Monday, 10 August 2009

May I have the pleasure of the next dance?

In the late 1890s and early 1900s, partly as a response to the introduction of numerous competing formats such as panel, promenade and boudoir prints, and later the cheap and cheerful postcard, the carte de visite underwent some changes. These included many experimental variations in card thickness, texture and colour, together with the use of embossing, scalloped and zig-zag edges, and the return of square corners. The reluctance of manufacturers, photographers and their customers to shift away from the standard size of the carte de visite and cabinet card was understandable. Many households now owned one or more photograph albums, and all of these were designed with cdv and cabinet sized apertures.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Frank Nichols, Constitutional Club, Leicester, December 27th 1901
Print (50 x 74 mm) mounted on thick card, 64 x 102 mm
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

At first glance this mounted photograph of Frank Nichols looks like one such variation on the standard carte de visite photograph format. There are several unusual features suggesting that it is something slightly different. These include the simple art nouveau-style frame which enloses the cameo head-and-shoulders portrait, the handwritten name or signature (presumably that of the subject) photographically reproduced below the portrait, the printing at the base of the card mount "Constitutional Club, Leicester, December 27th, 1901" and, last but not least, the neat hole punched in the lower left corner of the mount.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Dance Card with Programme of Music and initials of dance partners
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

It is the reverse, however, which reveals the true nature and purpose of this item of ephemera. Printed on the back of the card is a "Programme" of sixteen dances, together with pencilled initials next to ten of them. It is a dance card, printed for a function at the Constitutional Club in Leicester on 27 December 1901. The hole in the corner was designed so that a small pencil could be attached with a length of cord or string.

Image © and courtesy of the Independence Seaport Museum Archives
Dance card from Regiment Infantry P.M. Gray Reserves, Stockton House, Cape Island, New Jersey
Dated 19 July 1869
Image © and courtesy of the Independence Seaport Museum

Apparently dance cards originated in the 18th Century, but only became commonly used in Vienna in the 19th Century. By the mid-1800s they were appearing everywhere, as shown by this example from New Jersey.

Image © and courtesy of The Friends of `Iolani Palace Collection
Dance card from the Royal `Iolani Palace, Hawaii
Dated 30 September 1889
Image © and courtesy of The Friends of `Iolani Palace

Examples from the 1880s are commonly found and many images may be found using a Google Image search, such as the 1889 card shown above from Hawaii.

Image © and courtesy of Bob Skiba & Mixed Pickles Vintage Dance Co.
Dance card for Sheet Metal Workers' Union Hop, Location Unknown
Dated 20 November 1905
Image © and courtesy of Bob Skiba & Mixed Pickles Vintage Dance Co.

The designs on the cards naturally reflected both the organisation by which the dance was being organised (or the people for whom it was held) and the style of the era, and thus showed some considerable variety. Towards the end of the Victorian period designs became more and more elaborate due to the popularity of the lithographic process, as shown by these examples from 1905 (above) and 1909 (below).


Dance card for First Annual Ball, Mosman District Cricket Club
Dated 16 July 1909
Image © and courtesy of the Mosman Library


Image © and courtesy of Bob Skiba & Mixed Pickles Vintage Dance Co.
Dance card for Cornell University's Navy Day Ball
Dated 1928
Image © and courtesy of Bob Skiba & Mixed Pickles Vintage Dance Co.

By the 1920s, the designs were often heavily influenced by the art deco style.

Image © and courtesy of Remains to be SeenImage © and courtesy of Remains to be Seen
Dance card for Ladies' Waltz (11 o'clock) Prof. Ben F. Gresh's Dancing Academy
Carte de visite portrait by Gordon of Indianapolis, Indiana
Undated, but probably taken c.1880-1885
Image © and courtesy of Remains to be Seen

Dance cards with photographs don't appear to be particularly common. Although my online search has not been exhaustive I was only able to find one other example, on sale for $75 on the web site Remains to be Seen. It is another carte de visite style card with a photograph of a musician holding a violin on the front, and on the reverse can be seen the dance programme for a Ladies' Waltz at Prof. Ben F. Gresh's Select Dancing Academy. The photo artist's name is noted as Gordon. The 1880 US Federal Census shows musician Benjamin Gresh living at East Ohio, Indianapolis and photographer Robert Gordon at East Washington, also in Indianapolis. By 1900, Gresh is described as a dancing teacher. Presumably Benjamin Gresh is the violinist pictured on the front of the dance card.

