Monday, March 14, 2011

More Finds at the Local Antique Shop

Carte-de-visite from Manchester, NH
How lucky I was to find this posted thesis about carte-de-visite when I set out ot do a bit of research on today's photograph: CARTE-DE-VISITE CULTURE IN MANCHESTER NH: A CASE STUDY by Carolyn Jambard-Sweet, 2006.

According to the thesis' author, a multi-lens camera allowed a photographer to create 8 carte-de-visite negatives in a sitting. "The photographs were then affixed to a paper card which was traded with friends and family by hand or delivered by mail, often ending up as part of a miniature portrait collection in an elegant album designed specifically for cartes-de-visite."

The woman in my picture sits with such an album on the desk in front of her. Her image is a typical portrait made for sharing with friends, but it also makes a clever statement about its own purpose. The sitter intended this image to end up in friends' photo collections similar to the one she includes here. (I wonder if the use of the album as a prop was her idea or the photographer's idea.)

Calling cards were once left in the drawing
room by house guests.
"Those albums are fast taking the place and doing the work of the long cherished card basket.  That institution has had a long swing of it.  It was a good thing to leave on the table that your morning-caller while waiting in the drawing room till you were presentable, might see what distinguished company you kept, and what very unexceptionable people were in the habit of coming to call on you.  But the card-basket was not comparable to the album as an advertisement of your
claims to gentility...." (Dan  Younger, 16.  As quoted from “The Carte de Visite,” The Photographic News, May 1862)

Information about the photographer of the portrait is supplied by the cards accompanying envelope. The thesis author found our photographer, Mr. S. Piper, in the local city directory, which stated that he was practicing at the corner of Elm and Amherst streets. He worked at his craft from the 1860s through the 1880s with his business outliving those of many of his contemporaries. His obituary described him as one of the best known photographers in Manchester, NH. It is believed that he photographed most of the residents of the city.

Though this card is far from unique, it has an interesting story to tell us about the time period in which it was made and the person who made it...I only wish that it were labeled so we could know more about its subject than her typical late nineteenth century hairstyle and dress.

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