Thursday, 6 September 2007

Another Burton cdv - a word of caution about inscriptions

This image of an early carte de visite by John Burton & Compy. of Leicester and Birmingham was sent to me by James Morley, and was the subject of some discussion on the UK-Photographers Rootsweb Mailing List. I include it here, not only as a very early example of this well known photographer's work - see my previous posting about this firm - but also because it shows the dangers in taking inscriptions on photographs at face value.

Mother and young child, by Burton & Compy., Photographers of Hay Market, Leicester & New Street, BirminghamMother and young child, by Burton & Compy., Photographers of Hay Market, Leicester & New Street, Birmingham

James originally posted this photo on the WhatsThatPicture site. Reading the entries posted there and on the mailing list will tell the full story. It was originally thought that the young child apparently identified on the reverse of the mount as "Mildred" could have been the Mildred Chataway (born c. 1870), daughter of the Rector of Peckleton, Thomas E. Chataway, and his wife Catherine. However, several features of the photograph and mount suggest that it was taken perhaps a decade earlier than this interpretation would suggest:

  • The full length seated pose is one which was commonly used in the 1850s, with daguerreotypes and ambrotypes, and 1860s, but the angled view - rather than direct frontal - is more characteristic, in my experierence, of the early 1860s. It is worth comparing it with this photo of a mother and child from London in Roger Vaughan's collection, dated 1862.
  • Her hair completely covers her ears - another feature which points to the early 1860s. By the mid-1860s, ear lobes could often be seen, particular those of younger women, and they were fully exposed to the elements by the late 1860s. Also common in the early 1860s was the drawing back of the hair into a bun on the back of her head - almost, but perhaps not quite, a snood.
  • The very wide sleeves and crinoline dress with velvety bands and very full skirts are characteristic of the early to mid 1860s, typified by the dress worn by the woman in another of Roger's photos, also from c. 1862. The wider sleeves tended to disappear by c.1864, exept on older women.
  • The simple text with no adornment or logo on the reverse of the card mount points to a very early date. It was obviously produced after the opening of the branch studio in New Street, Birmingham (given by Sandy Barrie as 1861) and possibly before the Derby & Nottingham studios were opened in 1862 or 1863. Other early examples on my site are unfortunately not accurately dated, although estimates provided by David Simkin give c. 1861-1863. They all have more ornate logos than this one.
The rounded corners are unusual for the early 1860s, as is the shape of the carte de visite. The possibility has been considered that the rounding was produced by wear (in James Morley's words):
As for the rounded corners, I am in two minds. Some do look damaged, but top-left seems almost too perfect a curve. At the same time all four corners are very similar, whereas I would normally expect any damage to be uneven, particularly top-to-bottom.
The card mount measures 64 x 96 mm (photo 52.5 x 86 mm), which is somewhat shorter than the usual 64 x 104-106 mm for a carte de visite of that era. It is possible that it was an experimental format being trialled by Burton. The "Burton & Compy." on the reverse may have some significance. It has been suggested that the firm started using the name "Burton & Sons" with some regularity from about 1864, and it seems likely that the "& Compy." suffix was used before John Burton's sons became formally recognised as part of the business. However, I don't have evidence for this. As Sandy has pointed out, production of new card mounts was erratic, particularly in the early days, and it is dangerous to interpret too much from the "& Compy." Now that we have a date of c. 1860-1864 for the photograph, a further investigation can be made into the inscription. The 1871 Census indexed by Ancestry only shows one Mildred Chat(t)away, aged 10 months, in Peckleton, Leicestershire. I used wildcards in the search parameters (Mild* and Chat*w*y) to cater for alternative spellings, but there is always potential for transcription errors, so other candidates can't be ruled out. However, the FreeBMD index to birth, marriage and death records, which has almost 100% coverage of the period in question, only shows one Mildred Chat(t)away born in England between 1850 and 1880: - Births Sep Qtr 1870 : Chataway Mildred Market Bosworth Regn Dist, Vol 7a Pg 61 This makes it very unlikely that the child in the photo is Mildred Chataway, and it the possibility needs to be considered that the inscription was made at a much later date, and in error. The 1871 Census entry for this family shows a number of other older daughters of Rev. Thomas and his wife Catherine: 1871 Census: The Vicarage, Peckleton LEI Ref. RG10/3240/7/7-8/40: Thomas E. CHATTAWAY / Head / M / M / 44 / Rector of Peckleton / WAR Birmingham Catherine S. CHATTAWAY / Wife / M / F / 37 / - / WOR Redditch Katherine A. CHATTAWAY / Dau / - / F / 13 / Scholar / NTH Ecton Agnes G. CHATTAWAY / Dau / - / F / 7 / Scholar / NTH Ecton Margaret A. CHATTAWAY / Dau / - / F / 6 / - / LEI Peckleton Christiana M. CHATTAWAY / Dau / - / F / 4 / - / LEI Peckleton Ella B. CHATTAWAY / Dau / - / F / 3 / - / LEI Peckleton Mildred CHATTAWAY / Dau / - / F / 10m / - / LEI Peckleton Catherine CHATTAWAY / Mother / Wid / F / 81 / Annuitant / WAR Coventry Jessie M. GORHAM / Board / U / F / 23 / Governess / KNT Tunbridge Cecile C.V. KERR / Board / U / F / 14 / Scholar / Gibraltar Mary BARWELL / Serv / U / F / 33 / Cook Domestic / LEI Carlton Lucy LUCAS / Serv / U / F / 28 / Nurse Domestic / NTH Church Stone? Hannah JACQUES / Serv / U / F / 21 / Housemaid Domestic / STS Walsall Emma BENT / Serv / U / F / 20 / Housemaid Domestic / LEI Peckleton Martha AMOS / Serv / U / F / 14 / Under Nurse / NTH Badby
FreeBMD demonstrates that the birth of the oldest daughter, Katherine Ada Chataway, was registered in early 1858 in the Wellingborough Registration District, which includes the village of Ecton. I estimate an age of between two and three years for the girl, so Katherine might be a potential candidate if the photograph was taken, as suggested between 1860 and 1864. Birth locations of the children shown in the above census extract indicate that the family moved from Ecton (Northamptonshire) to Peckleton (Leicestershire) some time between the births of Agnes Georgina, in late 1863, and Margaret Anne, in early 1865. If indeed this picture is of members of the Chataway family, and that is by no means certain, then it is unlikely to have been taken prior to late 1863, by which time Katherine would have been almost six years old. In that case, it is more likely to have been a different daughter, perhaps Fanny Mabel, who was born at Ecton in early 1861 and died at Peckleton, aged 5, in the first half of 1866.

