Saturday, 21 December 2013

Sepia Saturday 208: An early call for Father Christmas

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett, Marilyn Brindley and Kat Mortensen

Among the same set of lantern slides which I have featured previously in two previous Sepia Saturday posts (A Return Trip to Dovedale and Ready with the Bulls-Eye) is this pair of group images. I estimated the other photographs in the collection to have been taken c.1900 to 1910, and identified at least one, and possibly two, of them as having been taken in Derbyshire.

The first is a semi-formal group portrait of 17 women who appear to be dressed as maids or house servants. However something about the uniformity of their mob caps suggests to me that they may be dressed for some kind of play, pantomime or variety performance, rather than being employees in a very grand house. I guess that the house would have to be a lot bigger than Downton Abbey to have that number of youngish female servants in residence.

Whether these 34 children and their teacher (top right) have just attended a pantomime performance or a party is not clear, but the presence of a visitor from the North Pole (top left) places the event very firmly in December. The development of Santa's image as a plump, jovial, white-haired and bearded elderly man dressed in red with white fur trim largely happened in North America in the late 1800s (with the not inconsiderable help of caricaturist Thomas Nast), and then underwent a reverse migration back to Europe. Given that this image was probably taken in the United Kingdom in the first decade of the twentieth century, I think it must be a very early representation of Father Christmas. He wears a mob cap, rather than the now standard long, floppy pointed cap, but is otherwise much as we see him today.

"Merry Old Santa Claus," by Thomas Nast
from Harper's Weekly, 1 Jan 1881

That's all I have for Saturday Sepians this week. Have a great Christmas holiday and we'll see you again in the New Year. In the interim, if you're in need of some light entertainment, check out the other sepian contributions.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Shades of the Departed Magazine: Toys

Shades of the Departed Magazine: Toys Issue

The latest issue of Shades of the Departed Magazine is out, and I'm very pleased to have a contribution of mine included, covering the subject of toys used as studio props.

Shades of the Departed Magazine: Toys Issue
Watch The Birdie
Toys Used As Accessories In Photographic Studios

Shades of the Departed is a free digital online magazine catering for those with a fascination for old photographs. The brainchild and creation of footnoteMaven, who has blogged about old photos since 2007 the magazine first appeared in November 2009. Fourteen issues since then have covered a wide range of themes, from weighty matters such as the Civil War and politics through lighter topics such as the Wild West, occupational and wedding photographs to the downright morbid with Memento Mori. Back issues are available at the Shades Of The Departed Archive.

Contributers in this edition include fM herself and well known geneabloggers Sheri Fenley, Denise Levenick, Craig Manson, Denise Barrett Olson, Caroline Pointer, Janine Smith and Maureen Taylor. I'm honoured to be in such illustrious company and look forward to reading the articles myself.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Sepia Saturday 207: Happy Days at Blackpool

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett, Marilyn Brindley and Kat Mortensen

I'm back after a fifteen week break from Sepia Saturday, during which time I visited England, France, Spain and California, and walked the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrim route stretching for just under a thousand kilometres across northern Spain, from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela and Finisterre. I was also delighted to meet and spend a day getting to know charming and genial fellow Sepians Little Nell and Caminante. Marilyn wrote of our exploring the enchanting city of Burgos together in Beguiled by Burgos. I'm very grateful that she and John went somewhat out of their way to facilitate this very successful meeting of like minds, and hope that we can do it again some time, somewhere.

Writing an article or two about the trip, which may include a few carefully selected photographs from my walk through historic northern Spain, will have to wait for when I have more time. This week I'd like to share some more images from a collection of glass plate and sheet film negatives that I've featured before here on Photo-Sleuth: SS179: Fun on the Sands - The Pleasure Palaces of Southport and SS188: The Cornwall Coast in Colour. The first of these two articles dealt with photographs taken by an amateur photographer during a visit to Southport, Lancashire, probably in 1913 or 1914.

It was on a similar trip, probably at around the same time, that the photographer took several scenes of the seaside attractions of Blackpool. It may even have been during the same trip; he or she might have taken a passage there on one of the steam boats from the end of Southport Pier. There are five negatives of views identified as from Blackpool, three of which I've included here.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Central Pier, Tower and Ferris Wheel, Blackpool, c.1913-1914
Quarter-plate glass negative (108 x 80mm, 4¼" x 3¼")
by an unidentified amateur photographer
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This negative shows evidence of "in camera" light leakage or over-exposure along the left hand edge, and is suffering the ravages of time in the form of oxidation or silvering of the photographic emulsion, but the main part of the image is still in good condition. The view is of the Central Pier with the Blackpool Tower, theatre building, Ferris Wheel and Promenade from left to right, taken at low tide from a point on the beach a couple of hundred metres south of the pier.

