was lit. The coffin was again closed and the photographer and the friends took their departure.

Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 7 April 1904: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Photographing the dead was, of course, a common practice in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  It was a chance for one last look at the loved one; a chance to “secure the shadow, ere the substance fade.”

Mrs Daffodil understands the thoughtful impulse of Weber’s friends to show the bereaved wife that her husband did not die alone and friendless in a strange land. It was, no doubt, kindly meant. But Mrs Daffodil would not care to have been at the widow’s side when she opened the fatal envelope.

More on post-mortem photography may be found in The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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.



Week-end Compendium: 13 January 2016 Valentine Edition

Mrs Daffodil has noticed the fluttering in the dove-cote that is the Servants’ Hall over the upcoming Valentine’s holiday. Mrs Daffodil does her best, but managing a mixed-sex staff is sometimes like directing a Feydeau farce translated into Mandarin.  Here are the somewhat distracted posts for this week:

Hints for the Photographer shares tips on looking one’s best in front of a camera including the colours that photograph as dark or light and how to achieve the desired facial expression. “Say ‘bosom!'” says the photographer.

A Stolen or Stray’d Heart at Vaux-Hall is a rare look at a so-called “missed connections” personal want-advertisement from 1738.

That grave person over at Haunted Ohio contributed some occupational valentine verses in Hearse Verses: Valentines for Undertakers

On Valentine’s Day, Mrs Daffodil will share a heart-warming piece of Victorian Valentine’s Day fiction. Happy endings are guaranteed.

A late 18th-century buckle of a cameo showing "the education of Cupid" framed in pastes

A late 18th-century buckle: a cameo showing “the education of Cupid” framed in pastes

Over at the Haunted Ohio blog, in honour of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey, a post featuring a Cornish road-demon and monkey ghosts in Aping the Devil.

And for the anniversary of the first appearance of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette, a post on the giant angel a psychic saw drifting over Lourdes.

Bonus holiday post: The Medium’s Valentine, should one be in love with one who talks with the dead.

From the Archives:  Speaking of vile valentines, the “vinegar valentine” roused some recipients to violence in The St. Valentines’ Day Massacres.

Favorite recent posts:

Posthumous portraiture: Is it live or is it a memorial?

The sad lives of some of the First Children.

That unlucky fellow who married not one, but two women accused of witchcraft. Or were witches just his type?

The best quotes about gin, AKA “Mother’s Ruin.”

Cover art, Richardson's New Fashionable Lady's Valentine Writer or Cupid's Festival of Love, 1830

Cover art, Richardson’s New Fashionable Lady’s Valentine Writer or Cupid’s Festival of Love, 1830

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.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.


Hints on Dressing for the Photographer: 1865-1921

attractive 1890s lady portrait

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 has been inspired by a comment on “Face-book” about American Duchess’s self-described “rant,” suggesting that the people of the past wore their best clothing for the photographer. There are many factors that went into the choice of costume for a sitting. To judge by the articles below, the photographer may have had more influence than he is credited with.

1860s lady portrait

How to Dress for a Photograph. 

A lady or gentleman, having made up her or his mind to be photographed, naturally considers, in the first place, how to be dressed to show off to the best advantage. This is by no means such an unimportant matter as some might imagine. Let me offer a few words of advice touching dress. Orange color, for certain optical reasons is photographically, black. Blue is white; other shades or tones of color, are proportionally darker or lighter as they contain more or less of these colors. The progressive scale of photographic color commences with the lightest. The order stands thus—white, light blue, violet, pink, mauve, dark blue, lemon, blue green, leather-bound, drab, cerise, magenta, yellow-green, dark brown, purple, red, amber, maroon, orange, dead-black. Complexion has to be much considered in connection with dress. Blondes can wear much lighter colors than brunettes, the latter always present better pictures in dark dresses, but neither look well in positive white. Violent contrasts of color should be especially guarded against. In photography, brunettes possess a great advantage over their fairer sisters. The lovely golden tresses lose all their transparent brilliancy and are represented black, where “the bonnie blue e’e,” theme of rapture to the poet, is misery to the photographer; for it is put entirely out. The simplest and most effective way of removing the yellow color from the hair is to powder it nearly white; it is thus brought to about the same photographic tint as in nature. The same rule, of course, applies to complexions. A freckle quite invisible at a short distance, it, on account of its yellow color, rendered most painfully distinct when photographed. The puff box must be called into the assistance of art.