Many thanks to James Morley for permission to use the images of this photograph, to James, Sandy Barrie and Marcel Safier for their interesting and informative contributions to the discussion, and to Roger Vaughan and David Simkin for examples used.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Identification of photo subjects - Lessons to be learnt

In January this year, Kevin Rhodes sent me a batch of images, among which were these two cabinet cards, taken by John Mayle & Sons of 124 Parliament Street, Derby.

Lucy Saddington (1884-), taken by John Mayle & Sons in Derby, c.1900-1905.Lucy Saddington (1884-), taken by John Mayle & Sons in Derby, c.1900-1905.

Kevin had the following to say about them:

These presumably are siblings taken at the same time. I am unsure of the ill-fitting uniform and the sex of its wearer. I have wondered about the possibility of this being a male-impersonator outfit from the music-hall. The uniform certainly has no insignia on it and by the address on the card we are well before both the First World War and the Boer War.

As I had no clues as to the identity of the subjects, I posted the images in the Portfolio section of my profile of this photographer, and thought nothing more of them. Then, a fews days ago, I heard from Kevin again:

A comment on the ones I previously sent at Mayles photographers - census records of the family only show four sisters in the family, and the two people in the pictures have hands and fingers that are identical; leading me to think they both are of Lucy Saddington, of whom I have later studio photos with no photographers identity on them (poss trimmed off on purpose). Also, of the three sisters Mary is older, Jane had straight hair, and Edith was much younger.

So, I had a better look at the images, in particular the faces and hands of the subject(s):

They are indeed very similar, if the absence/presence of the grin is taken into account, and the ring is present in both cases. From the similarity of the studio setting and props, the portaits were probably taken on the same occasion. Kevin had more to say on the provenance of the photographs:

Last year, on the death of two elderly relatives, I came by two photo collections. The first belonged to my Mother Betty Rhodes née Rankin (1925-2006) (daughter of Mary, the elder Saddington sister), and includes the pictures from Mayle & Sons and a carte de visite by (Thomas) Frost of Derby (see below). These were clearly of a relative of Mary, but identifying her was difficult.

Lucy Saddington (1884-), taken by Thomas Frost in Derby, c.1898-1900.

The second collection was from Edith "Edie" Falconer née Smith (1912-2006), the daughter of Lucy Saddington. Amongst these photos was a studio cabinet photo of Lucy Saddington with her husband George Smith, and a postcard picture of George in uniform (presumably during the First World War.)
George & Lucy Smith, by an unidentified photographer, probably in Derby, c. 1906-1908.George Smith, Lucy's husband, a postcard portrait taken during the First World War.

Lucy Saddington married George Smith in 1906 and had Edie in 1912, but died of unknown causes whilst Edie was young. I have a photo of Edie as a child (see below) with a lady which could be Lucy but I am unsure. It was of course the photo of George and Lucy together which helped me in the identification process, not only tying up with George in uniform, but also if you look carefully she is wearing the same brooch as in the earlier Frost picture from my mother’s collection, and although no proof in itself, doesn’t the skirt look like the work of a proud young tailoress!
Lucy(?) & Edie Smith, by an unidentified photographer, probably in Derby, c. 1914-1915.

This is an excellent account of careful detective work which resulted in the provisional identification and tying together of a whole series of pictures from separate inherited family collections. It demonstrates the usefulness of examining photographs together with other family photos, and in the light of their provenance.

It also illustrates the importance of being cautious about making assumptions without reasonable cause. For example, the wearing of what appears to be a military uniform doesn't necessarily mean that the subject actually served in the military. Although the photo probably was taken during or shortly after the Boer War, it is obvious that Lucy never served in the army.
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