I'd be keen to hear from readers who have or know of other examples of photographic dance cards.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Using census records and GRO birth, marriage and death indexes I was able to determine that the subject of the photograph Frank Nichols was born in late 1880 or early 1881 in Leicester, the eldest of five children of a master plasterer George Nichols (1854-) and his wife Ann Jane Borderick (1856-). They lived at The Cedars, 11 Prebend Street, Leicester, and it seems likely that the date of the dance - a Friday - was Frank's twenty-first birthday.

Frank Nichols married Violet M. Wesley at Leicester in 1913 and they had four children: Tom (1913), Frank J. (1920), Avis L. (1921) and Doris A. (1923). Later trade directories suggest that they lived at 15 Halsbury Street in Leicester and that Frank was a mechanic. Many of their descendants continued to live in Leicester; surnames include Suffolk, Dove, Mewis, Randle, Webster, Dodson and Patterton.

Image © and courtesy of Amy Jane Barnes
A view down Pocklington's Walk, Leicester
Image © Amy Jane Barnes and courtesy of Djinn76's Flickr photostream

Trade directories shows that the Constitutional Club House in Leicester was located on the south-west corner of Pocklington's Walk and Millstone Lane in central Leicester. It had three storeys and was built in the 1890s of brick with stone dressings in the modern Renaissance style.

Image © and courtesy of Amy Jane Barnes
Cast iron railings on Pocklington's Walk, Leicester
LCCC = Leicester Constitutional Club Chambers/Company?
Image © Amy Jane Barnes and courtesy of Djinn76's Flickr photostream

From this recent photograph it appears that the building is still in existence.

References

Pols, Robert (2002) Family Photographs 1860-1945. Richmond, Surrey: Public Record Office Publications. 166p. ISBN 1903365201.

Mixed Pickles Vintage Dance Cards by the Mixed Pickles Vintage Dance Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

United States Federal Census Records 1790-1930 Indexed images from Ancestry.com

General Register Office Index to Births, Marriages & Deaths from FreeBMD

International Genealogical Index (IGI) from the LDS Church & FamilySearch

UK Census 1841-1901 Indexed images from Ancestry.co.uk

19th Century British Library Newspapers collection, from Gale Cengage Learning

The Times Digital Archive, 1785-1985, from Gale Cengage Learning

Trade Directories from the University of Leicester's Historical Directories
Kelly's Directory of Leicestershire & Rutland, 1895
Wright's Directory of Leicestershire & Rutland, 1899
Bennett' Business Directory for Leicestershire, 1901-02
Wright's Directory of Leicester, 1903
Kelly's Directory, Leicestershire & Rutland, 1925
Kelly's Directory, Leicestershire & Rutland, 1928

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Donkey riding, donkey riding ...

Donkey rides have been a part of English beach culture for generations. A nostalgic and evocative article by Bel Mooney in the Daily Mail (Oh, I still like to be beside the seaside), written last year after the disastrous gutting by fire of the pier at Weston-super-Mare, includes:
The idea of the seaside holiday is inseparable from the industrialisation of Britain, with the development of the railways, the craze for sea bathing and the 'wakes weeks' when all the Lancashire cotton mills would close to allow the workers a break.

In the second half of the 19th century, tranquil fishing villages like Scarborough and Brighton transformed themselves into holiday resorts and local people realised there was money to be made. In 1875, the local Blackpool newspaper summed up the appeal: 'This is a place where people expect to have a jolly, care-for-nothing scamper.' Penny slot machines in arcades, blow-up rubber rings and beds, metal buckets and spades, windbreaks (doggedly erected in the teeth of the gale), deckchairs for hire, crazy golf courses, Punch and Judy, donkey rides, fairgrounds, tooth-rotting candy floss and sticks of rock - so it grew: all the panoply of the British seaside holiday, somehow recognised even by those who never experienced the chilly reality.

