CHILD BRIDE AND CHILD GROOM: A TOM THUMB WEDDING PORTRAIT (VINTAGE PHOTOGRAPH)

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This vintage photograph features two beautiful children in a wedding portrait. The bride and groom in this image were likely participants in a “Tom Thumb Wedding”. Such wedding were not uncommon after the 1863 wedding of P. T. Barnum’s side show actor Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren (also a dwarf/little person). Ten thousand guests attended General Thumb’s wedding and the couple were received by President Lincoln. Now, back to the children in this image. A number of people held weddings between very young children. There were fake ceremonies but real receptions. Quite often these events were held as money-makers for charities. The bride and groom in this image are well dressed and coiffed. The bride is amazingly well poised.They truly look like a miniature wedding couple. To view other vintage “Tom Thumb” photographs, click on the category “Tom Thumb Wedding Portraits”.

 

 

Published in: on August 30, 2016 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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BEAUTIFUL PORTRAIT OF A BRIDE AND GROOM AT THEIR TOM THUMB WEDDING (VINTAGE REAL PHOTO POSTCARD)

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This vintage real photo postcard features two children posing as a bride and groom. The bride looks beautiful in her wedding dress and the groom is adorable in his tuxedo and top hat. Obviously, this is not a real wedding photo. However, it is likely an example of a Tom Thumb Wedding portrait. “Tom Thumb Weddings” were inspired by the marriage of  little people, Charles Stratton and Lavinia Warren. The couple were both working as attractions for P. T. Barnum, of circus fame. Stratton was known as General Tom Thumb. The pair were married in 1863 and the wedding was a lavish affair. People were fascinated by the couple’s wedding and reception. The event was called “The Greatest Little Wedding” and people became so obsessed that they began to create their own “miniature weddings”.  At these weddings, the bride, groom, and bridal party were composed of young children. These weddings were run like plays and often money raised at these events were used for charitable purposes. This postcard photograph may be from one of these Tom Thumb weddings but I can not be certain.The previous owner of this postcard, a postcard maven, described this postcard as being from Germany and as being published around 1909. I can not substantiate that “Tom Thumb Weddings” took place in Germany. To view other “Tom Thumb Wedding” photographs, click on the category “Tom Thumb Wedding Portraits”.

 

ROSE ZAZEL: PRETTY AND EXPLOSIVE YOUNG WOMAN (FIRST FEMALE HUMAN CANNONBALL)

HUMAN CANON BALL_0005This cabinet card portrait features a pretty young woman who was quite a daredevil. She was the first female canonball. Her stage name was Rose Zazel. In this photograph she is wearing her namesake rose as well as a necklace, bracelet, and earrings. She is also wearing a risque costume. Miss Zazel’s act involved being shot from a spring loaded cannon invented by “The Great Farini”. Zazel’s given name was Rossa Matilda Richter and she was just 14 years of age when she was engaging in this exciting but reckless behavior. At one point, she toured with the PT Barnum Circus. Eventually she suffered a career ending injury when she missed a safety net and suffered a broken back. The information I cited about Rose Zazel comes from an interesting article on Scribol.com. The article is entitled “Seven Most Mind Blowing She-Daredevils in History” and it was written by Karl Fabricus. The article included the image below which is a poster advertising an appearance of “Zazel the Human Projectile”.  This cabinet card image was photographed by Marc Gambier, a well known photographer of celebrities. You can view more of his images and learn more about him in the category “Photographer: Gambier”.

Zazel_The_Human_Projectile_vintage_poster_on_display_at_the_Circus_World_Museum_in_Baraboo,_Wisconsin.

MAUDE BRANSCOMBE: CELEBRATED BEAUTY AND ACTRESS

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Maude Branscombe was a very popular stage beauty and light opera singer. She was reported to be the most photographed woman of her day. Biographical information about her is sparse and more will be added at a later date. Her first appearance on the New York stage was in 1876 as Cupid in a revival of Ixion at the Eagle Theatre. The portrait at the top was photographed by renowned W & D Downey of London, England.

The second portrait  was cropped so the photographer is unknown.

The third portrait (Branscombe is wearing a necklace) is by L. Levin & Son of San Francisco, California.

The fourth cabinet card image was photographed by Sarony. Sarony was a well known celebrity photographer and more of his portraits can be viewed by clicking on the category of “Photographer: Sarony”. Sarony does an excellent job of capturing Branscombe’s beauty and her alluring eyes.

The fifth and sixth, and seventh cabinet card were photographed by another celebrity photographer, Jose Mora, of New York City. Interestingly, the fifth and seventh cabinet card captures Branscombe in the same costume as the second cabinet card. It is likely that the photographer of cabinet card number two, is also Jose Mora. To view other photographs by Mora, click on the category of “Photographer: Mora”.

