Lavinia Warren, Minnie Warren, and Baby

Here’s one of Lavinia Warren Stratton, her sister, Minnie Warren, and a baby. Neither one of them had children of their own, as they were unable to conceive and/or would not have been able to survive pregnancy due to their small stature.


P.T. Barnum would rent a standard size baby to display with them, and when the baby got too old, he would rent a new one. This CDV is anonymous – given the overall soft and mediocre quality of the image, I’m guessing it was a copy of someone else’s photo, most likely by one of the New York studio photographers like Eisenmann, J. Wood, or maybe Masury. Given the plain-ness of the set, I doubt it would have been one of the posh studios like Brady’s or Gurney or Bogardus, as this photo doesn’t even have a floor cloth or a decorative curtain. I’ll keep looking for a credited version of this photo (if any of you out there in internet-land have a version of this with back mark or other credit, please let me know, I’d love to see it!).


Thanks to a friend and highly estimable collector of photographica, I received this additional bit of information. Minnie Warren was able to conceive, and died after giving birth to a baby, who also did not survive. Here is her obituary in the Laconia, NH Mercantile Journal, August 7, 1878.


Occupational? Tintype – Father and Son

This is another estate sale find – a very small (smaller than 1/6th plate) tintype of what appears to be a father and son. I’m hesitantly calling it an occupational because they seem to be wearing work clothes. This must have been an inexpensive image given the small size of the plate and the fact that it’s not in a case or paper sleeve or any kind of protection, but if you look carefully, they did pay extra for the hand-coloring of their cheeks and the drapery on the stool the father is sitting on.


Regardless, it’s an interesting image, as it raises all kinds of mental questions about what’s going on here- who were they, why did they sit for this photo, why did they not dress better if it is not an occupational photo, and why, if it is an occupational, do they not have any tools of their trade in the photo?

Latest Daguerreotype – Sisters by Van Loan, Philadelphia

A lovely 1/6 plate daguerreotype of sisters by Van Loan, with an extremely well preserved velvet pad. The dresses being identical made me think at first glance they were twins, but I’m thinking just sisters now, after seeing the plate in person. SistersVanLoanDag

This is the first plate I’ve re-sealed. The original seals were intact, but there was enough dust on the inside of the cover glass that I decided it was preferable to open, clean the glass, and re-seal with Filmoplast P90. I’ve dated and initialed the tape.

Recent Cased Images

These were an auction lot, which is why I’m showing them together. The first two are 1/9th plates, and the second two, 1/6th plates. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary or earthshaking here, but nonetheless, a very interesting grab-bag of stuff that fills some holes in my collection.

The first image here, of the old lady, is a ruby-glass ambrotype. I apologize for all the dust, but when I removed the packet from the case, I discovered that the paper seals were complete and intact, so I did not want to break them just to remove a little dust. What’s interesting about this is the mat – it appears to be painted paper, rather than stamped brass or gilded copper. It’s the first of this kind I’ve seen.


This little tintype, image-wise, is nothing at all special. I do like her dress though – you can see she had fishnet lace shoulders. What’s interesting about this one (and it’s hard to tell from the scan of the package) is that the mat and preserver are extremely clean, bright and shiny as if they were put on yesterday. I’ve not seen such before. I’m confident that they are not modern reproductions recently applied.


A nice, generic tintype of a middle-aged man.


This was another unusual item. I know it was done, but infrequently – this is not an ambrotype or tintype or daguerreotype, but rather what I believe is a salt print (the reason I don’t think albumen is that the surface is extremely matte, and it is relatively low-resolution – albumens are typically much glossier and have pretty high resolution). If it is indeed a salt print, it is one of the first in my collection. I wonder if this is not a copy of a daguerreotype or ambrotype:

  • The outfits, especially his necktie, seem to be from the 1840s/50s
  • I have not seen many paper images in small plate sizes like this – this is a 1/6th plate
  • The low resolution could also be a symptom of being a third-generation copy (original plate, paper copy negative, paper print)

Also interesting to see is the gilding of her jewelry – the rouging of the cheeks is not at all surprising, but the gilding of a paper image is not something I’ve run across before. This one, also a 1/6 plate


Never mind the dust…


This has to be about the finest daguerreotype I own, quality-wise. It was an estate sale purchase on an online estate auction site. When listed, the picture looked bad, but having seen enough of these, my intuition said, “the cover glass is just dirty”. I bid, and won.

Well, I was right. When it arrived, there was a lot of dust inside the cover glass. The original seals were present, but they were totally shot. I removed them, opened the packet, and BOOM! This is what I found underneath. I have since cleaned the cover glass and will shortly be re-sealing with films-last tape. The dust you see in the scan here is now on the outside. I’m in awe of the gentle hand-coloring you see in his face and hands, and the texture of his waistcoat. You can practically feel the silk just looking at it!