I don't yet know who the photographer was, but he or she was no slouch when it came to recording holiday trips. By the second decade of the twentieth century, not only were there cheaper and easier roll film cameras (box and folding) available, rather than the fiddly plate or cartridge-backed model he used, but this was also the heyday of the picture postcard. The selection included in the slideshow above are typical of the large range of views which were readily available for visitors to purchase, and give a good impression the wide variety of activities available at the Blackpool waterfront.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Rainbow Wheel, Scenic Railway & Helter Skelter Lighthouse, Pleasure Beach, Blackpool, c.1913-1914
Quarter-plate glass negative (108 x 80mm, 4¼" x 3¼")
by an unidentified amateur photographer
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

In this large collection there are also two negatives depicting illuminated night scenes. Using postcards from that era, both are identifiable as having been taken at Pleasure Beach in Blackpool. I previously wrote about Charles Howell operating a photographic studio at Pleasure Beach between the two World Wars. Pictured in the negatives are a Rainbow Wheel, the Scenic Railway, the Helter Skelter Lighthouse (all above) and the Casino (below).

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Casino, Pleasure Beach, Blackpool, c.1913-1914
Quarter-plate glass negative (108 x 80mm, 4¼" x 3¼")
by an unidentified amateur photographer
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

A series of contemporary postcards shows the same attractions, both by day and by night. In 1879 Blackpool became the first municipality in the world to have electric street lights installed, along the Promenade. The accompanying pageants were the forerunner of the town's famous Illuminations.

Fun on the Sands, 1914

I've also found several silent movie clips from 1914, 1926 and 1934 which give a very good feel for the various attractions on Blackpool's waterfront. The first clip, Fun on the Sands, includes the Senic Railway ride and a panning shot of the Rainbow Wheel, built in 1912, and the Helter Skelter Lighthouse. For further details of the rides and other attractions, click through the links to the YouTube web site.

Happy Days at Blackpool 1926 (Part 1)

Happy Days at Blackpool 1926 (Part 2)

Blackpool Illuminations 1934

This brings me to a small request to fellow Saturday Sepians and other regular readers of this blog. I am have started a small project studying seaside photography in Blackpool, and am looking for as wide a variety of seaside portraits as I can find. If you have any in your family or personal collections that you'd care to share, I would very much appreciate scans of them, please.

In particular, I'm looking for the following types of photographs:

  • any early daguerreotypes, ambrotypes or tintypes taken in Blackpool
  • formal portraits from any of Blackpool's numerous studios, from the 1840s/1850s through to the present day, including ambrotypes, tintypes, cartes de visite, cabinet cards, postcards and a variety of paper print formats
  • portraits taken by itinerant beach photographers, of relaxing on the beach, playing games or riding the ever present donkeys
  • walking pictures, also known as "walkies," taken by professional street photographers, perhaps taken along the Promenade or elsewhere in Blackpool
  • amateur photographs taken on or near to Blackpool's piers or beaches, particularly those with recognisable landmarks in the background, such as one of the piers, the tower, or fairground attractions.
They don't have to be wonderful quality - there are several other aspects of the photographs that I'm interested in, more than having spectacular examples of the genre. Permission would of course be sought if I wanted to use any of the images online or in a publication, and all such use would be fully acknowledged. If you have any photos that you think might be of interest, please leave a comment below with contact details or email me.

For more sepian delights I can recommend a visit to the remainder of this week's Sepia Saturday contributers.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Sepia Saturday 191: The "Soup, Soap and Salvation" Brigade

Sepia Saturday with Marilyn Brindley and Alan Burnett

The image prompt for Sepia Saturday this week is a cased daguerreotype of a man and two women, possibly taken in the 1850s or 1860s. Rather than giving another example of a similarly framed image, which I did a couple of months ago (Gem Tintypes, Preservers and Wing's Multiplying Camera), I went off in search of bonnets.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified woman and girls, c.1915-1935
Postcard portrait by unknown photographer
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This postcard portrait is from at least half a century later, but the woman's bonnet is surprisingly little changed in design. Comparison with a wonderful selection of late 19th century portraits at the Cabinet Card Gallery (here and here) confirmed my suspicion that the bonnet worn by the woman at centre indentifies her as being a supporter of the "soup, soap and salvation" brigade. I don't mean to be either flippant or derogatory; that is how founder William Booth himself described The Salvation Army's approach to meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the poor.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The tiny badge at her throat is just identifiable as The Salvation Army's well known red shield, still in use as their emblem in fundraising activities today. The New Zealand Salvation Army web site gives the following history of their distinctive uniform:
By 1880, a standardised Salvation Army navy blue serge uniform was introduced. Men wore high neck tunics with stiff collars over scarlet jerseys. Women wore long navy skirts and close fitting high neck tunics with white lace-edge collars. Catherine Booth chose black straw bonnets for the women to wear that were cheap, durable and protective. A band of black silk and strings formed the trimmings, and later a red band was added with 'Salvation Army' on it.