There's simply nothing else in the world quite like it.
Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Child in chair on a donkey at the beach, Scarborough
Postcard 139 x 87 mm, undated
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This postcard from my own collection shows a young child having a donkey ride on Scarborough beach, North Yorkshire, on the north-east English coast. The child is seated in a wooden chair-like contraption instead of a saddle. There are a couple of blurred figures to the left, many more in the distance and numerous sailing boats in the water.

Scarborough became a spa town and then Britain's first seaside resort in the late 1600s, with the first bathing machines appearing in the mid-1700s. By the time the Grand Hotel was opened in 1867, the flow of holidaymakers to Scarborough had increased markedly, mainly due to the arrival of the York-Scarborough railway in 1845. By the time this photograph was taken, probably in the early 1900s, its reputation as a holiday spot was well established.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Reverse of Real Photo Postcard
by Will Ricketts, Royal Studio, 2 Eastboro', Scarboro'
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Although it hasn't been through the post, the postcard has a message written on the reverse:
Dear Mr & Mrs Ryley
We are having a fine time at Scarborough & fine weather. Father is enjoying himself very much. Our boy looks very well on this card.
Yours sincerely
J Holmes
Image © Shrewsbury Museums Service and courtesy of Darwin Country
Donkey ride on beach, unidentified location
Lantern slide by unidentified photographer, c.1905-1910
Image © Shrewsbury Museums Service Ref. SHYMS: P/2005/0043.

This lantern slide from the Shrewsbury Museums Service (courtesy of the web site Darwin Country) shows a family on a donkey ride at an unidentified location, probably towards the end of the first decade of the 20th Century.

Image © Shrewsbury Museums Service and courtesy of Darwin Country
Donkey rides on beach, Rhyl, North Wales
Lantern slide by unidentified photographer, undated
Image © Shrewsbury Museums Service Ref. SHYMS: P/2005/0044.

Another image from the same source shows a number of donkeys on the beack at Rhyl in North Wales. One of these donkeys has a similar child-carrying device.

Image © Tom Barlow and courtesy of the Bramham Village web site
Donkey rides at Robin Hood's Bay, near Scarborough, 1949
Image © Tom Barlow and courtesy of the Bramham Village web site

Tom Barlow in his memories of childhood holidays spent at Robin Hood Bay, adjacent to the beach at Scarborough, has several photographs of activities on the beach, taken in the late 1940s and early 1950s. These include a couple which feature the then ubiquitous donkey rides.


Image © and courtesy of Dave Ford
Donkey rides on the Scarborough beach
Image © and courtesy of Dave Ford's A Personal Tour of Yorkshire

According to Dave Ford "Scarborough is one of the few [English] resorts which still provide donkey rides on the sands."

78th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Pony Pictures

This article is my submission for the 78th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Pony Pictures, hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Picnics and beach gatherings, c.1910-1915

Nigel Aspdin sent me scans of a few amateur snapshots from the album of his great-uncle Charles "Charlie" Sydney Smith (1890-1918) which fit nicely into the series of beach photographs that I've featured over the last couple of months. Nigel is not sure exactly when the photographs were taken, but believes from several of the other photos in the album that it must have been shortly before Charlie left for France and the Great War. This narrows it down to the period approximately c. 1910-1915.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Charlie Smith, Trix Slater and friends
Amateur print mounted in album, 74.5 x 57.5 mm
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

The first image shows a group of four friends having a picnic. Wearing pin-striped suits and bow-ties, they're not dressed in the manner we might attend such an informal function, but it was probably appropriate for the time and the class of society to which they belonged. They are sitting or lying on a tartan picnic blanket in the dappled shade of a tree, adjacent to a wooden shed or high fence. They have been drinking tea (perhaps whisky too) and there appears to be a large, half-eaten fruit cake. There are six teacups visible around the blanket, so there was probably another couple present, one of whom took the photograph.

