This cabinet card presents an enigma. How can this photograph be interpreted? The image features, what are likely, three sisters, gathered around a table. Each of the young woman is holding a book, but only one of the three has their book open. So? What’s the enigma? The mystery concerns the fact that prominently displayed on the table is a picture frame without a picture. The missing picture hasn’t wandered too far away. It can be seen lying on the table, face up, in front of the frame. Hopefully, a cabinet card gallery visitor will leave a comment with their hypothesis as to why the frame and picture are separated in this image. The photographer of this portrait was Theodore A.Wirsing (1865-1938) of Montague, Michigan. Research about Wirsing yielded confusing information. He is reported to have had a studio in Annandale, Minnesota in 1902 and a studio in Maple Lakes, Minnesota in 1902 and 1914. Another source states that Wirsing ran his gallery in Montague between 1890 and 1910. He and his wife, Lillian Bovee Wirsing (1865-1930) are buried in Michigan. Wirsing can also be found in four United States census reports. In 1900, he was living in a boarding house in Corinna, Minnesota, and working as a photographer. He was unmarried. In 1910, Wirsing was living in Annandale, Minnesota and listed as a photographer. .He was also married. In 1920, he was still living in Annandale, Minnesota and he was managing a photographic gallery. In 1930, the 64 year-old, Wirsing, and his wife, were living in Bellingham, Washington. The census also states that Theodore Wirsing was working as a carpenter in Bellingham.
Boston was known for a lot of things at the turn of the century, but fly fishing was probably not one of those things. Fly fishing on the Thames River wasn’t likely a destination vacation. This photograph features a handsome gentleman who appears dressed for an adventure. He is wearing a hat with fishing lures hooked into it. He is also wearing a tie, tucked into his shirt. The gentleman was photographed by McCormick, who had a studio located in Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Directory (1873) lists a John L. McCormick who operated as a photographer in Boston. The 1880 United States Census finds McCormick (age 32)living in Boston and married to Elizabeth McCormick (age 26). He is listed as a photographer. The 1900 census does not list his occupation but reports that the couple were living with their five children and an eighteen year-old female servant (nanny?). The 1910 census includes McCormick, but once again, does not list his occupation.
A Victorian beauty poses for her portrait in Great Yarmouth, England. She certainly has chosen a provocative pose. The young woman may be a stage actress or dancer. She is not helping the stereotypical image of female stage performers who were viewed by much of the public as equivalent to prostitutes. This risqué (for the era) image was photographed by Tilley Brothers studio. The photographers were successors to Boughton and Sons. Great Yarmouth is a coastal town in Norfolk, England. It has been a seaside resort since 1760.
A pretty young woman poses for her cabinet card portrait at the studio of Augusto Baroni in Riva, Italy. The town of Riva is located in northern Italy in the province of Trentino. The town is formally known as Riva del Garda. The subject of this photograph is wearing a heavy chain necklace with a locket. She is wearing a beautiful dress. Her very thin waist is likely the result of a corset.
The top Cabinet Card is an image of American stage actress, Fanny Davenport. The photograph is dated February 28, 1880. Miss Davenport (1850-1898) was thirty years of age when she sat for this photograph by Emil Scholl, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He photographed many celebrities and this site has a category that includes a number of his images. To view these images, click on the category “Photographer: Scholl”. Davenport was born in London, England and educated in public schools in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1862 she appeared in ” Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady” in New York. In 1869 she became a member of the Augustin Daly Theater Company. She later formed her own company. She had great success in “Fedora” (1883) and “Cleopatra” (1890). Fellow actor, Otis Skinner, in a backhanded compliment stated that “Miss Davenport was a handsome woman, her business sense keen and her industry untiring. To these qualities rather than her acting, she owed the late success in which she accumulated a fortune in her productions.” The second photograph features a portrait of Davenport by Thomas Houseworth, whose studio was located in San Francisco, California. This image was part of the “Houseworth Celebrities” series. The series included three thousand titles for different categories, including entertainment and government. Note the carving below the chairs armrest in this photograph. Also take notice of Miss Davenport’s interesting hat. Thomas Houseworth (1828-1915) was an optician, photographer, and photographic publisher. Houseworth and George S. Lawrence came to San Francisco in 1849, during the Gold Rush. They caught gold fever and worked as miners in Calavera and Trinity counties. After two years of mining, they admitted defeat, and returned to San Francisco. In 1855, they partnered in a store that sold optical supplies and other miscellaneous items; but the partners became most well known for their stereographs. In 1859 they sold stereographs from an English company, but they soon contracted with local photographers to acquire and publish a diverse collection of stereos featuring various aspects and scenery of northern California and western Nevada. Later, they began to publish and market stereographs under their own name and by the early 1860’s had built the largest collection of stereographs for sale on the west coast. Lawrence retired in 1868 and the firm became known as Thomas Houseworth and Company. Houseworth hired the most talented photographers he could find. His photographers included Thomas Hart (Transcontinental Railroad Construction), Carleton Watkins (The Sierras’), and Eadweard Muybridge (Yosemite). By the 1870’s Houseworth’s business was failing due to increased competition. He left the field of photography in the 1880’s and went to work as an accountant and an optometrist.