Uniforms have changed over the years to suit changing styles as well as culture and climate. Up until recently, women continued to wear a smaller version of the Victorian bonnet. Most countries around the world are now adopting the less-expensive felt bowler hat. An open-neck jacket also replaced the high-collar tunics.
I had hoped that developments in uniform styles might aid in dating the portrait sitting, but I don't think they've changed enough to narrow down the date range any more than one can with other aspects of the photograph.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The postcard format printed on the reverse, for example, is not marked with any photographer's studio, but is of a style commonly used by many studios from the mid-1910s until the early 1930s (see examples from Derbyshire photographers: Pollard Graham, Type 38, F. Holbrook, W.N. Statham and E.M. Treble).

Image © and courtesy of the Belfast Telegraph
Girl Guide uniforms 1910-1970, Lord Mayor's Show, Belfast, 15 May 1977
Image © and courtesy of the Belfast Telegraph

The two girls in the portrait are not junior Salvationists but, I believe, Girl Guides. According to Wikipedia:
Girls were attracted to Scouting from its inception in 1907 ... In 1909, Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, decided that girls should not be in the same organisation as the boys, and the Girl Guides were founded in the UK in 1910.
I was fortunate to find this photograph of a parade in which girl guides displayed a complete range of uniforms used between 1910 and 1970. Although there were, no doubt, innumerable regional variations the girls in the postcard portrait apopear to be dressed most similarly to the 1910 model. Geoff Caulton has a very interesting page on Girl Guide uniforms on his PhotoDetective web site, demonstrating several useful dating pointers which reinforce my feeling that our girls are from roughly 1910-1920ish.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Barbara Payne in Girl Guide uniform, c. 1943-1945
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The two decades between the World Wars saw a swift rise in the popularity of the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts. Princess Mary became President of the Association in 1920, and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret as a Guide and Brownie respectively in 1937, which must have enhanced the appeal of the organisation tremendously. Kodak Ltd even produced a Girl Guide Kodak camera from 1931 to 1935. This small portrait of my aunt pictures her in a later girl guide uniform from the mid-1940s. Unfortunately the image is not distinct enough for me to discern the design on the badge, which would indicate the name of her troop.

Image © & courtesy of Barry Muir
Millicent Lydia "Lissa" Grace, c. 1926
Postcard portrait by A.W. Woodmansee of Bold Lane, Derby
Image © & courtesy of Barry Muir

Lastly, I'd like to highlight another feature of the postcard portrait, even though it's not much use for dating purposes. Vignetting is the term used to describe the deliberate masking out of the margins of a photographic portrait, often leaving an oval-shaped frame with blurred edges around the central figure. This was used by studios from the earliest days of carte de visite prints in the 1860s, the borders usually being lighter than the photograph. From the late 1890s and early 1900s, a variation of this technique produced a dark horizontal band on the lower edge of the portrait, appearing in front of the subject, as in the mid-1920s portrait above. Use of this feature in studio portraits was most common throught the 1910s and 1920s, after which it just as suddenly faded from popularity.


The Salvation Army, from Wikipedia

Why we wear a uniform, from The Salvation Army in New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga Territory

Twenties and Thirties • Girl Guides on Geoff Caulton's PhotoDetective web pages.

History of Guiding, from the Girlguiding web page

Friday, 16 August 2013

Sepia Saturday 190: Come into the Garden Maud

Sepia Saturday with Marilyn Brindley and Alan Burnett

The difficulty with providing an image for use as a Sepia Saturday prompt, particularly one that you've used previously, is that it's a little trickier to produce an interesting follow on article. Hence I'm going off on a somewhat different tack this week. Feel free to play the embedded sound track while you're reading, and it will hopefully provide an appropriate background to the photos.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified couple and baby with garden tent, c.1893-1898
Cabinet card (roughly trimmed) by unidentified photographer
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, Night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the roses blown.

For a breeze of morning moves,
And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
On a bed of daffodil sky,
To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
To faint in his light, and to die.

Maud; A Monodrama
by Alfred Lord Tennyson

When Alfred - for surely that must be his name - charmed Maud with those silken words, it seems unlikely that he envisaged such an outcome: tea with Maud, but also a very alert baby, and a photographer in attendance to record the event. He is not amused!

The Miller house, shop and post office, c.1905-1910
Image republished from old postcard by unknown publisher

It wasn't just the faintly ridiculous pose which attracted me to the cabinet card, purchased on eBay, but also the tent. It is similar to one just visible in this image of the Weston Underwood garden of my great-great-grandparents John and Eliza Miller. When I last used this image, in the story of John's father James Miller, drainage man, I suggested that the tent might have been "used as a children's playhouse." Perhaps they were a common appearance in late Victorian and Edwardian gardens, and primarily protected tea drinkers from the harsh summer sun?

