Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wedding Wednesday: A Couple from the Mid-1890s and Crayon Swindlers

collection of the author

The spectacle of the Kim Kardashian/Kanye West wedding is outside the pocketbooks of modern brides, nineteenth century high society wedding with white gowns, diamonds and multi-course reception meals were too expensive and frivolous for most of our ancestors as well. It was pretty typical for a man to purchase a wedding suit to be married in and for his bride to wear a new dress for the event. It was usually a dress the bride could wear again.  

Spotting a wedding involves reading the matrimonial clues in a portrait. In this case, the couple formally holds hands and both wear corsages.  The tell-tale wedding veil confirms it's a wedding.  There are cases where the bride doesn't wear a veil. Sometimes, women just wore a scarf of white fabric wrapped around their collar.
This bride wears fingerless mitts instead of long gloves. Her full upper sleeves dates the picture to the mid-1890s. 

While the image was taken in Minneapolis, the studio called itself the New York Portrait Company which had studios in New York, San Diego, New Haven and Minneapolis (and probably other large cities as well). They advertised their services in newspapers and bragged about their ability to produce pastel and charcoal enlargements known as crayon portraits.  

In the 1890s the popularity of these prints and the well-known reputation of the New York Portrait Company provided an opportunity for scam artists, aka crayon swindlers,  to separate our ancestors from a little cash.  A man falsely representing himself as an agent for the New York Portrait Co. would approach a house when just women were home. He'd appeal to their desire for an enlargement of a treasured family photo. A deposit of one or two dollars was required as a deposit.  The woman would hand over the image and the cash and never hear from the man or see the promised product. 

Source: Anthonys Photographic Bulletin volume XXIII, 1892, 223.


Related Posts with Thumbnails