Here let me intrude one word of general advice. Blue, as we have seen, is the most readily affected by light, and yellow the least; if therefore, you would keep your complexion clear and free from tan freckles whilst taking your delightful rambles at the seaside, discard by all means the blue veil, and substitute a dark green or yellow one in its stead. Blue tulle offers no more obstruction to the action of the actinic rays of the sun than white. Half a yard of yellow net, though perhaps not very becoming will be more efficacious and considerably cheaper than a quart of kaydor—All the Year Round Cincinnati [OH] Daily Enquirer 20 January 1865: p. 1

1870s lady portrait darker

The photographer might also have suggestions for assuming a particular expression, although one suspects a joke in this squib:

A photographer gives’ the following directions to his customers: “When a lady sitting for a picture would compose her mouth to a bland and serene character she should, just upon entering the room, say ‘Bosom,’ and keep the expression into which the mouth subsides until the desired effect in the camera is evident. If, on the other hand, she wishes to assume a distinguished and somewhat noble bearing, not suggestive of sweetness, she should say ‘Brush,’ the result of which is infallible. If she wishes to make her month look small she must say ‘Flip,’ but if the mouth be already too small, and needs enlarging, she must say ‘Cabbage.’ If she wishes to look mournful, she must say ‘Kerchunk,’ if resigned, she must forcibly ejaculate ‘S’cat.” Evening Post, 21 February 1880: p. 1

1880s upholstered lady portrait

Actresses and professional beauties made it their business to photograph well.


How Colors Change in the Camera Why Actresses Take the Best.

New York Sun.

“The question is often asked,” said an experienced photographer, “why actors and actresses take the most pleasing pictures. It is because they study the principles of art and good taste in their procession and understand how to dress. Moreover, they usually bring a selection of veils, flowers, curls, braids, lace and sometimes costumes to give the photographer a choice of accessories. They come when they are wholly at leisure and are not flustered. A red face takes black, and they know it. Then they do not load themselves down with gewgaws and haberdasheries, to show all that they have got in worldly goods. Few persons know how to dress for a picture like an actress.

The best materials for ladies to wear when about to sit for a photograph are such that will fold or drape nicely, like reps, winceys, poplins, satins and silks. Lavender, lilac, sky blue, purple and French blue take very light, and are worse for a picture than pure white. Corn color and salmon are better. China pink, rose pink, magenta, crimson, pea green, buff, plum color, dark purple, pure yellow Mazarine blue, navy blue, fawn color, Quaker color, dove color, ashes of roses and stone color show a pretty gray in the photograph. Scarlet, claret, garnet, sea green, light orange, leather color, light Bismarck and slate color take still darker and are excellent colors to photograph. Cherry, wine color, light apple green, Metternich green, dark apple green, bottle green, dark orange, golden and red brown show nearly the same agreeable color in the picture. A black silk always looks well, and it takes well if not bedecked with ribbons and laces that will take white. Dark Bismarck and snuff brown usually take blacker than a black silk or satin and are not easy to drape. A silk, because it has more gloss and reflects more light, usually takes lighter than a woolen dress. Ladies with dark or brown hair should avoid contrasts in their costumes, as light substances photograph more quickly than dark, and ladies with light hair should dress in something lighter than those whose hair is dark or brown.

Few ladies understand how to arrange their hair so as to harmonize with the form of the head, but blindly follow the fashion, be the neck long or short, or the face narrow or broad. A broad face appears more so if the hair is arranged low over the forehead or is parted at the side, and a long neck becomes stock-like when the hair is built up high, while a few curls would make a most agreeable change in the effect. Powdered hair gives good effect and powder should be bestowed upon freckles. Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 24 May 1881: p. 4

pretty lady with feathers portrait




[By B. C. Towne, Photographer.]

