Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Mid 19th Century Daguerreotype

I picked up this little picture frame last time I was in Alexandria, VA. I bought it because she looked pretty and friendly. To be honest, I don't buy a lot of these because sometimes the people look so sad! And they creep out my husband... but hey, it's research! 

Anyway, it wasn't until I brought it out some months later, at a sewing event, that I took a good look at her outfit. Someone, who is very familiar with the 1860's, brought it to my attention that her dress looks a little incongruous to her age, with the short sleeves and boat neck. In passing, I just assumed it was an evening dress, but mid 19th century isn't my strongest era. I'm very, very much still learning. 

Anybody have any ideas about this one?

Also, here is the back of her frame. Very pretty leather work! It has a hinge, so I'm assuming the other side of the frame had a second picture. I wonder what it was of.

* Update as of 12/9/10: I had not posted this originally as a dagguerotype, but I thought it smart to go back and edit this post as of new info. I had also, possibly wrongly, listed this as 1860's. Thanks Ginger, from Scene in the Past, for the new info. I don't want to put anything wrong out there!


  1. It's actually an even earlier dag, probably ca. 1850. Is the neckline really that low, or is a high neck? It's hard to see details on this picture. Either way, the very low shoulder, the straight-across neckline effect, the tight sleeves, and especially the hair, are all earlier than the Civil War by a good 10 years. It could easily be evening dress, too, but I'm not as sure about usages in earlier decades. I think that open/wide necklines were appropriate for day dress in the 1840s. So low necks and short sleeves might not have been reserved for young girls in the 1850s.

    I'd be cautious about judging age in old images, too. Old photography does things with light that black & white photos don't do, so it's easy to be faked out! I don't think she looks very old at all; mid 20s at the latest.

    This is a real find! Early dags are harder to find, and often quite expensive when I've seen them.

    1. Interesting! My eyes so aren't trained to the differences between the 50's and 60's yet. I really appreciate all the great info. Thanks a bunch!

    2. I'm glad if my theorizing is any help! :D I'm not a 50s expert, but I think I know enough about the early 60s to make a decent guess about earlier years. :D

    3. Oh, the ribbon necktie with a low-neck dress is also an earlier thing, going back to the 30s IIRC. In the 60s it's far more common to have nothing at the neck at all. A few have necklaces.

    4. Of course it's a help! I always appreciate any info I can get. Personally I'm not a big fan of that huge, dark ribbon. Kinda glad it went out of fashion ;)

  2. Ps, yes the quality of the photo isnt great. It was hard to photograph this since the glass glared. There is also a fair bit of linty dust under the glass, obscuring details.

    It looks like it's a boat neck that is off the shoulder. Her little neck accessory is interesting to me as we'll. I live her bracelets! And to me as we'll, she looks like mid to late 20's.