The Artist

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This is a tintype that has been hand-colored.  It was found in Markle, Indiana.  Written on the reverse is “Mrs. Sarah Huff, Artist, Leavensworth (sic), Ind.”

blogHUFF Sarah Mrs BACK

Based on the young woman’s fashion, I loosely date this photo as being taken in the 1870s.  This is a curious case, as there were several women named Sarah Huff residing in the Leavenworth, Indiana area during this time.

The first Sarah Huff, married to Mack Huff, was born about 1859, and fits the age of the sitter.  However, she resided in Sterling, 17 miles from Leavenworth.

Two of those Sarahs were a mother and daughter living in Leavenworth.  The daughter, 18 years old in 1870, was, of course, a Miss Sarah Huff, not a Mrs.  The mother was 40 years old in 1870, so she could not be the sitter.  Is it possible the person who penned the writing mistakenly wrote Mrs.?  Or is it possible the writing signifies the person who hand-colored the photo, and not the identity of the sitter?  That could explain the notation of “Artist.”

This one remains a mystery.

Sources:
Census records
Death records

The Stitching Girl

Annie Hicks Townsend

I picked up this beautiful tintype on etsy.  Written on the back of the pink paper sleeve that houses the image is “Annie Townsend, Mother of Nelle, Henry, Roy.”

Annie Townsend

Having no information about the photographer or location, I looked closely at the sitter’s clothing and hairstyle, and with the help of the 19th Century Card Photos Kwik Guide, dated the image to around 1872.  The sitter appears to be in her early twenties, so I searched for an Annie Townsend, born about 1850, with children named Nelle, Henry and Roy.  I found Annie Hicks, and she fit the bill!

Annie, born in Nova Scotia, immigrated to the US about 1870 and began working in a shoe factory in Danvers, Massachusetts.  As many young women working in the shoe factories in Essex county, Annie came to town seeking work, and was boarding in a private family’s home.   Also living in Danvers and working in the shoe factory was Francis Henry Townsend.

Prior to 1860, stitching machines in the shoe factories required great strength to operate.  Upon the introduction of steam power, these machines could easily be run by women, and since women required a lower wage, the majority of stitchers were female.

Another shoe factory town in Essex county, just 10 miles from Danvers, was Lynn.  In 1872, a serialized novel, “The Queen City! : or Life in the Shoe Factories of Lynn,” was published in the Lynn Record.   It described the young workers who flocked to the streets on Saturday nights, where, away from the prying eyes of family, they flirted, drank beer and ran wild.

A poem, “The Stitching Girls,” published in the Lynn Transcript in 1869, captured the scene through the eyes and mind of an observer.

When walking on the crowded street,
A lovely lass attracts your eye,
And while you gaze your glances meet,
You smile – alas! you soon will sigh
For Cupid from her beaming eyes,
His shining arrows thickly hurls;
And hard indeed must be the heart –
The pleasing, teasing stitching girls.

…Again you meet her and she plys
And sings and smiles for you alone,
Charmed by her gentle, loving ways,
You hope to call her all your own,
But should you kneel and tell your love,
With cruel scorn her lip will curl:

And you’ll be left alone to sigh:
I’m jilted by a stitching girl.
The stitching girls, the witching girls –
The singing, clinging stitching girls
They break your heart and then depart
The naughty, haughty stitching girls.

Unlike the poem’s author, who it seems was cast aside by a stitching girl, Francis Townsend found love with one.  He and Annie married in 1877 and went on to raise Nelle, Henry and Roy.

Sources:
Census records
Massachusetts marriage records
Massachusetts death records
19th Century Card Photos Kwik Guide by Gary W. Clark
Men, Women and Work: Class, Gender and Protest in the New England Shoe Industry, 1780 – 1910, by Mary H. Blewett, published 1990
Women in Industry Vol. 5, published 1916

 

 

 

Sultana Disaster Survivor

blog MATTHEWS without sleeve

I donated this tintype to the Bedford Ohio Historical Society, so that it could be united with the book, Loss of the Sultana and Reminiscences of Survivors by Rev. Chester D. Berry, published in 1892, which belonged to Orlo and was in their collection.

This tintype features the Mathews’ brothers: Alden H. is standing, Orlo C. is sitting on the left, and James A. on the right. The tintype is housed in a sleeve which identifies each sitter by initials on the front and by full name on the back.  I’ve included those images at the end of this post.

Orlo C. was witness to what is known as the greatest maritime disaster in American history, the explosion of the Steamboat Sultana, which happened 151 years ago today.  Read on to learn more about the Mathews’ brothers and the Sultana!

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The Piercing Stare

BLOG HART Lois or FRICKE Ann

I found this tintype photograph in an antique shop in Markle, Indiana.  The writing on the sleeve identifies two women; Lois (nee Hart) Robison and Lois’ daughter-in-law, Anna.  It seems the person who wrote the names was giving a family history of sorts.  How can we know which woman is the sitter?  Since I am by no means an expert in Victorian fashion, I consulted with Ann Longmore-Etheridge, a historian and expert in early photography.  Using the details of the clothing, jewelry, and hairstyle, she dated the photo to the mid-1870s with 1878 as the latest possible date. She felt that the sitter was about 13 years of age.  Anne wasn’t born until 1887, so she could not be the sitter.  However, Lois was born in 1865 and was 13 years old in 1878.  Bingo!  Click the link below to learn about Lois’ life! Continue reading