Tag Archives: photography

Snap-shots at the Beach: 1894


What She Did With It, and What Some Other Girls Might Do.

She was the loveliest little figure, wandering about the big hotel galleries or sitting by herself on the sand, very neatly but plainly dressed, and just 14 years old, she told me. When we became more or less friendly, for I used to ask her to come sit under my big beach umbrella, she explained she had come to the seaside for her health. which any one could plainly see, and that she came alone, because to pay her board and traveling expenses was all a hard-working, self-sacrificing mother and elder sister could manage.

It weighed on her tender conscience that she could do nothing to help them bear the burden of her summer’s outing, that the doctor had said was so necessary, and we talked it over often under my beach umbrella, until she made a great discovery. She had been given by her kind-hearted doctor a little eight-dollar snap shot camera, and one day, having taken a dozen photographs of my favorite sand seat, our party under the umbrella, clever glimpses of the bathing beach and our two dogs, my brother guaranteed to buy every one of the dozen at 80 cents each in order that she could have the photographs developed, printed, and mounted.

Now it cost her $1.45 to have them made ready for the sale, but as she sold the whole dozen to us for $3.60, her profits amounted to $2.15. But her camera only held twelve films, and a fresh roll cost 65 cents, so in the end she had cleared just $1.60. It didn’t seem very much, yet it was only the beginning, for our pictures proved so satisfactory we told others on the beach about it, and before the week was over she had more orders than she could fill. Everybody wanted to be taken over and over again, and our little photographer found that she could clear a profit of 13 cents on every picture she made. Since she could not afford to buy the necessary outfit for printing and mounting the photographs herself, they had to be sent to a factory, where all that was done for 12 cents per picture; as her camera held only enough films for one dozen photographs, costing 65 cents for the dozen, these items took a great deal off of her earnings. Yet she managed to clear $7 for her first week and $9 the next, nearly enough to meet the expenses of her board at the hotel, she told me delightedly.

It was very seldom she was not able to average $7 a week for the eight weeks she stayed at the beach, for every day new people came who wanted their pictures taken, and at length the kindly hotel proprietor paid her $25 to make a series of pictures in and about his hotel to be used as illustrations for his season’s prospectus and guide book.

She could hardly believe the money was her own, so great a sum did it appear, half enough to pay the big doctor’s bill her illness had cost, with $5 over to supply some materials she wanted for a new project This last was her own idea–to make pretty souvenirs and sell them to visitors. They were hand made albums of half a dozen bristol board sheets fastened together with stout silk cords, and then buying a printing frame and sheets of prepared paper she would make blue prints and mount them herself on the bristol board.

These albums gave the most picturesque and interesting views about our summer resort, and some of them had pasted to the sheets carefully pressed samples of the prettiest wild flower and seaweed found on shore or in the fields. Her albums cost her a great deal of patience and some outlay, but she sold nearly a dozen of them for $4 apiece, and the result was another $25 profit When at last she bade us farewell and packed up her little camera it was a rosy, happy face that turned homeward again. By her own exertions she had paid her board nearly the whole of her eight weeks’ stay and had helped with the big bills at home. The picture-taking had kept her out of doors every fair day; in search of pretty nooks and subjects, wild flowers and novel scenes she had taken many long walks, and ever busy and interested with her camera she grew as well and strong as she had ever been.

“I shall be a professional photographer when I grow up,” she solemnly assured me, patting her well-worn little camera with loving hands, “and I wish I could tell some other girls who want to make a little money how I made mine, for I think photography is just the sort of work that would suit girls, don’t you?”

The Inter Ocean [Chicago IL] 5 August 1894: p. 31

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is a rosy picture of a city child sent to the sea-side to recover her health. One hopes that the enterprising young woman did not have a relapse when she returned to the privations and worries of home and grew up to become a celebrated professional photographer, well-able to keep her mother and elder sister in comfort.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written of a young woman who made a career photographing pets.

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 anecdote

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.

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.