“I wonder why I never take a good picture?” Is a question frequently asked, and often with good reason, too. Excellence in a picture depends partly on the artist and partly on the sitter, and, of course, the first rule to be observed is to visit a good photographer. The first thing necessary seems to be to decide what style you will have—bust, three-quarter figure, or full length. The first two are the prevailing modes; the last implying a more elaborate toilet. Before leaving the studio, consult the photographer as to your dress, etc. Let him know what it is to be. You may be undecided which of several to use. It there may be a choice in color or in cut, etc. He will tell you at once which is best. He may request you to try more than one, and in the absence of such invitation you will be expected to pay extra for the experiment…

He will probably request you not to dress the neck too high or too tight, or in an exact circle, with the fore part of it lying close under the chin, for, of all things, the present high mode of dressing the neck is distressing to an artistic photographer. It is done because the lady has a short neck or a long one, or it is thin, and the cords must be concealed. It is done, for it is the fashion. This is all a mistake. You are surprised when the photographer says it, for there is a touch of bitterness in his tone. He illustrates his meaning by winding the lapels of his coat tightly around his neck. “You see, madam, the effect on a long face like my own. It overhangs and becomes almost deformed, while a round face becomes button shaped, and none of the little tricks of hairdressing or expression can remedy it. No; it’s all a mistake. If your neck is short, as you say, do not lose what you have, lower the drapery, do a little judicious borrowing, and, presto! the face that was round becomes oval. In any case the neck must not be hidden, for all the action and grace of position in a bust portrait centers there.”

Black, dark green, crimson, brown, and yellow, take nearly the same shade. A dress cut low in the neck always seems higher in a photograph than to an observer. Mr. Towne has secured the services of a young lady from a leading gallery in Chicago, who will offer suggestions or assist ladies in draping or arranging minor details toward making up to the best advantage for a perfect picture. Patriot [Harrisburg, PA] 26 July 1888: p. 4

1908 figure portrait



By A. Bogardus.

Dress as you are accustomed to do, and as your friends see you. Many ladies are inclined to overdress when getting a picture; that is, they dress for effect, and it generally results in so much damage to the picture. Do not disguise yourself either in dress or in the mode of wearing the hair. A gentleman once spoke to me in regard to making a picture of his wife. She came at the appointed time. I had never seen her before. The picture was delivered in due time, and was a success in execution. He gave me his opinion as follows:—”Your execution is well done, but it has no value to me as her hair was arranged as I had never seen it before, and as I never wish to see it again.”

The time was when the photographer required certain colors in dress to produce good effects. Now, with experience and the improvements in chemicals, these restrictions are removed. He can photograph white as well as black. The capable artist prides himself on his ability to show the most delicate and elaborate lace-work on the bridal dress.

With these restrictions no longer necessary, I would say—wear your most becoming dress.

Blue and pink will photograph white.

Purple will appear many shades lighter than it is in reality.

Red and deep yellow appear black, or nearly so.

Strong contrasts in dress or trimmings will give a gaudy effect.

Subdued and quiet colors make the neat picture. For example see the pictures of nuns, or the lovely pictures of Quaker ladies… An obnoxious mole too prominent for a beauty spot may be covered with wax, and powdered over. A light veiling may be draped over scars or bruises.

Unless you can smile naturally to order, don’t attempt to look pleasant, for the result may be heartrending. Omaha [NE] World Herald 21 December 1902: p. 19

1920s girl portrait

And, finally, there is advice about not wearing one’s newest or most fashionable gown for the photographer:

 How to Dress for the Photographer

It is a good rule to follow never to wear a new dress to the photographer’s. Not only do you show awkwardness that comes from wearing something with which you are not entirely familiar, but it is a well-known fact that new clothes are stiffer and hang in less graceful folds than do clothes that have been worn. The old frock has taken on the curves and lines of your body. It seems to have absorbed something of your personality.

