August in the Archives
I live in Texas, and even though I usually spend a lot of time outdoors, in August, the heat gets to even me. So I set aside this month to stay indoors and go through all the odds and ends that need to be dealt with — scanning old photos, updating my Pinterest page, filing away magazine articles, etc. etc.
I collect old photos for the fashions. Last year I started a database to keep track of them all, in the hopes that once I really studied them, I would be able to estimate what year they were taken. Even though they are sepia-toned, I scan them in on the color picture setting, at 400-600 DPI. That way when I edit them in Photoshop (mostly just adjusting the contrast), I can see every little detail better.
Last summer I bought an e-book about dating photos, and learned that little things like scalloped edges on the card, or wicker chairs as props, can tell you as much about the dates as the clothing and hairstyles. So I created a database form, and I record the details of the photo itself — size, background, props, studio name and address — and of the costume — type of jewelry, fabric, cut and fit, and so on. Going through all those steps for each picture helps me notice things I wouldn’t otherwise.
Here are a couple of my favorites from this year.
The 1880s were the heyday of the studio prop. This picture is full of them, with a fake tree stump, a fence, a rustic chair, and two animal skin rugs. But the larger sleeves were in fashion in the 1890s. So possibly this photographer was a little behind the times. The studio name was cut off.
And I think this is the only picture I have seen that includes an umbrella!
What is that on her lap?!! It looks like a bag made from individual silk flowers.
This is one of my favorites. I did one of my first posts about it. But today I enlarged it even more and noticed some new details —
I think I have posted this picture before too. I love it, especially the “deer in the headlights” look on the man in the background.
This photo is different in that it is not a studio portrait; it is taken in a home with a piano and lovely lace curtains. There is a stars and stripes banner on the mantel, and 2 long red, white, and blue streamers of honeycombed paper hanging on the wall.
With the long skirt on the woman in front, I would have thought this picture was from about 1905, but the little flag has 48 stars, and that means it is from no earlier than 1912.
The light-colored outfit has beautiful embroidery on the lapels, and this lady has a locket necklace and either a watch pinned on her shoulder, or possibly another locket — one to hold a lock of hair from each child.
The sheet music on the piano looks like it says either “Golden Triumph” or “Golden Trumpet.” I can’t find evidence of any song with the first title. There were “minstral” songs, Blow de Golden Trumpet, and Golden Trumpets, written in 1881 and 1882, and a hymn, Blow Golden Trumpets, written in 1887. All of those seem too old to be sitting around as sheet music on someone’s piano in 1912.
I would love to know what this group was celebrating — Fourth of July? New citizenship? Arizona’s entrance into statehood?
By now you are probably realizing why I only get about 10 pictures scanned and recorded each day! I love cataloging stuff and I look forward to devoting time to it each August. I can never actually finish the job, though, because as soon as I get one little shoe box full of pictures and papers done, someone in the family hands off a huge crate of more treasures.