Miss Highkicker at the Coronation: 1902

Miss Belle Bilton, later the wife of the Earl of Clancarty. [National Portrait Gallery]

Miss Belle Bilton, later the wife of the Earl of Clancarty. [National Portrait Gallery]


The coming coronation is looked forward to by all loyal Britons with enthusiasm, and by a large number with a more commercial interest, for they hope that it will in some measure compensate for recent stagnant times. The London photographers should certainly have a busy time, for there will be few among the fashionable folk who are privileged to witness the ceremony who will not wish to have their portraits taken in their coronation costumes, so that the pictures can be handed down to posterity as memorials of their connection with a great historical event.

Of course, the bulk of the photographers’ clients will be ladies, and most of these will have rich ultra cerulean blood flowing in their aristocratic veins so that nothing short of “the blue process” will do their pictures justice. But there will be a few whose vital fluid is of the more ordinary color, and whose former visits to the photographer’s studio have been under far different circumstances. We refer to those ladies of the stage, and chiefly of the music-hall stage, who have been fortunate enough to find partners among our old nobility. These ladies take precedence according to the rank of their husbands, and we shall have therefore the curious spectacle of Miss Highkicker, late of the Frivolity Theater of Varieties, who is doubtful as to the identity of her grandparents, taking her place, as a matter of right, in front of grand dames who can trace back their ancestors, without a break, to the time of Noah. Perchance the same photographer who takes her portrait in her coronation finery can find among his stock negatives some of the same young lady in costumes which would hardly be in keeping with a sacred edifice like Westminster Abbey.

We seem to remember the story of such a risen star, who, after her marriage, treasured up a stage costume as a memento of a former histrionic triumph. She kept it in a cigar box. But times have changed for the new peeress, and a rich dress, with a train long enough for half a dozen ordinary dress lengths, compensates, in some degree, for the shortness of material which was such a distinguishing feature of her former apparel. Our late revered Queen did not invite these recent additions to the peerage to her drawing-rooms, but no one can dispute their right to seats in the Abbey to view the coronation ceremony. The old adage says, “Poverty makes strange bedfellows,” but poverty is not in it with a coronation in bringing queerly assorted folk together. The wise photographer will endeavor to entice as many as possible to his studio, and if he should recognize a previous customer in some lady of high degree he will do well to keep a discreet silence as to the past.

British Journal of Photography. 1902

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “The blue process,” referred to above as the best method of capturing the essence of noble blood, was the photographic printing process called “cyanotype,” known more prosaically to builders as the “blueprint.”

The picture of a theatrical costume sentimentally kept in a cigar box is a diverting one. Such mésalliances have always caused controversy. Here is a notorious example of a peer marrying an actress during the Great War. And a delightful site about stage beauties, with stories of happy actress/peer marriages and vintage articles such as “Do Actresses Make Suitable Wives for Noblemen?” Mrs Daffodil’s readers will undoubtedly recall how the British monarchy suffered a crisis when the Prince of Wales became enamoured of that American woman, all Cartier and too-sleek hair, memorably described by Cecil Beaton as “compact as a Vuitton travelling case.” And, of course, recently there were complaints when the Duke of Cambridge married a young person of no title at all.

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.


Taking Pictures of the Dead: An Interview with a Photographer: 1882

The dead at "Bloody Lane" after the Battle of Antietam.

The dead at “Bloody Lane” after the Battle of Antietam.

A first-hand narrative from a photographer of the dead and how he came to such a vocation. This past week was the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, where this photographer had a grim experience.


[Sunday Mercury.] I’ve been engaged in taking pictures of the dead for twenty years or more, was the remark of a photographer of Philadelphia, as he arranged his camera to photograph the first corpse ever brought to a Philadelphia gallery for that purpose. A little coffin or casket was under the sky-light in a slanting position, supported by two chairs, and in it was the body of a fair-haired child, whose peaceful, smiling expression, despite the ghastly pallor of death, make it appear to be in tranquil sleep. The head lay in a perfect bed of flowers, and the waxen hands clasped held a spray of mignonette and two delicate tea rosebuds. The sun, shaded as it was by curtains, threw a bright glare over one side of the little dead face, leaving the other half in shadow. The tube of the camera was brought to the proper focus on the silent subject, and in a few seconds the negative was ready to go into the “dark room” and be prepared for printing in its chemical bath. No one was in the place except the proprietor, a solemn-faced undertaker and your correspondent. This is the first time, said the photographer, as he critically examined the negative, that I have ever been called upon to picture the dead in my own place, but this case was such a peculiar one that I could not refuse, although it would undoubtedly draw away custom if it were known. People have a foolish horror of death, you know, and would actually be afraid to come if they thought I had dead bodies here. It only took a moment, and there was really nothing awful about it. The mother, poor soul, will have something to look at and cry over now, and the speaker stopped, as the undertaker had turned the last screw in the lid of the coffin and was preparing to carry it out to the hearse again.