The eighth cabinet card portrait of Branscombe was photographed by Howell, another New York City photographer with a studio on Broadway. Howell’s close-up photograph captures the actress’s beauty and her wonderful eyes. She is wide eyed and her hair is a bit mussed. These qualities add to the allure of Miss Branscombe.William Roe Howell was born in 1846 in Goshen, New York. He had a passion for drawing and painting and he directed his creative interest into the field of photography as a young adult. He opened a photographic studio in Goshen. In 1863 he moved to New York City where he joined Robert and Henry Johnston at Johnston Brothers Studio at 867 Broadway. In 1866 the firm became Johnston & Howell. In 1867, he became the sole proprietor of the gallery. By 1870, he was gaining much recognition in the field of photography. His great location in New York City gave him access to many fashionable upper class men and women as well as many celebrities. Among his photographic subjects were P. T. Barnum, Buffalo Bill, and Robert E. Lee. He opened a branch studio in Brooklyn. In 1873 he came one of five Americans to be awarded a special grand prized at the Vienna World Fair. He frequently received mention in the photographic journals. He published a book of cabinet cards that received much praise. He became a photographer for West Point, Princeton, and other notable institutions. He won many medals at photography exhibitions. In 1878 he moved his business from 867 to 889 Broadway and opened another studio with a partner (Meyer) at 26 West 14th Street. In 1880 he retired from photography due to health reasons.  In 1886 he moved with his family to Washington D.C. intent on opening a photography business there. He then disappeared. He vanished just two weeks before the grand opening of his new studio. He left his wife of 16 years (Fannie Scott) and his five children penniless. His wife stated that Howell was an eccentric man and that he must have got tired of business and family problems “and cut loose from us”.  He apparently returned home after a short duration of absence and his business appeared in the 1888 Washington D. C. business directory but not in the 1889 directory. He died of tuberculosis in New York City in 1890. He had been residing at the home of a colleague who ran a photography studio in Harlem. It is believed by some biographers that he had divorced his wife and returned to New York without his family.

The ninth cabinet card is another portrait photographed by Jose Mora. The actress’s costuming detracts from the overall appeal of the photograph. She seems lost in the swirl of her head covering. However, the photographer does an excellent job of highlighting Miss Branscombe’s seductive eyes. The phrase  “Maude Branscombe eyes” certainly rivals the phrase “Bette Davis eyes”.

Cabinet card number ten also comes from the studio of Jose Mora. She is well dressed in this portrait. It is not clear if she is dressed for a stage role or if she is attired for a jaunt around town.

IS THIS A TOM THUMB WEDDING PHOTOGRAPH OR IS THIS A PORTRAIT OF A REINCARNATED GEORGE AND MARTHA WASHINGTON?

This cabinet card poses an interesting question. My first impression upon looking at the photograph was that it was an example of a “Tom Thumb Wedding Portrait”. What is a “Tom Thumb Wedding” ?  The answer offers an interesting social commentary. A “Tom Thumb Wedding” is a wedding pageant in which the major wedding roles are played by children; usually under ten years old. Not only are the bride and groom portrayed, but so are the best man, maid of honor, groomsmen, bridesmaids and the clergyman. Some of these weddings involved more then twenty children playing costumed parts. Often times, the weddings were fund raising events for charitable causes.  These faux weddings became popular after the wedding of General Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton) to Lavinia Warren in 1863. Tom Thumb’s wedding was very publicized by the media in America and received the attention across the county. Not having any royal families, Americans had to find celebrities to obsess over. Tom Thumb had a great promoter keeping him in the public’s eye. P. T. Barnum, the circus entrepreneur managed Tom Thumbs career. The previous owner of this cabinet card contends that this image is actually a portrait of a boy and a girl portraying George and Martha Washington. I have to give the last owner’s theory credibility because over the years I have been collecting these photographs, I have seen a number of portraits of children portraying George and Martha. Sometimes the images present them together and sometimes separately. In conclusion, there is no conclusion. What do you think, “Tom Thumb Wedding” or “Portrayal of George and Martha Washington”. The photographer of this image is R. B. Lewis of Hudson, Massachusetts. He is cited in the Photographic Journal of America (1893) for an excellent photograph of a football team. Lewis is also listed in the Hudson city directory as a photographer between at least 1872 and 1909. Click on the category, “Tom Thumb Wedding” to view other examples of  “Tom Thumb Wedding” photographs. To view other photographs by R. B. Lewis, click on the category “Photographer: Lewis”.

FIREMAN IN BRIDGEPORT, CONNECTICUT

A fireman poses for his photograph at the studio of Montignani of Bridgeport, Connecticut. The fireman’s cap has a badge with the insignia of “50”. He is holding a pair of gloves. The location of Montignani’s studio is listed on the bottom of the card as being “over Pequonock Bank”. The bank was loctated at 304 Main Street. An interesting irrelevant fact is that circus man, P. T. Barnum,  was once President of the Pequonock Bank. The photographer is Frank M. Montignani. An 1888 photography journal praises Montignani as taking some of the most “perfect” photographs of Barnum’s circus processions. An 1892 photography journal advertises Montignani’s photographic studio for sale.

Published in: on October 30, 2010 at 12:01 am  Comments (1)  
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FIVE SIBLINGS IN MORRISON, ILLINOIS

This Cabinet Card photograph is an image of five children, who by appearance, seem to be siblings. The photographer is Barnum of Morrison, Illinois. The photographer is likely F. C. Barnum. In addition to being a photographer, Barnum served on the Morrison Board of Education and also served as Mayor.

Published in: on July 4, 2010 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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