This is a quarter-plate dag in leather case, probably late 1840s or at the latest early 1850s.

Admiral Dot by T.T. Tuthill, Moravia NY

Admiral Dot, by Tuthill

My newest Admiral Dot image. At least I believe it is Admiral Dot, on tour in Moravia, NY.

Admiral Dot, by Tuthill
Admiral Dot, by Tuthill

Here are some other Admiral Dot images for comparison:

Admiral Dot age 13
Admiral Dot age 13
Admiral Dot age 14
Admiral Dot age 14
Admiral Dot age 18
Admiral Dot age 18
Admiral Dot with Lottie Swartwood
Admiral Dot with Lottie Swartwood

Although the new image is not labeled, I think he looks an awful lot like the Admiral Dot in the last photo with his wife, Lottie Swartwood. Judge for yourselves, and let me know what you think.

Second Pose – Lavinia Warren by Appleton

Lavinia Warren, by Appleton

I just acquired another CDV of Lavinia Warren by Appleton of New York. What’s interesting is that here the photographer, A.A. Turner, is also credited on the studio imprint. I’m assuming that in order for this to have happened, Mr. Turner must have been a financial partner in the business or otherwise a major player, because the other name studios of the period never credited the camera operators, even ones who later went on to have extremely notable careers of their own (Timothy O’Sullivan and Alexander Gardner both worked for Mathew Brady at some point but are not credited on Brady’s cartes de visite, even when Gardner was Brady’s studio manager in DC and helped restore the financial well-being of the studio).

Lavinia Warren, by Appleton
Lavinia Warren, by Appleton

For comparison I’m including the other Lavinia Warren image by Appleton I have:

Lavinia Warren, by Appleton
Lavinia Warren, by Appleton

These appear to be different sittings, as her outfit and the furniture in both scenes are different.

Army Captain, 1870s-1880s, by CD Fredricks

Army Captain, 1870s, CD Fredricks

What are some of the distinguishing features of a CDV that can help you date the image? Fashions worn by the subject, certainly. Hand-written dates and identifications on the verso, yes. The photographer’s information on the verso imprint – often times with better known studios, the dates of operation at a particular location are known, so seeing a particular address would give you a window of when the image was made. Another clue is the style of the imprint – in the early days of the CDV, photographers’ imprints were little more than a name, perhaps a motto, and an address. Later CDVs (starting in the late 1860s and progressing through the end of the CDV period) have more ornate logos on the verso, a trickle-down effect from the more popular cabinet card.

Army Captain, 1870s, CD Fredricks
Army Captain, 1870s, CD Fredricks

When much of this information is not available, though, how can you tell? There are many CDVs out there that have no imprint, and no identifying information recorded. One way is through the pose. It is rare to find a US Civil War era CDV shot as a tight head-and-shoulders portrait. Such is the case in this image. A post-war portrait, you can tell first through the image composition. Next is his facial hair – while sideburns (so named after the Union General Ambrose Burnside) were around and popular during and even before the war, this beard style is later. The uniform style also has clues- the lapels of his jacket are a post-war style. I’m no expert on military uniforms, but with a bit of careful research, uniforms can help you date the image sometimes within a several year period if there is a particular piece of equipment or clothing displayed that was only issued briefly.

In this particular case, I’m very lucky – the photographer, C.D. Fredricks, is one of the best-known photographers of the period, and a very early adopter of the CDV format. I have early C.D. Fredricks CDVs that show just his slogan, “Specialité”, along with his name and studio address, on the back. I also have some that show his multiple studio addresses in Havana, New York and Paris.

Half-plate Daguerreotype – Breaking the Seals

Cleaning and Restoration - Documentation

I just acquired my first half-plate daguerreotype. Half-plate is roughly 4.25 x 6.5 inches in size. Daguerreotypes get truly impressive once they exceed 1/4 plate size. In the second photo of the plate alone, you can clearly see the delicate hand-coloring of his face and hands and the tablecloth on the table to his left in the photo.

Anonymous Gentleman - half-plate Daguerreotype
Anonymous Gentleman – half-plate Daguerreotype

This is the plate as it was delivered. It has the original heavy flint glass installed (2.5mm thick!), and you can clearly see the dust and other schmutz on the inside of the glass. It did have its original paper seals, but they were in poor condition, having broken in some places. The preserver looked to have never been opened, either (the preserver is the gold-colored copper foil border around the image that further seals the edges). I decided to open the preserver and examine the state of the seals, to see if it was worth breaking them to clean the glass.