My first experience in photographing the dead, resumed the photographer, as the hearse rattled away from the door, was on the battle-field of Antietam. It was a warm September morning, three days after the great fight. I had a boy with me to assist in preparing the chemicals. He only worked for an hour. With boyish curiosity he went poking about, and picked up an unexploded shell. He was then on the bank of the creek about half a mile off. I never knew how it happened, but the bomb exploded, and almost blew him to pieces. A little darkey came up to where I was waiting for the boy’s return, and completely unnerved me by shouting: “Say, boss, de red-headed gemmen has done gone and blowed hisself up wif a shell!” He was a bright, intelligent boy, and I felt his loss keenly, but I pressed the negro boy into service, and went to work.

It would be useless to go over the scene of that carnage again; to tell of the ghastly after-sights of that awful fight which made so many widows and orphans. I was nervous and excited, and you can depend it did not tend to quiet my nerves when I unwittingly planted one leg of the camera stand on the chest of a dead Union drummer-boy. By some means he had been partly buried in a patch of soft soil. Nothing was visible but the buttons on his blouse and one foot. I changed my position rather hastily. A “dark room” was improvised by hanging army blankets from the limbs of a low tree; and after taking four negatives, I packed up my traps and started for Philadelphia. It was a slow and dangerous journey, but I made it in safety, and went to work printing pictures. They sold like wildfire at fifty cents and one dollar each. I was nearly two thousand dollars in pocket in less than two weeks, and determined to repeat the programme after the next big battle. It came with Fredericksburg. My anxiety to get a view of the field after the retreat of the Union army led to trouble. I was captured by three Confederate stragglers and taken down the Rappahannock in a rowboat. They suspected me to be a spy, I suppose, and the photographic apparatus merely a blind. At any rate the valuable camera, chemicals, glass and everything else were dumped into the river. I was taken before General Lee, personally, and charged with being a Union spy. No explanation availed anything; it was not even believed that I was a photographer. One of General Lee’s staff—I think his name was Murray—proposed that I should be tested. An aide-de-camp galloped off and procured the necessary apparatus, and I photographed the rebel general and his entire staff, on a day cold enough to freeze the words in a man’s mouth. The officers were evidently impressed with the idea of my innocence. A short consultation followed, and then General Lee himself said to me: “Sir, it appears that you are simply engaged in earning a livelihood, and, I believe, honestly. You are at liberty.” I was blindfolded, put back in the boat, and landed within twenty miles of where Burnside had his winter quarters. From that day to this I never knew where I was. Here is the picture of Lee and his staff, and the photographer exhibited the faded likeness, which had probably saved his life.


After the battle of Gettysburg, he resumed, it became very common for photographers to go to the front. They all appeared to be making money, and I finally made up my mind to try it again. The three days’ fight at Spotsylvania Court House was the last battle-field I ever saw, or want to see again. I arrived there before General Grant had driven the enemy into Richmond. Many of the dead had been removed, but there were still many bodies on the field—enough, in fact, to make a good picture, I thought. I never took it. After getting the best site to have the sun on a half-dozen dead soldiers and two abandoned cannon for the central figures of the picture, I covered my head with the cloth and brought the tube to bear on the group. I had just got the proper focus when a most startling incident occurred. I saw the arm of a supposed dead man lift high in the air and then fall. The day was mild, beautiful and sunny. Everything was as still as death, except the faint booming of a far distant cannon. I dropped the cloth and ran forward to where the dead soldiers lay. There was not the least sign of life in any of them. Decomposition had set in, except in one of them, a dark-haired young man wearing the gray uniform of the Confederacy. He was dead, to all appearance, and a ragged bullet-hole in his forehead precluded any other idea. Thinking it was only imagination, I went back to the camera to make another attempt. No sooner had I lifted the cloth to put over my head than I saw the arm lift up a second time. There could be no mistake. Again I approached the dead men, and looking first at the young man who seemed to have met death later than his companions, I plainly saw a tremor in his fingers. Quickly I bent over him, and placing my hand on his forehead found it clammy and cold. He was not dead, but dying. I spoke, and his eyelids trembled in a sort of unconscious recognition of the presence of the living. I heard a faint flutter of the breath, and saw the shadow of a smile hover for a moment about the lips. Then came a long-drawn sigh, a weak gurgle in the throat, and the soldier boy was dead.