For more picnics and garden gatherings, please pay a visit to the 190th edition of Sepia Saturday.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Sepia Saturday 189: Ode to the Rickshaw-wallah

Sepia Saturday with Marilyn Brindley and Alan Burnett

This week I'll take you globe-trotting once again. While I suspect you'll be treated to a myriad of contraptions powered by the internal combustion engine by other Saturday Sepians, I'm choosing to use a more environmentally friendly, if not particularly pc, means of transport.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Jinnirickshaw, undated probably c.1880s, unidentified photographer
Albumen print (141 x 95mm) mounted on printed card (155 x 112mm)
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This mounted albumen print of a non-standard format was purchased on a whim, partly because it's a well composed and exposed photograph of an interesting subject, representing a way of life that's pretty much disappeared, but also because it doesn't merely reinforce the colonial stereotype of white sahib being conveyed from one shady verandah to another by a rickshaw-wallah.

Judging from the style of print and mount, I estimate that it was probably printed in the 1880s or 1890s, and I think it may have been taken somewhere in the Indian sub-continent. The printed text at lower left appears to relate to the subject, rather than the photographer or publisher, and suggests that the photograph may have been produced in some numbers. Indeed, I found another copy of the image here, dated 1895.

The derivation of jinnirickshaw is suggested by The Free Dictionary to be from three Middle Chinese words, jin (person), lik (strength) and chai (vehicle) via the Japanese word jinrikisha. My Concise Oxford Dictionary states that the variety of spellings one finds are archaic forms of the more familiar rickshaw, which they define as a:
Light two-wheeled hooded vehicle, drawn by one or more persons.
Wikipedia claims, quite plausibly, that the rickshaw is thought to have been invented in Japan in 1869 after the removal of a ban on wheeled vehicles during the Tokugawa period. After a popularity explosion in that country, it spread quickly to other Asian countries, being introduced to India around 1880.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Kingwell in a rickshaw, Durban, South Africa, c.1920s
Souvenir postcard portrait by unidentified photographer
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Although the popularity of hand-pulled rickshaws waned in the Third World throughout the twentieth century, particularly after the Second World War, there was one country where this mode of transport took on a life of its own. South Africa's first rickshaws were imported into Natal in 1892 and within a decade had become the main mode of transportation, with over 2000 of them in Durban's streets. Gallery Ezakwantu tells a fascinating and well illustrated story of how the rickshaw puller's simple, unadorned calico uniforms and traditional Zulu feathered, bovine-horned headwear have evolved, over time, into outrageous enormous multi-horned headdresses and costumes spectacularly decorated with beads, sheepskins and a variety of other accessories.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

An example of one such Zulu rickshaw puller with his conveyance and a client is pictured in the postcard above, probably taken in a makeshift outdoors studio on Durban's waterfront some time in the 1920s. The scene somewhat clumsily painted on the backdrop is easily identifiable as Durban's sweeping beachfront, with The Bluff forming a backdrop to the harbour entrance, as this Streetview shows. The message handwritten on the back of the postcard merely identifies the occupant of the rickshaw as "Kingwell," presumably a surname. I feel that the uniform he is wearing is possibly merchant marine, or perhaps from a colonial administration, but I haven't been able to pin it down.

"Rickshaw Boys" - Durban, South Africa
Postcard by unidentified publisher, posted 1966

In early 1968 my family had an extended holiday in South Africa, photos in the family albums showing that we spent time in Potchefstroom, Simonstown, Bredasdorp, Durban and Umhlanga Rocks. The only memory of that trip that remains with me is an extremely vivid one of the rickshaw drivers on the Durban waterfront. By that time their costumes, and their playing-up-to-the-tourists antics, were probably at their most extravagant. Unfortunately I don't have a family photograph to go with it, which reinforces my idea that it is a real memory rather than one prompted by later tales of the event related by my parents. In my mind's eye, however, they looked very much like the three posing for this mid-1960s postcard.

An excerpt from a 1967 article in the New Age provides a taste of the experience to be expected:
As pictorial attractions for tourists go probably no city in the world would care to challenge Durban ... at the spin of a 20c piece ... some 15 Zulu ricksha boys, who ply their trade along the sweeping Durban Esplanade between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. ... offer outstanding value. They out-Twiggy Twiggy with the number and variety of their poses ... [take] a swing along the sea shore ... [and] spread their regalia like peacocks.
As a six year-old country boy who had never come across anything like this in my life, I was terrified and absolutely refused to go near it. When one of my parents and my younger sister Diana went off down the Esplanade for a ride, complete with the see-sawing, twirling gyrations and strange chants of the "driver," I was convinced I would never see them again. I suspect tears ensued although time, thankfully, has wiped those from my memory.

Image © and collection of Brett PayneImage © and collection of Brett Payne
Bud Payne, Durban or Umhlanga, 4 April 1968
Photomatic photobooth portrait (65 x 68mm)
Images © and collection of Brett Payne

Although, as far as I am aware, no photograph exists of that particular scary ride, there is a photobooth portrait of my father which could have been taken on the same day. It doesn't have any identifying studio marks or printing on it, but by comparison with similar thin-metal-framed prints from the 1950s which I discussed in a previous article, I can tell it was taken in a Photomatic photobooth. It's possibly the latest example of a Photomatic portrait that I've seen.