Cleaning and Restoration - Documentation
Cleaning and Restoration – Documentation

You can see the seals themselves on the left- after a century and a half, the cheap paper tape with a most likely acidic glue was in very poor shape, and not sealing the plate at all. I removed the seals and cleaned the glass. I have temporarily (until I can get a replacement piece of modern borosilicate glass) reinstalled the original flint glass. The reason for replacing the glass (I will keep the original glass with the plate for reference) is that part of the reason the schmutz was on the inside of the glass plate was that the glass itself had impurities and weaknesses that allowed moisture to migrate to the inside of the packet over time. Putting the original glass back on the packet and sealing it up would be undermining your preservation efforts.

When the new glass arrives I’ll replace it and re-seal it with Filmoplast P90, an archival tape, and back the plate with a sheet of acetate for additional protection. At a later date I’ll have the plate professionally cleaned.

Cleaning the glass and re-sealing the packet are restoration activities I feel reasonably confident in my skills to perform. Cleaning the actual plate is something currently way beyond my skills and knowledge – it’s one thing to putter around with modern, reproducible, replaceable objects, another thing entirely to attempt cleaning on an unique original a century and a half old that if damaged or altered is effectively lost forever.

Laura Keene, by C.D. Fredricks

Laura Keene, by C.D. Fredricks

I’ve been fascinated by all things U.S. Civil War, and, since I live in Washington DC, things related to Abraham Lincoln and his assassination. The assassination radically altered the course of post-war politics, economics, and society, and even today 150 years afterward we are still experiencing the after-effects and reverberations of that one pistol shot. I’ve done several guided history tours of Washington DC with Lincoln’s assassination as a topic or the primary theme, including the wonderful John Wilkes Booth Escape Route tour led by the inimitable Ed Bearss (seriously, if you have the opportunity to take that tour, DO IT, NOW, while Ed is still leading tours. He’s a brilliant Civil War historian and a great tour guide, and at 91, not going to be doing them too much longer). I’ve been in Ford’s Theater to see the stage from the Presidential box, heard the tale of the timing of the fatal gunshot, walked the path of John Wilkes Booth as he fled the theater, and read the stories of the cast and crew who were working at Ford’s Theater that night.

In the course of my collecting, reading and research, I’ve seen photographs of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth, Mary Surratt, the other conspirators, Generals Grant, Sherman, Butler, Burnside, Hooker, McClellan, a whole host of lesser Union generals, Henry Holt (the union general who prosecuted the conspirators), Major Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris his fiancee who were in the Lincoln’s theater box that night. I have very clear mental pictures of these people. I have photographs of other actors from the period in my collection too. But I’d never seen images of the cast and/or crew of Ford’s Theater on that night. Laura Keene’s name is well known if you’re familiar with the Lincoln assassination story, but I dare you to say you’ve seen her picture before unless you’re truly an assassination or 19th century theater geek.

Laura Keene, by C.D. Fredricks
Laura Keene, by C.D. Fredricks

Now you have. The photo is by C.D. Fredricks, of New York, Havana and Paris. Charles Fredricks was one of the most sought-after portrait photographers of the day, and specialized in theater personalities (I have photos of Tom Thumb, his wife, other circus freaks, and George Pope Morris, a 19th century American poet in my collection). Laura Keene played Miss Florence Trenchard, one of the principal characters in Our American Cousin. She was one of the better known actors of her day, even having her own theater in New York, where Our American Cousin premiered. The performance of Our American Cousin that night was her last night in the play at Ford’s Theater, and the night had been declared a “Benefit Night” for Laura Keene. A “Benefit Night” was a 19th century practice where a significant portion of the proceeds from that night’s ticket sales would go to benefit one actor or actress, usually the lead; it was a form of gratuity to compliment them as they were usually the big box office draw and helped make the show’s run profitable. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln that night broke the near-inviolable rule of the theater: the show must go on. The performance ended with John Wilkes Booth’s leap to the stage and shout of “Sic Semper Tyrannis”, as did Ford’s Theater itself – it never re-opened as a theater in the 19th century after the assassination. It was seized by the federal government, with the idea that it should never be used again for theatrical performances. It became a warehouse for government records, and languished, neglected for decades. It was not until 1968 that the theater was restored and re-opened. 103 years after that ill-fated performance of Our American Cousin, actors once again strode the boards at Ford’s Theater.

Today, you can visit the theater and take guided tours of the auditorium, see the Lincoln box recreated as it was the night of the assassination, and explore the basement where numerous artifacts of that fateful night are displayed including Lincoln’s wool dress coat and top hat he wore to the theater that night, Booth’s pistol that fired the fateful shot, and the bloody pillow that Lincoln’s head rested on as he lay dying at the Petersen House across the street.