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Sunday, October 12, 2014

VINTAGE 1800s PHOTO -- CHILDREN'S CLOTHES AND QUILTS


barbara judge's photo collection

Taken in the latter part of the 1800's, this vintage photo can tell you much about fashion as well as a certain type of quilt pattern that was part of the material culture at the time. The children are dressed to the "t" in undoubtedly early machine stitched clothing or even possibly hand sewn? The young boy has some type of straps on his long stockings, perhaps to keep them from slipping down his legs?

Perhaps the quilt, that was draped over the chairs was of special importance? Could it be one that was created for the photo taking session or perhaps made by a relative that the family loved? What stories can you conjure up in your mind with the various clues in this photo?

It was common to have photos taken outside as appropriate lighting was not available inside. One often finds old photos taken outside during this time period - usually taken by itinerant photographers who traveled the countryside. The background appears to be some type of canvas drop? 

Quilts have always fascinated me. Especially the old ones. June Calender's blog discusses many types of quilts that she either creates or visits at quilt shows. Her latest adventure with quilts is teaching the History of Quilts at her local Academy of Lifelong Learning. Also visit Mary's blog about her many quilt projects and then take a look at Kyra's Black Threads blog that features both old and new quilts and their creators. 

A neat way to date vintage photos is to examine its fabrics (if there are any) using a book on old fabrics for comparison.This will give you a close approximation of its date. Here is a reasonable priced book that can identify fabrics and their dates of manufacture, Dating Fabrics, a Color Guide - 1800 to 1960. Also a good book on early printed fabrics is one by Barbara Brachman

24 comments:

  1. The children look well nourished and are certainly nicely dressed. It is amazing that all 3 were still at the same time long enough to get the needed exposure.

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    1. Florence -- Remaining still was necessary during the time of this photo. I'm sure many photos were taken to get this photo above.Even today I am surprised when I develop my photos that out of probably ten of them only one is decent -- of course I have no one to blame but myself. Thanks -- barbara

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  2. Barbara, you have some great information here for dating photographs. Sometimes that is such a difficult thing. Quilts can tell so much about a family's life. I have a quilt that belonged to my grandmother and it is made from flour and feed sacks. You can still see the name brand markings. A true treasure.

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    1. Michelle -- I used to have several wonderful books on dating fabric but gave them away to antique friends when I left KY. I might have one left if I dig through some of the boxes I have not looked through since moving here. But I do remember how I used to date quilts but without the fabric books I am rather lost. Your grandmother's quilt must be greatly valued by your family. Was it made locally in your area? Perhaps you could track down the brand name either through township records or historical society records as to when the mill that used that particular name was in business. thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  3. Such photos have today an immense historical value. Not only for the family concerned, but even more for the society in showing the development in all kinds of social settings.

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    1. visualnorway -- I have a deep appreciation for historical photos. To view them enables us to really "see" history. thanks for the nice comment -- barbara

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  4. Very interesting post. Especially the photo dating part. The photo does say a lot about them and the era once you really examine it!

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    1. Melissa -- My first venture into the idea of photography was many, many years ago through picking up these old photos at yard sales and second hand stores. They were a "dime a dozen" then but now they are as difficult to find as a "needle in a haystack." They do tell stories though -- thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  5. A quilt detective helping tell the story of our lives. It was so long ago and would they not be amazed that we can take 200 photos in the time it took to get them to sit still for this one?

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    1. Tabor -- they would certainly be amazed at the speed of not only taking the photos but also that we can shove a tiny card in a computer and bring up the photos to see --- and then if we want to we can send it to our printer for an instant print. Yikes -- kinda scary -- are we moving too fast?

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  6. Having your photo taken back then was a serious business! It was quite normal practice to photograph children out of doors to get a shorter exposure time. Drapes of various sorts were always employed to hide furniture. Dressing up for the photographer certainly took place into the 1930s; I have a photo of my mother and her brothers from that time with my youngest uncle dressed in a sailor suit - which still causes him embarrassment even though he's now in his 80s!

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    1. John -- Yes, it was serious business for sure. Interesting that exposure time led these photographers outside to take photographs of children. Oh, I bet your uncle was teased about the sailor suit photo as an adult -- but what fun that it probably was for him at the time it was taken. Wonderful that you now have that photo in your possession. thanks for the interesting comment.