I opened his coat. An old-fashioned daguerreotype of a gray-haired lady, a pack of cards and a Catholic prayer-book I found wrapped up in a small Confederate flag. On the fly-leaf of the book was written, “Henry Barnes MacHenry. From his mother.” The poor fellow had evidently lain where he fell for two or three days, suffering from the tortures of hunger and thirst. Earlier attention might have saved him. The incident, simple as it may seem to you, frightened me. I went home, and for a year devoted myself to regular photography.


Business grew dull, and I got poor. The war had just about ended, when one day, when pushed to my wits’ end for money, I was struck with an idea which I have followed out successfully ever since. The death columns of the morning papers were carefully gone over, and when the funeral was advertised from an humble neighborhood I was usually sure of a five dollar bill. I visited the houses and offered to photograph their dead. Out of a dozen visits I would probably get one job. In a couple of years my reputation grew, and now I am almost as frequently sent for as the minister. Only last May a messenger came from a West Philadelphia family for me to photograph their dying father.

When I got there he was too far gone and I had to wait. Half an hour after the old gentleman had breathed his last, and before he became stiff, we had him sitting in a chair, with his eyes held open with stiff mucilage between the lids and brow, and his legs crossed. He made a very good picture. I once photographed two children—sisters—who had died the same day of diphtheria. They were posed with their arms about each other’s necks. An Irish family, living in the southern part of the city, called on me about two years ago to take a picture of their dead son—a young man—with his high hat on. It was necessary to take the stiffened corpse out of the ice-box and prop him up against the wall. The effect was ghastly, but the family were delighted, and thought the hat lent a life-like effect. Sometimes, and at the suggestion of the family, I have filled out the emaciated cheeks of dead people with cotton to make them look plump. The eyes are nearly always propped open with pins or mucilage, but when people can afford to engage an artist it is an easy matter to paint the eyes afterward. Another time I took a picture of a dead man who had been scalded to death. It was a full-length photograph, and an artist was engaged to fill out the burns on the face and then make a copy in oil. For that piece of work I got $50, and I think he got no less than $500.


I recall an instance, continued the photographer, which is probably the most remarkable thing ever related. Two young men came into my place in the winter of 1874 or 1875, I forget which, and said they wanted a photograph of their dead father, whose body was in the family receiving vault awaiting interment in the spring. They cautioned me that their step-mother was violently opposed to having her husband’s body taken from the vault for such a purpose, and that she daily visited the place of sepulture to prevent any such attempt. It was agreed that I should engage a couple of men to assist in taking the body out, and another to keep watch for the widow. We went to the vault early in the morning to avoid the woman, who usually made her visit after twelve o’clock. It took some time to get the body properly posed against the side of the vault, and then it began to drizzle. We threw a horse blanket over the coffin and retreated to the shelter of a tree. About noon the sun came out, and I hurriedly prepared to secure the negative. The camera had just been placed in position when our sentinel came running breathlessly in, with word that the widow was nearly at the entrance to the cemetery gate, a quarter mile distant. It did not take a moment to restore the corpse to the coffin, screw on the lid, and carry all back to the vault. I packed up my kit, and with the two men got out of another gate. Four months after that one of the sons came to me with a most remarkable story. He said his step-mother had lost her reason. When the dead man’s body was exhumed in the spring in the presence of the widow, she insisted on having the coffin opened. The corpse was found partly turned over and the lining of the coffin disarranged. The widow went into hysterics, under the impression that her husband had been buried alive. The stepsons tried to reassure her, and finally confessed that they had authorized the taking up of the body to have it photographed, but the explanation came too late. The woman’s reason was affected, and she could not understand that in our haste to escape we had turned the corpse on its side.