Getting back on topic, this series of photos suggests that Durban's rickshaw drivers are still attracting the tourists, although I suspect they're no longer offering rides for twenty cents. I don't think I would fancy expending that amount of effort, even for a considerably greater sum.


Japanese Rickshaw, at the Powerhouse Museum.

Zulu Ricksha, 1892-2000, Power Carriages of the Mandlakazi Clan, from Gallery Ezakwantu.

Ricksha Boys of Durban, The Age, 11 September 1967, p.11, courtesy of Google Books.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Sepia Saturday 188: The Cornwall Coast in Colour

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett

A couple of months ago I purchased a large collection of glass plate negatives, and used several of these to illustrate a piece I wrote for Sepia Saturday about a visit to the Pleasure Palaces of Southport. In the second of a planned series of articles about this intriguing collection we return to the English coastline with six colour positive glass plate slides taken by an unknown amateur photographer.

The six slides each measure 89 x 63mm (3½" x 2½"), with the printable area roughly 3¼" x 2¼", corresponding to the standard quarter-plate format used by most amateur glass plate cameras in the early to mid-1900s. All six are coastal views but, like the rest of the collection, none have anything to indicate where they might have been taken, despite having a very English feel to them.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

It was this view that provided the first clue. As a trained geologist I'm pretty familiar with landscapes and outcrop patterns produced by a variety of rock types, and this headland with its blocky nature produced by weathering of rectangular joint patterns seems to me very typical of granite.

Image © and courtesy of the Ordnance Survey
Geology of Cornwall and Devon
portion of Geological Survey "Ten-Mile" Map (1957)
Image © and courtesy of the Ordnance Survey

From what I remember of my A-Level geology studies the only place in England that you're likely to find granite right on the coast is in Cornwall, as the portion of the Geological Survey map for that area shows rather dramatically. The red blobs are granite intrusions, and the blob at the far left covers the land around Penzance, St Ives and Land's End.

Land's End, Cornwall
View Larger Map

That still leaves a fair distance of coastline to search, but if you're visiting Cornwall, what better place to take a photograph than at Land's End, that most touristic and memorable of spots, so that's where I looked first. You can search this coastline very effectively using either Google Maps or Google Earth. Noticing that the view in that first slide had some rocks off shore, with perhaps a lighthouse on one of them, I used Google Maps to come up with this view of rocky islets a few hundred metres to the west of Land's End.

Image © Tom Hurley and courtesy of 360 Cities
Land's End, Cornwall
Image © Tom Hurley and courtesy of 360 Cities

Google Earth gives you the opportunity to "fly through" the landscape in virtual 3-D, and to access "spherical panoramic" images hosted by 360 Cities. One of these fortuitously shows almost the exact view as in the slide, taken from Dr Syntax's Head with the Longships islets and lighthouse, as well as Kettle's Bottom rock, in the distance.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Walking a few metres out to the headland and turning right to face north-east gives us the scene shown in the second of the slides (above). The rugged coastline is identifiable by the characteristic sea arches, and a hotel building just visible on the horizon. These two panoramas can be viewed via browser on the 360 Cities web site here and here.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Harbour View A

The next three slides show a harbour, taken from different spots around the shoreline. This image is the most interesting, and in some ways frustrating, of the three. A large crowd gathers around something almost hidden from the view of the photographer. In the right foreground a neatly dressed woman pats the neck of a horse, complete with full collar and harness attached to the shafts of the cart, the buckboard of which is just visible through the crowd. Clearly the people are jostling for a closer view of whatever is on the cart. One man, wearing rolled up shirt sleeves and a flat cap, is standing at what is probably the tailgate of the cart, and has the attention of many in the crowd. At far left of the foreground, standing on some kind of platform, are three teenagers including two girls with dark blue school blazer, one with an unidentifiable crest.

A lorry with large drums piled on the back is parked between the crowd and the water. Almost hidden behind the cab of the truck, several boys play in waist-deep water. The harbour is scattered with boats at anchor, ranging from small pleasure craft to larger commercial fishing boats. A long stone wharf or breakwater extends almost across the entire width of the photo, with two lighthouses, a large one centrally placed and a smaller one at the distal end, marking one side of the harbour entrance. A couple of dozen cars, mostly black, are parked along the wharf, reminding one of that well worn quote often attributed to Henry Ford, "You can have any colour as long as it's black." The car at the far right looks like an early Morris Minor, first manufactured in 1948. Also arrayed intermittently down the wharf are a number of people standing and sitting, obviously enjoying the warm sunshine.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Harbour View B

This view of the harbour includes the shore-end of the wharf and part of a town, with a number of boats resting at anchor and several dinghies tethered by ropes and lying on the sand in the foreground exposed by an outgoing tide.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Harbour View C

A third view of the harbour is taken from the opposite direction, the photographer standing on the shore somewhere in the middle of the previous view. Boats are at anchor or under way in the small harbour, at least four of them with visible occupants, and several men, women and children can be seen on foot investigating the intertidal sand flats.

