Friday, May 18, 2012

Tots with (Antique) Toys—Boy or Girl?

Favorite Photos Friday
(Click on these photos to enlarge them)

(Pushing the wheelbarrow is John Butler Woodward, Jr., photographed on Dec. 9, 1892, 3 years old.)

While collecting vintage photographs, I’ve always gravitated toward photos of children. Even better are images of children with toys, because these are sought by doll collectors, teddy bear collectors; all sorts of people who are willing to pay for a glimpse of the nineteenth-century toys cherished by children over 100 years ago.

Here are photos from my collection of children with toys. You can help me figure out if the adorable urchin in each photo is a boy or a girl.  Remember that boys did not put on pants until they were about five or six.  When we see a tot in a lace dress with a large hair bow, today we assume that it’s a girl, but I only have to recall a photo I have of my father, circa 1908, when  he’s about 2 years old, wearing long blond sausage curls, a big white hair bow and a white dress. BUT his hair is parted on the side.  That’s one of the clues:  inevitably in Victorian photos, boys have their hair parted on the side and girls are parted right down the middle—unless the little angel has hair so curly or so sparse that you can’t part it.
 (A sweet little girl holding a boy doll, photographed by Warren in Cambridgeport, Mass.)

Here are some other clues that the kid in the photo is a boy: he has  a plaid or tartan sash, he’s holding a riding crop.  But as you’ll see below, these are not sure-fire clues.
Carrie Taylor—A big girl with a big doll from Ulrichsville, Ohio

 Schenectady, N.Y.
 (I’m betting this one’s a girl even though her doll has a mustache)

This is  Marion Hillard ????ward Photographed in Wilkes Barre, PA on  Dec. 1897 at the age of 2 years, 5 months.  Someone has written under her photo “See!  The pussy cat!” but all we can see is a doll in a little carriage and a wicker child’s chair in the photographer’s studio.

 This dour-looking toddler may appear to be a girl, but I’m betting it’s a “he” because of the side part.  If that teddy bear has a button in its ear, meaning it’s a Steiff, it would sell for a small fortune today.
  This wide-eyed tot (side part=boy?) probably is too young to read the book on the chair:  “Little People.”  He seems a bit overwhelmed by the fancy wicker chair and elegant furnishings of   H.M. Smith’s studio in Portland, Maine.

A popular accessory was the hobby horse or some other kind of steed—probably belonging to the photographer and useful because the child would sit on it and stay still for the photo.  This is a CDV (carte de visite or visiting card)-sized photo taken  by J Edwards in Skaneateles, N.Y.—clearly a little boy, proudly wearing knee pants.
This little one at first seems to be a girl, but I suspect it’s actually a boy, leaning against this fine hobby horse.  No part is visible in his hair. The  necklace of beads around his/her neck would be coral, traditionally given by the god parent.
This curly-headed cherub could be boy or girl. She doesn’t seem too sure about what to do with the riding crop, intended to drive the team of horses pulling the little carriage.  She/he was photographed in Diedenhofen Germany
Boys and bikes seem to go together and there’s no question that this is a boy—Clarence Kimball (written on the back in pencil.)  He was photographed on this bucking bronco/tricycle by J. C. Higgins in Bath Maine.  I wonder if the excellent tricycle belonged to Clarence or the photographer?

Here’s another boy—old enough to ride a two-wheeler and wear knee pants.  I’m pretty sure he brought his own bike to the photographer’s studio to illustrate his skill.

Finally we have this curly-headed tot, sitting on a fur rug and holding a stuffed lamb and a riding crop.  I know she’s a girl, because when I turned over the CDV, I found her name written on the back as well as some words in French that told me she is the descendent of a family steeped in blood and known for literally thousands of murders.  It’s such a good story (a story that I would have never known if I didn’t turn the card over and then research the facts written there) that I’m going to save it for next Friday’s “Favorite Photos” post.

1 comment:

CJ Kennedy said...

According to my mother-in-law, the Irish tradition, to keep a boy dressed like a girl was to confuse the devil. Boy souls must have been coveted over girl souls. I think it just made it convenient for mamas to change dirty didies.