And, of course, the old frock, if it is becoming, may be worn for a photograph when you might not select it for a party. If it is a little faded, or even shows signs of wear, this will not show in the photograph.

You may have noticed that certain pictures taken some time ago are almost grotesque now, while others of the same date are still satisfactory portraits. If you stop to observe you will see that the pictures that are still pleasing show no freaks or extremes of fashion. Collars and collar lines seem to be the details that most quickly look out of date; hence the wisdom in always having your picture taken with a low neck line if possible.

Hats, too, date a picture. The picture you had taken without a hat you will like to display for a longer time than the picture that shows its date by the hat you wore.

Jewelry does not add to the effect of a picture and often detracts much. Baltimore [MD] American 9 October 1921: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Sound words from the professionals! It is most interesting that the suggestions about colours and about powder are so very consistent over several decades. As for wearing one’s best clothing, Mrs Daffodil has seen interviews with photographers stating that they kept clothing to be used by clients and that some persons would don top hats, watch chains, and fraternal organisation regalia for the camera, sending the finished photographs to their families back in “the old country.”

Mrs Daffodil has previously written of the Tin-type Girls—the scourge of the sea-side photographer, as well as a fad for being photographed as an Egyptian mummy. There are also posts on post-mortem photography and spirit photographs under the “Photography” category.

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.


Week-end Compendium: 6 January 2016

Mrs Daffodil has not been idling in fancy-dress this week, but shares a caustic commentary on “The Ladies’ Man,” in case the upcoming High Feast of St. Hallmark throws one into the company of one of those serial adorers so unwittingly fatal to a girl’s reputation.

She also tells of a Wisconsin lady-inventor, a Mrs Gearing, who created a woodsy costume: a romper lined with sawdust, which was somehow supposed to emancipate Womankind. Simply barking.

Then Mrs Daffodil shares an interview with a hairdresser who takes pride in her profession of dressing the hair of the dead and comments on the use of “dead hair” in wigs and chignons.

On Sunday Mrs Daffodil intends to give some tips on how to look one’s best for the photographer of 1865 or 1921. Bring talcum powder and blue gauze.

This week at the Haunted Ohio blog:

A flap at Drayton Church, haunted by a uncanny black bird seen perching in the sanctuary and heard fluttering in the vault.

While it is hard to conceive of such a thing, a French widow claimed that her bouncing baby boy was begotten by her ghostly husband–dead for several years. Perhaps a too-fertile imagination was at work here.

From the archives, to whet one’s appetite for Valentine’s Day, Hearts and Powers, Cardiac Witchery and Vintage Advice on Choosing a Spouse.

Some favourite links: A woman after Mrs Daffodil’s own heart: Resistance fighter Nancy Wake.

A ritual horse burial from the War of 1812?

Never say never when it comes to historic dress.

dash of humour in this cartoon, which, not to give away the punch-line, is about Roman soldiers.

The Chinese Year of the Monkey begins on Monday. This is the leader of the monkey orchestra and chorus by J J Kaendler, Meissen, c. 1755

The Chinese Year of the Monkey begins on Monday. This is the leader of the monkey orchestra and chorus by J J Kaendler, Meissen, c. 1755

singing monkey

This is the lead singer in the monkey chorus by J J Kaendler, Meissen, c. 1755

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.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.



The Mysterious Face in the Window: 1872


Mrs Daffodil has invited that image-conscious person over at the Haunted Ohio blog to tell us of one of the many ghostly face-in-the-window stories in her files. There are numerous reports in the 1870s of mysterous faces appearing in window glass. These are described variously as “lightning daguerreotypes,” or “etched by lightning,” because they were believed to have been photographed on windows by lightning bolts. Sometimes they were seen to be inexplicably embedded in the glass. These faces had several characteristics: They appeared on window-panes; they could only be seen from the outside–the window glass from the inside appeared unmarked; and attempts to clean the images off the window only made them clearer. This account of a “window-pane ghost” of a dead “wanton woman” appears in The Face in the Window: Haunting Ohio Tales.