A handsome young couple pose for their portrait at the Reed photography studio in Quincy, Illinois. This unidentified endearing couple are nicely dressed, and the woman is wearing a necklace. Advertising on the bottom of the front of the cabinet card indicates that Reed operated a branch studio in La Grange, Missouri. To view other couple portraits, click on the category entitled “Couples”. Candace McCormick Reed (1818-1900) was born in Crab Orchard, Tennesee and moved to Missouri as a young girl. In 1842, she married Warren Reed, a photographer. The couple left Missouri and relocated to Quincy, Illinois, and established a daguerreotype gallery in 1848. Warren Reed died in 1858 and Candace Reed became the gallery owner and photographer. She quickly sold the gallery and opened a new gallery which she named the “Excelsia Gallery”. Candace’s sister, Miss Celina McCormick, worked as an assistant in the studio. At times, Candace worked under the name of Mrs W A Reed or Mrs Warren Reed. She kept her gallery up to date technologically and she was especially gifted in the art of painting photographs. She was known for her talent in enlarging old photographs and retouching them in crayon, oil, watercolor, and India ink. Candace was able to financially support her two children and mother-in-law, with proccds fro the business. Candace was admirably very civic minded. She established a support organization for soldiers and their families during the civil war. The group was called the “Sisters of the Good Samaritan”. She also served as a nurse in Union Army hospitals in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Vicksburg. While she was volunteering for the Union effort, she left her gallery in the care of her brother, who was also a photographer. After the war, Candace operated the Quincy gallery, and also ran galleries in Missouri. The galleries were located in the towns of Canton, La Grange, and Palmyra. Candace Reed’s Quincy gallery was in busines between 1848 and 1888.
A smiling young woman, wearing a navy sailor uniform, poses for her portrait at the Silkworth studio in Brooklyn, New York. The attractive subject in this photograph may be an actress or a dancer. Is it a coincidence that she is being photographed in the some borough as the Brooklyn Naval Yard? The photographer, Amos W. Silkworth, married into the photography business. In 1885, he married Mary Biffar, and took over her father ‘s photography studio. His father-in-law’s name was Henry Biffar. The address on this cabinet card is 795 Manhattan Avenue and research found that he operated a studio in 1888 and 1899 from 261 Manhattan Avenue. This address was reported to be in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Silkworth had a letter published in “The American Annual of Photography” (1899). At an unknown time, he retired from business and relocated to Mattituck, Long Island, New York. In 1917, “The “Bulletin of Photography” announced Silkworth’s death from Brights Disease at age fifty-five.
Perhaps the photographer of this unique cabinet card faced a dilemma. After posing the short man with two canes in in a chair between the two normal sized men, the photographer may have realized that the resulting portrait would look disproportionate and unattractive. After this realization, perhaps the photographer had a flash of creativity and imagined the “Up, Up, and Away” concept utilized in this photograph. The concept worked. The resulting image is fun, action packed, and proportionate (all three men’s heads are at the same level). This terrific image shows two men hoisting a disabled man, holding two canes, into the air. Two of the men are wearing straw hats, and the man in the middle is wearing a derby. All three men seem to be in good humor. Note the “Daily Ohio” newspaper sticking out of one of the men’s pocket. The newspaper may be “The Ohio Daily Statesman”. This particular newspaper was an early Columbus publication but the date that the newspaper issued its last edition has yet to be uncovered. Therefore, unknown whether the Statesman was still published at the time of this photograph. The photographers of this photograph are Edward B. Champion and Robert M. Davie, of Columbus, Ohio.
The parents of these five siblings must have been pleased when the photographer, Robert Ophoven, gave them this portrait. The children are beautiful, well dressed, and well posed. All three girls are wearing jewelry and their hair was carefully styled for this portrait. It is also interesting to note the intimacy between the three girls. the middle girl has an arm around the shoulders of one sister while her other arm is being grasped by her other sister. This image was photographed in Duren, Germany.
This cabinet card has many of the features of the “typical” little girl portrait of it’s era. A cute little girl poses in a nice dress alongside the customary chair and fur. The subject is wearing a necklace. She appears to be gazing at the camera with a degree of caution. The photograph was taken at Kempf’s Art Studios which was located in Brooklyn, New York. Advertising on the reverse of the photograph indicates that “Artistic Portraits of Children has been our Successful Specialty for 22 Years”. Charles L. Kempf was a photographer that began operating a Brooklyn studio in at least the late 1870’s and the studio was named after himself. He was listed in a Brooklyn business directory as early as 1874. A new business name, “Kempf’s Photographic Art Gallery” was esablished in the 1890’s and was in business until at least 1905. An early advertisement for Kempf’s Photography business appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle in 1876. The Photographic Times (1894) reported that Kempf’s patent for a photographic plate holder had expired. The 1910 United States census reveals that Kemp was 61 years old and born in 1849. He was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1853, at the age of four years old. The census disclosed that he was married to Almira Kempf and lived with his wife and daughter, Florence (age 32).