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  7. Left a note earlier today but it didn't "take" (like some photographs). This photo is remarkably clear and unfaded. I have a sizable book of photos that include quilts, mostly from the 1800s (I loaned it to someone so can't give title and author). The quilt is one of several Nine Patch designs (many different names). The fancy dresses say more about the skill of the seamstress than does the quilt, the details are elaborate. I also notice the big girl's shoes/boots are very shiny and probably new while the little boy's boots may have one belonged to his sister.

    Quilts were often used by traveling photographers, they belonged to the family photographed and sometimes were even nailed to the side of the house as backdrop. Here the quilt hides whatever the small child is sitting on, perhaps a box of some sort. That mother had much to be proud of.

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    1. June -- I would be interested in the title and author of the book you loaned -- if you find out. I am a bookaholic of sorts. I have given hundreds of books away over the years because I didn't want to pack them if I was moving or I just wanted to cull those that had fallen out of interest for me. Some of those I wish I had back -- oh well.

      I agree with you that a skilled seamstress made their clothing -- especially the one for the youngest. I think the youngest has a plaid dress that if I remember right would be a popular fabric print in the late 1800s. The boy's button shoes could very well have been his sisters. I was quite surprised that the boy had long stockings or pants on. Young boys often has dresses in the early years until they were probably around eight.

      Quilts seem to have a place of importance by being included in those early photos of that era. Thanks for the great analysis of this photo you pointed out some interesting points.

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  8. That is an odd photo. I don't have your kind of background in this period so really can't quite make i out. It seems odd to display clothes and quilts and such along with children in a rubble-filled yard. But as you say, most photos had to be taken outdoors. We are so accustomed these days, especially since the advent of digital photography, to getting reasonable photos in any light.
    I have a family photo taken in a studio about 1913. My grandmother threw fits about how shabby the studio looked, but it is a fine family portrait nonetheless, and I am glad to have it. They were all beautifully dressed.

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    1. Hattie -- These photos were taken out in the country when country was really country -- about 125 years ago. I have several photos from the same period that have families sitting in rather disheveled circumstances -- this apparently was acceptable for the times. Using a studio was more for town folk. Wonderful that you have a photo of your grandmother with family -- I bet you treasure it. thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  9. Life in clothes was different... pretty obvious.

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    1. Birdman -- Clothing styles tell us a story of our history -- thanks -- barbara

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  10. Indeed. Though not looking happy about it all. I have a similar outdoor photograph of my fathers grandmothers farm circa 1880's in Woodbury MN. The children the chicken the horses etc....:)

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  11. troutbirder -- Your photo sounds familiar -- did you post the photo a few years ago? Among the photos I study are those from the late 1800s through the 40s. I especially like the work done by the itinerant photographers. I imagine you have a few old family photos -- a treasure to have. thanks -- barbara

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  12. Barbara, the "itinerant photographer" caught my eye...Perhaps that is what you did in a previous life...You are a sort of roving photographer in this one! Those clothes seem rather restrictive for children compared to current fashions. Thanks for sharing a bit about fabric & fashion history. I wonder if you have a large collection of vintage photos. Do you get them in antique shops? Happy photos to you, Rita

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    1. Rita -- perhaps i could call myself an itinerant photographer as I do rove around. But in the historical sense perhaps not -- as itinerants usually photographed families in a posed settings on rural properties etc. . I have collected photos from both antique shops, yard sales, flea markets or any other place that might have an interesting photo to buy. I sold off a bunch of them some time ago so my collection is down to bare bones. I kept the best ones. I still look for good clear photos. I used to be able to pick them up for 50 cents now they average 10 to 20 dollars depending on subject. They can be pricier but I don't enjoy paying high prices. It is surprising to me that folks still throw old family photos away because they don't know the persons in the photos. Photos tell you more than names and can give the family a lot of information about the culture from which they came. thanks -- barbara

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  13. Also, I am struck by how much the children look like serious miniature adults here...

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    1. Wasn't this an era when children were expected to be part of the working household. Perhaps that is why they have that look of seriousness which I think makes them look older. Today many children in the US are not expected to be part of the working household just to have fun. Not that there is anything wrong with fun -- I rather like it myself.-- thanks -- barbara


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