Our readers will remember the notice of the death of Mrs. Mollie Sullivan in our last issue [Mrs. Sullivan, 38, died Oct. 3, 1872 at her Fourth Street residence. To judge by comments in other articles, she had a reputation as a prostitute or kept woman.] On last Saturday, a lady living near the house lately occupied by the deceased woman, discovered the outlines of a human face in a window pane of an upper apartment where Mrs. Sullivan was wont to sit. The news rapidly spread, and so great was the crowd on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, that the owner of the house, Mr. Thomas, crushed the pane with a missile to keep the visitors away.

Before the destruction of the glass it was subjected to thorough and repeated scrubbings, and was perfectly transparent; no chemical coating could be discovered, which disproves the assertion that the woman had a negative taken on the pane and placed in the sash before her demise. It is without doubt one of the wonderful phenomena, either of light or electricity, imprinted on the window while the woman sat looking out. It is to be regretted that the glass was not preserved for examination, instead of being destroyed. Portsmouth [OH] Times 5 October 1872: p. 3

Soon, the papers added a sinister twist.



The Vanceburg Kentuckian prints the following story:

There formerly lived in [Portsmouth] a woman who kept a house of prostitution, and her name was Mollie Stuart. She, like other women of her stripe, had her “man,” and his name was Sullivan. Well, a week or two ago her man fell out with her and tapped her on the head, from the effects of which she died in about 4 days. And since that time the strangest part of the whole transaction has transpired, and that is that on the panes of one of the windows in the house which she formerly occupied is to be seen, at all times, an apparition, or something for which we know no better name, in the form of Mollie Stuart….Waterloo [IA] Courier 7 November 1872: p. 1

The reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer went up a ladder to see the mysterious image for himself:



Portsmouth, Ohio, October 5, 1872.

“Have you seen the ghostess?” is the question you are asked at every corner and crossing in the city. Here a group of men sit on the stone steps of All Saints or are gathered together on the sidewalk, the topic of conversation, the ghost. Little children, hurrying to the Sabbath-school, their faces blanched with fear, their lessons unlearned, talking in undertones of the wonderful thing that they have all heard of, and all have seen. Old women hurry down the streets in the burning sun: mothers, with babes in their arms, the cripple on his crutches, the aristocrat in his carriage, the man of business with his quick pace, the doctor, the lawyer, men, women and children of the different nationalities, the professional sport, the women of the town, all hurrying to the spot where thousand-tongued rumor has located the picture of her who was taken from the house last Friday and consigned to the dust from which she was taken.

Mollie Sullivan, or as she was better known, Mollie Stuart, lived on North Fourth Street, four doors below Jefferson, in a two-story frame dwelling, keeping what the keno gentlemen denominate a “sporting house.” The house stands in a little yard about twenty feet front, the end fronting the street. A window in the second story in the side of the building looks out on Fourth Street. Here the woman would sit for hours at a time looking out… For the past three weeks she had felt that her end was approaching and during the early part of the week when a friend said, “Mollie, we will miss you when you are gone,” she replied that they should see her again. “I will come back and look out of the window again,” said she, “after I am dead.”

Yesterday, Saturday afternoon, a lady whose residence is near, rushed breathlessly into the house exclaiming, “Mollie is looking out of the window upstairs.” No credence was given the report, but as the news was communicated, many came to see the wonderful and unexplainable what-is-it? …Your correspondent, not to be outdone by others, was soon on the ground, and there on the middle pane of glass, of the lower row of panes in the bottom sash, was a distinct negative of the dead woman.

I am not one of those superstitious beings who rush into print with a long list of names to bear out the assertion that I have discovered something supernatural, and so I decided to convince myself that there was nothing deceptive in what I seemed to see. Mounting a ladder I reached the window. The room was vacated; no pictures adorned the walls to cast a reflection; no extraneous matter was on the surface of the glass. Thrusting my hand through a broken pane, I placed it over the negative: it still remained. Next, the glass was scrubbed on each side, the sash taken down, but the negative remained on the transparent pane. There was the rounded face, the full forehead, the short black hair, the modeled bust of the dead woman; and there it will remain until the glass is destroyed.

