Before I start my post on my next card, I have to share about the irony of life. I live in a fairly big city…not New York big but big enough that you can live here for life and not know all its corners and niches. My oldest boy has just started his apprenticeship as an electrician this week and do you know what his first job site is? It is renovating the series of apartment blocks that I grew up in as a child! I find that amazing! When they get to the actual block that I lived in I hope he will invite me for a tour! And now back to my Victorian blog.
My next offering is a carte de visite. Carte de visits had been popular before cabinet cards were(since the 1860s). Folks traded them and collected them much like folks in my generation collected hockey cards or school photos and how kids now a days trade those elastic wrist band thingys. They began to wane in popularity in the late 70s and early 80s when cabinet cards became popular. It looks like they disappeared by the 1910s. Here is my card…disclaimer-it wasn’t me that chopped off the top of the card! Someone must have done it to get it to fit into something easier.
At first I thought those were pagoda sleeves but after I looked at it closer I realised it was a cape.
Now for the dating…it looks like my card is dated from 1860-1910. (That is how long carte de visite were around.) Now you know me…that is too big a spread for my tastes! So we look at more details. It seems the cards were all around the size of 2 3/8″ x 4 1/4. But, the earlier ones did not completely fill the card. Mine does so that narrows it down to 1874-1910. I figured this stuff out from this site. The next step is to look at the photographers stamp.
I looked up the name and address and got this site. It lists the name of the studio and the address and then it has the notation c. 1890. It wasn’t clear to me if that meant it started in 1890 and is still open today or if it only ran in 1890 or if it ceased to be in 1890. So I tried looking up google maps for that address and it appears to be an empty lot now so it isn’t still functioning. Then I tried again and got this site. If this person knows what they are talking about, a person by the name of Esther Birchley (go girl power!) had a studio at that location listed in Kelly’s (what ever that is) in 1888 and it had changed owners by 1891! It is not clear if she only owned it for 2-3 years or if had been around prior to this Kelly’s listing. I wonder if Kelly’s was a newspaper or a pre phone business directory. Anyway, I think we can safely narrow our dating down to 1874-1890.
If we look at the clothes, the skirt seems a bit big for the natural form that would have been around in 1877-82. So the card could be 1874-77 or 1882-90. It is missing the big hat and bangs of the 80s. The site I found (and linked) for dating these cards said they were mad for backdrops and props in the 70s and this has plenty of them. The site also suggests that these cards were around till 1910 but they peaked in popularity between ’63 and ’77 and lost popularity between ’77 and ’82 (which is the natural form era) So would this bustled lady have been handing out cards in the early bustle form era when these cards were all the mode or would she have been handing them out in the late bustle era when they weren’t so popular and would she be wearing the not so popular hair part and small hat. I’m rooting for her being very trendy myself, but suspect she is not. The only way to know for sure is A) find out for sure how long that photographer was in business. If it were only the 2 years I could confirm then my poor lady is a triffle behind the times. B) Have someone who knows this lady and confirm who she is (yeah that is going to happen with my small following!) C) An expert in fashions can figure out the dates from a bodice and skirt you can’t really see and a fairly classic cape. D) God sends me a divine messenger. I wont wait for this option.
So in conclusion this card is estimated to come from a trendy lady from 1874-77 or a lady who is missing most of the trendy styles from 1882-90.