The slopes on the other side of the harbour are clad with a substantial number of buildings, indicating a sizeable town, and a smaller wharf protecting the other side of the harbour is visible in the left middle ground. At far left in the middle ground, beyond a rocky point, a beach crowded with pleasure seekers can just be made out.

Image © and courtesy of Google Earth
St Ives, Cornwall, December 2005 (see in Google Maps)

It took a little searching, but I eventually found the harbour using Google Earth. It is St Ives, situated on the northern Cornwall coast, a town well serviced with Streetview images, which meant I could locate three perfect shots for a "Now and Then" series.

Image © and courtesy of Google Earth
St Ives Harbour View A - May 2009
Image © and courtesy of Google Earth

The first view was clearly taken near the top of this boat ramp, and I suspect the cart contains a catch of fish, crab or lobster recently hauled onshore from one of the fishing boats now at anchor in the harbour.

Image © and courtesy of Google Earth
St Ives Harbour View B - May 2009
Image © and courtesy of Google Earth

Image © and courtesy of Google Earth
St Ives Harbour View C - May 2009
Image © and courtesy of Google Earth

The second and third views indicate that the photographer was walking around the harbour as the tide went out.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The last of the six slides depicts a beach at low tide, filled with dozens of people enjoying the sunny afternoon. Some recline in their deck chairs, reading newspapers, chatting to friends or watching the children playing. The photographer has caught a young boy having just bowled a ball at his sister, and she's in the act of batting it away. Two young ladies bravely sunbathe in the lea of a rocky outcrop. Another group of children are digging in the sand. One young man or woman scans the sky anxiously, wondering how much longer the sun will last or perhaps keeping a lookout for pesky seagulls.

Image © and courtesy of Google Earth
View of Newquay Harbour entrance from Towan Beach
Image © buthe79 and courtesy of Panoramio

This has been identified as Town Beach at Newquay, which recent images show to have remained popular with holidaymakers. The rocks here are Devonian sandstones, by the way.

The clothing fashions in these photographs, particularly those worn by the women, appear to me to be typical of the post-Second World War era, i.e. the late 1940s and early to mid-1950s, illustrated by the images on Geoff Caulton's PhotoDetective web page for this period.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Detail of St Ives Harbour View A
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

It was when zooming in on these images that I noticed a very unusual feature, one that I've never previously noticed in any of the colour images that I own. Although not visible to the naked eye, the colours are actually made up of three differently coloured sets of diagonal lines. According to Robert Hirsch's history of colour photography (Hirsch, 2011), colour plates made up of a "checkerboard of red, green, and blue elements" were produced by the Finlay Colour process, also known as the Thames Colour Screen, which was originally patented in 1906 but abandoned after the Great War. It was subsequently re-introduced in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

The Paget Dry Plate process, "patented in Britain in 1912 by G.S. Whitfield and first marketed by the Paget Prize Plate Company in 1913," was a very similar technique (Wikipedia).

The system used two glass plates, one of which was the colour screen plate while the other was a standard black-and-white negative plate. The colour screen plate comprised a series of red, green and blue filters, laid down in a regular pattern of lines to form a réseau, or matrix ... Transparency positives could be made from the system's panchromatic negatives by contact printing; these positives were then bound in register with a colour viewing screen of the same type as used for exposure, to reproduce the image in colour.
James Morley has a small collection of early colour positive slides produced by the Paget process here. My examples, however, appear to have been taken considerably later, probably in the very late 1940s or early 1950s.

For more coastal excursions, in various hues, visit the other participants in this week's Sepia Saturday effort.


Hirsch, Robert (2011) A Concise History of Color Photography, in Exploring Color Photography, 5th Edition, Focal Press.

Elusive colour: Paget colour system, on Captured in Colour, Australian War Memorial.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Sepia Saturday 187: Ephemera and the preservation of family photo albums

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett

The image prompt for Sepia Saturday this week gives me an opportunity to look at some of the non-photographic material often found in family photo albums, as well as to show off some of the photo-related ephemera in my collection. Although Victorian carte de visite and cabinet portrait albums contain largely that, i.e. photographic portraits - the purpose-designed sleeves weren't really suitable for flimsy pieces of paper and arbitrarily sized cards - one does often find a variety of family history-related ephemera in them.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Edith Mary Morton's photo album
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This album was an eBay purchase a few years ago. It is in a rather dilapidated state, but in addition to 45 cartes de visite, five cabinet cards and a postcard format photo, the album also contains an ornate baptism card and a printed memorial card.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

An inscription on the front page of the album demonstrates that it was a birthday gift to Edith Morton from her sister Amy.