This Sunday forenoon I again visited the house. The window was undisturbed, but the image of the dead woman was still silently looking out into the dim invisibility of the Unknown, heedless of the hundreds that block the streets, sidewalks and neighboring yards. It requires no eagle eyes to see it there, just as she sat. Some crossed themselves as they approached the house. Some would come jesting, laughing at the idle rumor, stand gazing in awe at it a moment, and then retrace their steps, wondering why it was…

Persons visit the place prepared to discredit it anyhow, are the most puzzled of all. Various are the reasons given. Superstition leads all. The vast majority say that it is but the fulfillment of a dying woman’s prophecy. One says the evil spirit placed it there; the moralist claims that the Almighty put it where it is to warn others of her mode of life, and prepare them for a reformation. Another says that her picture was negative in the grease and dirt on the surface of the glass by atmospheric pressures; some say that one of the freaks of electricity caused it. In the absence of any well-known reason, I think some strong reaction going on in the rays of light made a negative of the woman at a single sitting, and the woman may have discovered it herself before she died. Scientific men would do well to secure this pane of glass.


Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 9 October 1872: p. 4

NOTE: A Cyprian was a fancy name for a wanton person or prostitute. The image is described as having short black hair. Women’s hair was usually worn long at this time. If Mrs Sullivan was ill or had in fact been hit by her pimp, her hair might have been cut.

The Mollie Sullivan case set an entire city abuzz. Here are a few more details:

A notorious courtesan, named Mollie Sullivan, who resided on Fourth Street, below Jefferson, died on Thursday last. It was rumored that she came to her death from the effects of a blow inflicted by one Tim. Sullivan; and Tim. was placed under arrest, and a post mortem examination was held over the deceased, which resulted in his acquittal…

The window is a 12 light, and the apparition is in the middle lower pane, the back pane of glass being out, the resemblance is that of a rather dim negative photograph….The imagination of different spectators, whoever, clothes the picture with different surroundings. Some see a man standing by her side, some a dog sitting in her lap. Some would swear to a recognition of the features of Mollie. Some see the surroundings changing from time to time. Others can only see the faint outline of a face, the hair, the eyebrows, some semblance of eyes and nose. This much of the central figure appears to be visible to all, and the posture and features always the same. A curtain or blind hung inside the window extinguishes the picture, nor can the picture be seen from the inside of the house. The glass has been removed and examined, and is said to be a smooth glass, with no unusual appearance when out of the window, but when replaced the appearance immediately recurs…To my vision there was only apparent the general outlines of a face, the flow of the hair, and the curve of the eyebrows being well defined. I could see this much from the street, at any point within fifty yards, when the window was fully visible. But the most distinct view was presented from the yard of the house next above, at a distance of about fifty feet. I there fancy I saw the color of the dress—dark ground work, with white spots—a bow or locket on the bosom; the posture, sitting with face nearly fronting the window; some person or thing standing behind and to the right of the picture—picture’s right. But this last description may be imaginary; but I tried in vain to force upon my imagination any such appearance in the other panes of glass. At a nearer view the picture becomes more confused; a magnifying glass does not make the outlines any more definite… The only natural solution coming within any known hypothesis, is that the accidental formation of the glass reflects an outline resembling the human face, and that imagination fills up the space, and this is perhaps the true solution, but it is curious enough to challenge investigation. S. Cincinnati [OH] Daily Gazette 9 October 1872: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: How these ghostly images were produced is a mystery, although some sceptics suggest that reused daguerreotype plates inserted into windows accounted for the phenomenon. Others offered a theory that dust on the surface of the window mimicked human features. Mrs Daffodil can assure her readers that such things would never happen at the Hall where the windows are spotless.

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.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle.  Please visit the Haunted Ohio blog for fortean and historical tales from around the world and the Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard Face-book page for paranormal links from Ohio and beyond.