Photographic Times and American Photographer, Volume 12, J. Traill Taylor, Editor, 1882

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: This gripping narrative contains several popular themes of the era: dying Civil War soldiers, post-mortem photography, and burial alive. The mistaken placing of the tripod on a drummer boy’s corpse, the “dead” soldier’s moving arm, and the descent into madness of the obviously disliked stepmother are thrilling touches. And it is always useful to get a professional’s tips on how to make a dead body seem alive using common household items.

This excerpt and more on post-mortem photography may be found in The Victorian Book of the Dead. 

For a piece on the myth of standing post-mortem photographs see this post, Dead Man Standing.

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.

Saturday Snippets 18 May 2013: Milliners, Fan Drill, Dressing for the Photographer

Milly Finch. 1883-1884 by James McNeill Whistler

Milly Finch. 1883-1884 by James McNeill Whistler

Every Saturday you will find in “Saturday Snippets” items of interest, some of which may have been written to Mrs Daffodil’s “Facebook” page in the preceding week, but which were too short to form an entire post without the reader feeling unsatisfied.  Mrs Daffodil has an ample stock of The Horrors and will be glad to hear from her readers if items of a more grewsome character would gratify their tastes.


I know of no situation more agreeable than that of a fashionable Milliner. Everything around her is seducing:–the gauze and lawn take whatever shape her fancy directs. She arranges those flowers fashioned by art, whose vivid colors dare to rival the brilliant productions of nature. This handsome hat, this aigrette, this bouquet, acquire triple value from her plastic hand!

Beyond that glazed partition behold that assemblance of young beauties; they hold the needle and the scissors—how happily employed! Taste, or rather Fashion, directs their labor. The Graces preside over their dress; coquetry beams in their eyes;

Here on the right are the three Graces; this is the freshness of Hebe, the gait of Juno, and the beauty of Venus. There, on the left, is a sprightly brunette, a wood nymph, whose furtive glance inflamed the satyr. At the further end is a fair damsel with blue seducing eyes: it is the Queen of Cypress, who holds even the most rebellious hearts in subjection. In the morning the fashionable milliner resembles the artificial flowers around her; –at night she is the rose in all its lustre! Her worshippers increase as the star of day proceeds in its course; when Phebus has completed his career she enjoys her greatest triumph. She is the finest production of nature—the most desires.

Corinna holds the needle with grace; Victoria forms the bonnet with delicious taste; Agale plaits the gauze! What a charming occupation! Oh! That I were a milliner, or a milliner’s girl—happy young beauty, who in the closet of love preserves a heart as pure, as fresh, as the color of the flowers! What coquetry in her gait!—what a divine waist!—it is a young milliner who walks before me; she carries a light bandbox full of ribbons and roses—what grace!—what attractions!—all eyes following this charming object!—they cannot lose sight of her!

Amiable modesty! May you be ever the favorite virtue of the young milliner’s girl!  Paris paper Dutchess Observer [Poughkeepsie, NY] 13 August 1823: p. 4

 Pert miss (in bloomers): “You stare at me, sir, as though you expected to see me wearing horns!”

Innocent young man: “Yes, I thought you might be the gnu woman!” Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 2 October 1895: p. 4

 A novel public entertainment was given in St. Louis a few nights ago for the benefit of one of the churches of that city. It was a “fan-drill” given by twelve beautiful young ladies thoroughly trained to the work, the object being to illustrate the uses of the fan as an interpreter of the various emotions. Elkhart [IN] Daily Review 27 January 1881: p. 2  [If you missed it, a recent post discussed historic and extravagant fans of society ladies; Mrs Daffodil also offered some excellent advice on the use of fans as a weapon.]

