Since the Easter season is here, I thought I’d show you some antique photos from my collection that feature children and religion (I think.) All three of these are cabinet cards, which were very popular from about 1870 to 1905. A cabinet card is a photographic print measuring 4 inches by 5 ½ inches attached to a cardboard mount. Often the photographer’s name and address are printed on the front or back.
In those days, taking a photo required going to the photographer’s studio and posing in your best clothes on a day of bright sunshine. Either the subject or the photographer provided the props. And often there were elaborate painted backgrounds hanging on the wall behind you.
The barefoot child above (I think it’s a girl) is quite serious as she stands holding a large ribbon-decorated cross in one hand and touching a stuffed, life-sized, rather evil-looking lamb with the other. She is wearing a cross around her neck, stars are embroidered on her dress, and a long two-colored ribbon is pinned to her shoulder. The photographer’s name is pressed into the dark cardboard mount but I can’t read it. Underneath is “No. Attleboro, Mass.”
I’m betting that this is a photo for Easter and that the dark-colored ribbons are purple, but there’s lots I don’t know: Why is she barefoot? Why the long ribbons on her shoulder? And what’s up with the fake lamb? If you have any thoughts, please share them.
This photograph of a girl celebrating her first communion was found in Mexico and was taken by Estudio Ponce de Leon, address: Jesus Maria 22. It’s slightly smaller than the other two cabinet cards.
Children are usually seven or eight at their first communion and girls are dressed like brides, with a veil. This girl has a beautiful lace overdress and lace on her veil. She is kneeling on a prie-dieu at a table beneath a crucifix. (Mexican crucifixes are often gorier than the ones you see in the U.S. In my studio I’ve got some great antique examples that I found in Mexico.)
The little girl holds a candle in her right hand and in her left she has a rosary and what I think is a little prayer book with an image of the Virgin on it. She is wearing gloves. On the back of this photo is “Le dedico esta fotografia a mi tio Bernadino” which I think means she gave the photo to her Uncle Bernard.
This last photo may or may not have a religious connotation. It shows two children dressed like a king and queen, with crowns, and the girl is holding a feather fan. I’m guessing that this card may represent the Purim Queen and King, but if I’m way off base, let me know.
I just took out a magnifying glass and realized that the little boy is holding a white clay pipe. The girl has large stars atop her crown. The photo was taken by Reed of Quincy, Illinois. On the back is handwritten: “Clara Wolfmyer and Neal Tate – April 1894.” (I just found out by checking on Google that Candace McCormick Reed -- 1818-1900- was one of the first women to run a photography business. After her husband died in 1858, to support herself and her two sons she took over the business and made a great success of it, even hiring another woman photographer.)
If anyone can clear up the mystery of this young royal couple, please let me know. If it’s hard to leave a comment below, e-mail me at Joanpgage@yahoo.com.