May 19th 1895
To Edith Morton
With best wishes For a
Happy Birthday
From her sister Amy.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Baptism certificate for Sidney Stephen Sears
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Near the front of the album, and loose between the pages, I found a brightly coloured baptismal certificate for Sidney Stephen Sears, dated April 12th 1903 at St James Enfield Highway, filled in and signed by the vicar, J. Leonard Boulden. The baptismal certificate is of a type that appears to have been used quite commonly in parish churches in the early twentieth century. I have found almost identical examples from as late as 1933. [1,2] Boulden was vicar of St James until at least 1922. [3]

Image © London Metropolitan Archives and courtesy of
Entry in baptism register for Sidney Stephen Sears
Enfield Highway St James, Register of Baptism, Ref. DRO/054, Item 007
Image © London Metropolitan Archives and courtesy of [4]

The entry in the baptism register for St James, archived at the London Metropolital Archives, is in the same handwriting. Not only does it confirm the baptism date, but it also provides the very useful information - not given on the certificate - that Sidney Stephen was born on 16th February 1903, the son of Stephen and Edith Mary Sears of 22 Durrants Road.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Edith Mary Sears, c. 1897-1901
Albumen print (96 x 139mm), probably detached from cabinet card
Attrib. Henry Bown, 31/33 Jamaica Rd & 43 New Kent Rd, S.E. London
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Using this information, I was able to identify the owner of the album as Edith Mary Morton (1874-1944). Edith was born in 1874 at Riverhead in Kent, to a railway clerk Frederick William Morton (1843-1891) and his wife Emily Wanstall née Andrews (1843-1896). She grew up with her six sisters and three brothers in Sevenoaks and Deptford in Kent and as a young woman worked as a book folder. [5]

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Stephen George Sears, c.1896-1900
Cabinet card (107 x 166mm) by W.H. Fawn, 13 Evelyn Street, Deptford
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

On Christmas Day 1897 Eadie married Stephen George Sears (1875-1934). They lived at 22 Durants Road, Ponders End, Enfield Highway in Middlesex and had three children, Ethel Edith (born 15 November 1898), Helen Amy (born 27 August 1900) and the youngest Sidney Stephen.

Image © and courtesy of John Bradley
Roadworkers in Church Street, Ashover, c.1900-1910
Mounted albumen print by J.J. Shipman of Ashover
Image © and courtesy of John Bradley

Stephen Sears' occupation is listed in various records (marriage, baptisms of children, etc.) as engine driver or engineer, but in 1891 he was employed as a "plowing portable engine boy," i.e. an agricultural traction engine, and by the time of the 1901 census he described himself as a "steam road roller driver." This gives me the chance to re-use this excellent image of a steam road roller at work, albeit in a small Derbyshire village, which I wrote about for Sepia Saturday a couple of years ago. The 1911 Census shows him as an "engineer fireman" working for the District Council.

Image © and collection of Brett PayneImage © and collection of Brett PayneImage © and collection of Brett PayneImage © and collection of Brett Payne
Four unidentified women from Edith Sears' photo album
Cabinet cards from the studio of Henry Bown, S.E. London
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Sadly, the album doesn't seem to contain photographs of any children that I can identify unequivocally as Ethel, Helen or Sidney. In fact, the bulk of the portraits are of young women dressed to the nines, taken between the late 1880s and the late 1890s, probably Edith's sisters and possibly including some of her friends. There are a few photos of children, but I suspect they are Edith's nephews and nieces.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Frederick William Morton, c. December 1908
Postcard portrait (87 x 138mm) by unidentified photographer
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This postcard addressed to Edith was sent from Toronto, Canada by her younger brother Frederick William Morton in 1908.

124 John St, Toronto, Canada, Dec 8th 12/08.
Dear Eadie.
Just a line hoping you are quite well as it leaves me the same hoping steve and the children are the same and wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year we have got winter here now and the sleighs out with the Bells Jingling and nice frosty air hoping you will know this photo allright I remain your affectionate Brother.
Fred Morton

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Memorial card for Emily Wanstall Morton (1843-1896)
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Also found loose in the album was this memorial card for Edith's mother, who died in August 1896, only fifteen months after Edith had received the photo album as a gift for her 23rd birthday.

Emily Wanstall Morton,
Who died 12th August, 1896,

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Probably Emily Wanstall Morton, c.1892-1896
Carte de visite portrait by Parisian School of Photography, London
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

There are two photographs in the album which could be of Edith's mother. This carte de visite portrait shows a middle-age woman dressed in rather heavy clothing, perhaps even mourning dress, and was taken in the early to mid-1890s. Emily was widowed in 1891.

Possibly Emily Wanstall Morton, c.1866-1871
Carte de visite portrait by Hellis & Sons, London
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Another carte de visite portrait, of which there are two similar copies, may also be of Emily. It was printed at one of the Hellis & Sons branch studios, judging by the addresses list on the reverse of the card mount, probably between 1899 and 1901. However, I can tell from the hair, clothing and pose styles, as well as the studio furniture, oval vignetting (a technique commonly employed to hide the edges of the original) and faded nature, that it was almost certainly copied from a much earlier photographic portrait, perhaps taken in the late 1860s or very early 1870s.