A Curious Experiment. A late foreign paper contains the following: “The doctors specially devoted to the care of cholera patients at Alexandria, have tried a curious experiment, the object of which is to ascertain whether that disease is caused by a peculiar state of the outward air, as has been supposed. They sent up two balloons, one from a village as yet untainted by the epidemic, and the other from Alexandria. A quarter of fresh beef was suspended to each balloon, which was allowed to float for a certain time in the air. On making these balloons descend, the meat which had floated over Alexandria was completely putrefied, whereas that which had been suspended over the healthy village was perfectly fresh. The quarters of beef had been cut off the same animal. Cape Ann Advertiser [Gloucester, MA] 1 September 1865: p. 2  

Four spinsters at O’Fallon, Mo., couldn’t agree on a color for painting their house, so each had her favorite color on a portion of the building, drawing lots for the portion. The result is an artistic phenomenon. Boston [MA] Journal 25 May 1891: p. 2 

The Laces of Germany are not important. A History of Hand-made Lace, Mrs. F. Nevill Jackson, 1904, p. 51 

At a village a short distance from Dover, the child of a poor woman was lying at the point of death, when a gentle tap was heard at the door. The visitor turned out to be the sexton’s wife, who asked whether it was likely the child would be long dying, as her husband wanted to go out, but would delay his departure if it was thought death would shortly take place! Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] March 1864

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 lookout 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

If you are drawn to stories of Madwomen in the Attic as sketched by Miss Bronte or the grotesque tales of the German fantasists, you may enjoy this story of The Bird-Woman Horror.

A Pretty Face in a Mummy Case and Other Photographic Fads of 1908

mummy portrait fad

Mummy photography studio.


His best girl’s face peering from the depths of an ancient mummy case is the sight which is liable to startle the fellow who is not forewarned by the article. It is the latest fad which has struck London, the fountain head of many fads and foibles, especially those of the fair sex. The photograph is not gruesome as one might suspect at first thought, but on the other hand, the coarse lines of the mummy case and the crude hieroglyphics thereon, serve to accentuate the pretty lines of the girl’s face.
Some of these pictures have been brought back by members of the smart set who have been abroad for the winter.
The idea originated with a London photographer who had made a trip to ancient Egypt with a scientific expedition, and while there, he decided to make a portrait of the pretty face of the daughter of one of the members of the expedition. She is a lovely creature who had accompanied her father, one of the leading Egyptologists of the world. In order that the picture might be a souvenir of the occasion, he conceived the idea of placing her sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks in a mummy setting.
This was a comparatively easy trick for a photographer. He made a large picture of a mummy and then a picture of the lady. Cutting out the face he neatly pasted it over that of the mummy. The result was startling and perplexing and upon exhibiting the picture on his return to London he found that he had made a great hit. He was besought on every hand by fashionable women to duplicate the picture. Soon it was necessary to set up a studio especially fitted out for this kind of work. The artist made use of some oriental material which he had brought back with him from his trip, and had several mummy cases made to suit his demands by a Parisian who had achieved a world reputation for forging ancient pottery, carvings and other things which have been uncovered by the investigators in the buried cities of the Far East.
The Frenchman entered into the spirit of the occasion and turned out some mummy shells which defy detection. This is only a front, behind which the model stands with her face to an opening corresponding to that once occupied by the mummy. The surroundings are so harmonious that the photograph, when finished, has the appearance of one which was taken in the tomb of some dusty and long-departed queen of the Nile country.
Another novelty which has been recently introduced in this line is a set of whist cards with real portraits in the kings, queens and jacks.
The first order of this kind was undertaken by a New York stationer who supplies novelties to such bloated bondholders as can pay his price for them. He secured the services of a clever photographer who procured a deck of cards of such material as suited his purpose and in all of the picture cards the faces were neatly removed and the portraits of the different members of the club substituted. The deck was placed in a handsome case and given as a present to a popular member of the club whose merriment was responsible for much fun enjoyed by the members of the club after the more serious matter of card playing had been disposed of at their weekly gatherings.
The receipt of this unusual gift, which floored the popular member completely, combined the functions of a handsome set of cards and a photograph album. They are put into actual use only on rare occasions.
Another fad in the line of portraiture, which has the stamp of foreign approval is the “eye picture.” A small oblong rim of gold about the size of an almond is supplied with a ring which makes it possible to carry it on a fob or watch chain. This is to receive a photograph, almost full size of the eye of the wearer’s sweetheart, wife or some dear friend. This is a novelty that has been well received abroad and the more up-to-date photographers are making them to order for patrons.
Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 3 May 1908: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: That photo-shy person over at Haunted Ohio has written more on this somewhat macabre fad at http://hauntedohiobooks.com/news/snapped-for-eternity-the-victorian-mummy-portrait-fad/

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.