Photograph as Fashion Plate: The Case of ANOTHER Unknown Woman

I have long given up on my original photographic quest.  I will measure my Minor Family Album success not on how many faces I  identify and claim as family, but by how much  I have learned about dating old photographs and–perhaps more importantly–about converting a family heirloom into a historical artifact.

So I was not dismayed when I turned my attention to page nineteen in the Minor Family Album and discovered yet another face with ab.so.lute.ly no clues to her identity.  I just shifted gears, wasting little time in moving from family historian to social historian.

This is not a photograph.

No, ma’am.  This cabinet card is a fashion plate, with just enough detail to provide a glimpse into women’s fashion in the late 1890s.

In the period between 1888 and 1897, women’s sleeves went from being skin tight to puffed at the shoulders with yards of fabric gathered into full sleeves.  By 1897 the cumbersome style was being replaced with a more tailored sleeve and shoulder caps or flounces.  The capelets  shown here are just one example of this style which had the effect of greatly exaggerating the width of a woman’s shoulders.  The sleeve underneath these lace-trimmed caps appears to have some fullness, which would indicate that this dress was made just as the fashion shifted.

This is more than a fashion plate.

The unknown woman wears a high, stiff collar, with a bit of lace for decoration.  Conventional day dress.  But it also is a clear indication of how social mores of modesty affected women’s fashion.  “To permit one’s neck to show in daytime is bad form,” stated the Ladies Home Journal in August 1890.  Keeping one’s skin hidden, even in the heat of summer, was more important than being comfortable, a subject that could lead me into the research of how politics, women’s suffrage, and fashion played out during the nineteenth century.

One last thing…

I do believe that this portrait is of the same person featured in the family shot on  page 18 of the MInor Family Album.

What do you think?

Unidentified Woman, cabinet card, J.W. Ward, photographer, Connellsville, Pennsylvania, 1897-1900. The Minor Family Album, p. 19, Author’s Collection, 2014.

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Trio Incognito: The Minor Family Album

Sometime between 1883-1888, F. P. Morgan ushered these three people into his Uniontown (Pennsylvania) studio on Morgantown Street, and shot this cabinet card photo.  Their identity is concealed by the passage of time; their relationship to the Minor family of Green County lost in a historical fog.

Their relationship to each other, however, is clearly described in the photographer’s clever posing.

The silver-haired gentleman sits relaxed in an upholstered chair, while the woman and boy stand to his right with their arms resting on his shoulder and arm.  Their hands line up, smack dab in the middle of the frame, a visual statement–We are family.  The tableau is vintage Victorian; the husband is seated in the only chair signifying his role as patriarch and the woman is beside him as helpmeet.  Together they shelter and nurture their six(ish) year old son.

Three faces, one family.  Incognito.

Unidentified Family, cabinet card, F. P. Morgan, photographer, Uniontown, Pennsylvania, 1883-1888.  The Minor Family Album, p. 18, Author's Collection, 2014.

Unidentified Family, cabinet card, F. P. Morgan, photographer, Uniontown, Pennsylvania, 1883-1888. The Minor Family Album, p. 18, Author’s Collection, 2014.

Brother John P. Minor

 

 

John Pierson Minor, (1852-1922),

Photograph by Thomas W. Rogers, 1888-1890. From the Minor Family Album, archives of the author.

Page fifteen of the Minor Family Album holds this photograph of a middle-aged man.  Shot sometime between 1888 and 1890, this portrait is yet one more mystery.  An 1874 family photograph, however, has a person that is eerily similar to this guy, and on that bit of evidence I advance the likely identification of John Pierson Minor.

John was born seventeen years before my great-grandfather, Robert, in 1852, to Marion and Mary Jane Guynn Minor, just outside the village of Garards Fort (Pennsylvania).  Folks in the surrounding hills admired and respected the stock driving, enterprising man for whom he was named–grandpa John Pierson Minor.  And by the time this photograph was taken, young John had established his own reputation as a cattle dealer and farmer.  What is most fascinating about this artifact is what is NOT there…his wife and baby.

John P. had married Elizabeth “Lizzie” Garard (1852-1922) in 1876 and the couple remained in the Minor corridor of Ceylon Road.  Nine years passed before a son, Ary L., was born.  Perhaps this photograph is just one of a series, and the portraits of Lizzie and Ary were not included in this collection.  Or maybe those faces await me in the final pages of the Minor Album…

A Herd Is Growing In My Garden

Boldness

Hosta eating monsters. Bean stealin’ thieves. Grass mowing munchers.

Mom and Babe

 My herd of tawny darlings.

 

 

 

 

Sunshine On My Shoulder (Wing Patches) Makes Me Happy

Widow Skimmer warms in morning sun.

The morning’s light builds heat in the goldenrod field, a thicket of last year’s woody stems and this year’s giant St. John’s wort, morning glory, and lanced leaf goldenrod flowers.  A Widow Skimmer extends his wings, warming his night-chilled blood.  Soon he will bob and weave his way onward.