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.
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.
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.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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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