From the Small to the Tall

Three recent acquisitions, after a long hiatus from collecting. All in the circus freak genre. The first is my second image of General Cardenas, a famous little person and contemporary of Tom Thumb.

GenCardenasAnonCDV2

This next image is of Martin Van Buren Bates, a famous giant. Very much like with little people, the Victorians were quite fond of attaching fake military titles to giants and dressing them up in uniforms. I can’t tell if the signature on the verso is Van Buren’s or if it is someone else’s later notation.┬áThis is most likely a rip-off of another photographer’s image, bought on the east coast and reproduced without credit. This was an incredibly huge problem in the Victorian era, when it was very easy to sell copies elsewhere in the country without ever coming to the knowledge of the original photographer.

IF the signature is indeed Van Buren Bates’, then it could be that he owned the negative and had new copies printed from town to town as he toured. I don’t know if there are any known copies of his autograph extant to compare it to. The flourish of the last letter is the only thing that makes me think this might be an actual signature – in the vast majority of the CDVs I’ve bought where names were hand-annotated on the verso, the writing was quite plain, and sometimes even in block printed letters, not script.

GiantHiramSpooners

James Murphy, the Giant Boy. 8 feet tall, 18 years old. Looking at the overall stature of the man beside him in the photo, In reality he was 7 feet 3 1/2 inches. Also billed as The Irish Giant and the Baltimore Giant, he toured with PT Barnum’s circus. He lived from 1842 to 1875. This photo is dated 1863.

JamesMurphyAnthonyCDV

 

 

General Tom Thumb – who’s the copy?

Tom Thumb and his Wife, by Masury
Tom Thumb and his Wife, by Masury

Here’s an interesting thing that happens when collecting 19th century images. Copyright law was somewhere between feeble and nonexistent in the second half of the 1800s. Photographers frequently ripped one another off, making copies of a very popular and successful image and re-selling them under their own name. Here I have two identical images, one on Masury’s logo, the other on Case & Getchell’s. It’s hard to tell who is the copyist and who is the original. Given the overall quality of both is quite high, it may be that one of them bought the negative from the other and reprinted the image legitimately.

Tom Thumb and his Wife, by Case and Getchell
Tom Thumb and his Wife, by Case and Getchell