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22 Durants Road, Ponders End, Enfield

Sidney died in 1920, aged only 16. For the rest of their lives, his parents continued to love in the same house at Ponders End that they had moved into after their marriage in 1897 [6]. Stephen Sears died in 1934, aged 59, while Edith lived to the age of 70; she died in 1944. Ethel and Helen never married, and passed away in 1976 and 1991 respectively. Presumably the lack of any surviving descendants is what resulted in the album eventually finding its way onto eBay.

Morton-Sears Album

I find it interesting that there don't appear to be any photographs in the album of the Sears family after their marriage, except perhaps the portraits of Stephen and Edith Sears. Why would this be? After a lengthy contemplation of the album's contents I've come to the conclusion that it has survived largely intact since the most recent photograph (Fred's postcard sent from Canada in 1908) was inserted in it. There are some portraits taken after her wedding in 1897, but these are probably of her siblings and their children. Edith may have kept this album as a record of her life prior to becoming a wife and mother.

Image © The National Archives and courtesy of
Sears family at 22 Durants Road, Ponders End, Sunday, 2 April 1911
Image © The National Archives and courtesy of

Even though the album contains very few items with inscriptions - effectively three photographs and a further three pieces of documentary ephemera - I was able to identify the original owner of the album with a high degree of confidence. Using census and birth, marriage and death records, it was then possible to build up an extensive tree of both Edith and her husband's families. Quite apart from generating a list of potential candidates for the remaining photographs in the album, it also enabled me to locate and contact a descendant of one of Edith's sisters.

Image © and courtesy of Ron Plumley
Group at front door of 22 Durants Road, Ponders End, c.1915-1920
Loose amateur print by unidentified photographer
Image © and courtesy of Ron Plumley

Ron Plumley is the grandson of Edith's sister Emily, and among his Nan's photographs he found this snapshot, which turns out to have have been taken outside the Sears family's front door at 22 Durants Road - compare this with the modern Streetview image above. Although it isn't a very high resolution scan, it's detailed enough to see that the clothing of the woman (at left), the man (at right) and three possible teenagers standing in the doorway equates with the fashions worn immediately before and during the Great War.

I estimate that it was taken between 1915 and 1920 and it's difficult to be sure, but I think this must be the Sears family. Apart, that is, from the man standing at the right, who seems to be too old to be Stephen Sears, then in his early 40s. Perhaps that is Ron's grandfather William Henry Plumley (1869-1919), who would then have been in his late 40s or early 50s, and the Plumleys could have been on a day visit to the Sears family on the northern outskirts of London from their home in Deptford, also in London, but just south of the Thames?

Image © and courtesy of Ron Plumley
The Morton sisters: Grace Harriett Jenkins? (1870-1945), Agnes Helen Wright (1882-1947), Amy Maria Morton (1875-1963), Florence Maud Zillwood (1866-1946) and Emily Wanstall Plumley (1872-1958)
Postcard portrait by unidentified photographer, c.1930s
Image © and courtesy of Ron Plumley

Finally, this image also shared by Ron shows his grandmother (at far right) with her sisters. It's quite a contrast with the photographs of the Morton sisters taken four decades earlier, naturally, but they look like they are having a lot more fun.

One day this album will return to a family member, but it is only by a stroke of luck that this has been possible. It could easily have been broken up and offered for sale on eBay as individual photos, as many such albums in a somewhat worn state clearly are. If that had happened, almost all of the photographs would have lost all connection with the provenance, history and genealogy that it has been possible to deduce from them as an intact collection.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

I cannot stress enough how important it is not to break up albums, even if the paucity of documentation suggests there is little chance of identifying the subjects of the portraits, as clues may only become apparent at a future date. Sadly, inevitable financial imperatives will result in the continued dissolution of many such family collections from deceased estates and yard sales via eBay, but we can all do our part to make sure those in our own families do not share the same fate.

I hope you'll join the other Sepia Saturday enthusiasts this week presenting their own family heirlooms, bibles, books, letters and a variety of other ephemera.


[1] Baptism certificate for Hilda Charlson, 12 April 1911, on Hindsford St Anne Parish Page, Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project.

[2] Baptism certificate for Ian Brackenbury Channell, Easter Day 1933, St Michael's Framlingham, Website of the Wizard of New Zealand.

[3] Licence from Bishop of London to Joseph Leonard Boulden, Vicar of St James, (To officiate in the district chapel of St Peter and St Paul, Enfield Lock, in the parish of St James), The National Archives, Ref. DRO54/45/2, 18 Aug 1922.

[4] London, England, Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906 database, from

[5] 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911 Census records, UK Census Collection from

[6] London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1965, from
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