Charlie Smith is on the right, with a post-prandial cigarette between the fingers of his left hand, and seated to his immediate right is his fiancée Beatrice "Trix" Slater (1889-1937). The other couple are unidentified (as are most of the people in the remaining photographs in this selection). He has a cigarette dangling from his lips; she is holding one in her left hand, either on behalf of the photographer or perhaps guiltily as if she should not be smoking. They were obviously friends of Charlie and Trix, but there are unfortunately no annotations in the album to identify either the locations or the participants.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Roadside gathering, Trix Slater and friends
Amateur print mounted in album, 93.5 x 52.5 mm
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

This photo, located on the same page as and immediately below the previous one in the album, shows Trix Slater (at far left) with two couples and a dog, but they are different people from those seen at the picnic. They are lying down in the grass, on what appears to be a road verge, facing the photographer. I assume that Charlie was taking the photograph, and it seems likely that he took most of the photographs in the album. Although the friends are not identified - and Nigel is on holiday at the moment, so he can't confirm it immediately - I believe that the young man on the right hand side is Nigel's grandfather Bertie Dyche Aspdin (1871-1943) and next to him is Trix's sister Evelyn Amelia Slater (1887-1967). Bertie and Evelyn were married in mid-1914, so whether they were husband and wife at this time depends on when the photograph was taken.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Detail of roadside gathering, probably Evelyn Amelia Aspdin née Slater
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

Conversely, one might interpret the ring that Evelyn is wearing, and displaying prominently, on her left hand as indicating they were already married, although it could well be an engagement ring rather than a wedding band.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Group at the seaside, leaning on balustrade
Amateur print mounted in album, 102.5 x 78 mm
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

The next two shots show groups of men, women and boys at the seaside, preparing to go for a swim. Beatrice is sitting in the middle of the front row. They are dressed in raincoats, what look like bath gowns and a wide variety of headgear, which seem rather bizarre by today's standards, but was presumably dictated by the rules of decorum prevalent at the time, in order to preserve their modesty before they actually entered the water.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Large group of fourteen at the beach
Amateur print mounted in album, 98 x 70 mm
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

In the second of these two photos a different, much larger jovial group, including two young lads, is standing on the ripple-marked beach itself. Check out the placement of hands! I won't name the reader who sent me the comment, "My father told me never to miss an opportunity."

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Preparing to enter the water
Amateur print mounted in album, 82.5 x 71.0 mm
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

Then a sequence of three photos show two of the young ladies from the large group (standing at 4th from left and at far right, respectively) disrobing and entering the water.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
"No excuses, we can't put it off any longer"
Amateur print mounted in album, 74.0 x 75.5 mm
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

After removal of their outer wrappings the two women head to join three of the men who are at the water's edge already.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
"Come on in, although I can't promise the water's warm"
Amateur print mounted in album, 57.0 x 51.5 mm
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

They're putting on brave faces, but I doubt the water's very warm.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Testing the water
Amateur print mounted in album, 97.0 x 72.5 mm
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

The last in the series is possibly on a completely separate outing to a stony, rather than sandy, beach. Three fully dressed women have taken their shoes off - although not their magnificent hats - and are testing out the water, while a man with a camera stands beyond them, ankle-deep in the water, preparing to take a shot with his camera.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Detail of previous photograph
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

Unfortunately the photo is not quite detailed enough for me to be able to identify the type of camera, although it looks to be some kind of box-type, perhaps similar to one of the Kodak Brownie range.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The latest 1897 Paris fashions in Walsall

16th Smile for the Camera Carnival - Bling Ancestor

I have read of people identifying jewellery in old family photographs as being heirlooms which they themselves subsequently inherited, and in a previous article I posted a photograph of an unidentified family member wearing some jewellery. My own knowledge about jewellery is almost non-existent but the brooch being worn by the young woman in this photo is one from which even I can derive some information immediately. It is thus an appropriate entry for the footnoteMaven's 16th Smile for the Camera Carnival, Bling Ancestor.

Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison
Rachel Elizabeth Benfield (1880-1956)
Carte de visite portrait by F.T. Webb, 4 South Street, Walsall
Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison

An inscription on the reverse of the cabinet card portrait identifies the subject as, "Rachel Benfield married Fred Payne." This was Rachel Elizabeth Benfield (1880-1956) who married my great-grandfather's younger brother Fred Payne (1879-1946) at the Trinity Wesleyan Church in Corporation Street, Walsall on 22 May 1901. I have written previously about Fred here and here. The writing is in the hand of my aunt - she knew her great-aunt Rachel, and I have no cause to doubt her identification. Rachel, or Ray as she was known to our branch of the family, was born on 2 June 1880 in Walsall, one of eleven children (eight boys and three girls) of blacksmith Joseph Benfield (1855-1900) and Phoebe Kendrick (1854-1951).

Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison

Confirmation of my aunt's identification is provided, however, in the form of the brooch that she is wearing at her neck. An enlargement (click on image above) clearly shows that it is in the shape of the name "Rachel." There aren't any other close family members that I'm aware of with this name, so it has to be her. She also has a corsage with what appears to be a large white rose bud, and another dangly thing at the left which I can't quite make out.

Image © and courtesy of Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper's Bazaar 1867-1898 by Stella Blum
Detail of Paris Reception Gown
In Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper's Bazaar 1867-1898, 25 December 1897
Image © and courtesy of Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper's Bazaar 1867-1898 by Stella Blum

I'm also interested in the style of dress that she is wearing. It seems very elaborate with a lot of detailed embroidery on the large collar and sleeves. I found an engraving dated 1897 of a gown with a very similar squarish wide collar in Stella Blum's very useful Victorian Fashions & Costumes. The caption to that illustration contains the following details of the construction of the garment:
The distinctive part of the gown is a collar which is cut out in front and back like a square neck dress ... point-lace, which is appliqued onto the velvet, and is bordered by a band of sable fur.
Image © The National Archives and courtesy of Ancestry.co.uk
1901 Census: Benfield family in Walsall
Image © The National Archives and courtesy of Ancestry.co.uk

On census night (Sunday 31 March) 1901 Rachel was living with her family at 33 Camden Street, Walsall. She described herself as a dressmaker, and her younger sister Florence was a milliner. Kristina Harris, in the introduction to her 1999 book Authentic Victorian Fashions, writes the following about the "average, middle-class American woman" of the 1890s:
Most ... women brought fashion plates (from one of the many ... fashion magazines available ...) to her dressmaker; the dressmaker customized a chosen outfit according to her skills and her customer's desires ... If there was no dressmaker in town, or if a lady could not afford one, her next best source was a local seamstress - a housewife who took in sewing part time. For many women, one new dress a season was all that could be afforded; some women felt fortunate to be able to have one newdress a year. It was fabric, not labor, that was usually the most expensive factor in creating a new dress.
The fact that Rachel's 1901 census entry reads, "Dress Maker, Own account, At home," indicates that she was self-employed, and probably took in dressmaking jobs as described by Harris. Her sister Florence, on the other hand, was described as a worker and would therefore have been employed in a local milliner's shop. It seems very likely that Rachel made this dress which she is wearing in the Webb portrait. She would have copied or adapted the design from something similar to the engraving from Harper's Weekly shown above, according to her means. For example the lace, would have been very expensive to purchase, would have been replaced with some kind of embroidery or brocade. She looks to be aged between 18 and 21, and I estimate that the portrait was taken in 1900 or 1901, perhaps not long before her marriage, which took place three weeks after the census.

The photographer Frederick Thomas Webb was originally a japanner, artist and portrait painter from Wolverhampton, settling in Walsall with his wife Mary Ann née Jones in the late 1880s. By 1901 he had turned his hand to portrait photography, operating a studio from his house at 4 South Street. It is not clear how long he remained in business.


Oriental design on carte de visite tissue protector
by F.T. Webb of Walsall, c.1900-1901
Image © and collection of Barbara Ellison

The carte de visite has a rather nice preserved tissue protector with an oriental design that I've not seen before.

References

Copy of Marriage Certificate for F. Payne & R.E. Benfield, Collection of Brett Payne

Blum, Stella (ed.) (1974) Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper's Bazaar, 1867-1898. Dover Publications, New York. 294p. ISBN 0486229904.

Harris, Kristina (ed.) (1999) Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns, A Complete Lady's Wardrobe. Dover Publications, New York. 136p. ISBN 0486407217.

1841-1901 UK Census indexed images from The National Archives and Ancestry.co.uk
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