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History, Conservation, and Repair The history of photographic prints, and how best to care for and repair them.

Determining gender by hair part

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  #1  
Old 09-02-2002, 01:52 PM
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Gender hair part

I expect Tom to tackle this one since he probably is more informed than most on the subject. I picked up an image at an antique shop that I thought was interesting. I have cropped a lot of the image in order to keep file size down, and this cropped version is attached. I know that in cases where there is question of gender, one of the things to look for is the part in the hair. This is obviously an image of a young man with his hair parted down the middle. How common is an image like this? I expect that this image would have been made at a time when parts down the middle would have been thought of as feminine in nature. Am I wrong about the time period? Just wondering what the chances would be to find an image of a male with this part.

Ed
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Old 09-02-2002, 04:02 PM
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Ed, Wonderful old Image!!! Concerning the hair:
For Young men to sport a center part was fairly common in the early to mid 1870's and it continued on into the 1920's. Interestingly, U.S.Grant, during his Presidency, was heard to remark on more than one occasion that he immediately disliked and distrusted any "man" who parted his hair in the middle. In an ageless display of "Youth bucking the system" that style of part became very fashionable among the "younger" set...sort of like sticking Bolts through various anatomical locations is today, I guess.......
Upon examining the Gentlemans clothing we find the high collar, fashionable during the same general time period, although with the dawn of the 20th century, the turned down collar was becoming more appreciated...(try turning your head while wearing a cardboard ring around your neck!!)
The tie style isnt much help although 1890's or so is suggested.
The matching suit coat and vest also points to very late 19th century as before that, there was no such thing as a matching suit! Coat of one color/cloth type, vest another, pants yet another was the norm...Currently such "mixed" styles are only seen among inhabitants of cast off appliance boxes and Photo Retouchers!
It is very difficult to date a photo from mens clothes as they tended to remain very similar in style for protracted periods, unlike Ladies Fashions which changed yearly in some form and oftimes more frequently. It is sometimes possible, in selected instances, to date to an exact year by the dress.
Without examining the photo first hand I can only hazard a guess as to its date and type of process used to make it, however, as I have not stuck my foot in my mouth, or else where today, I will surmise that:
(1) this dates from approx 1895 to 1914, with my guess being 1896 to not much later than 1905 possibly 1910. Again, however, attempting to date from Mens fashions is sort of like trying to pet a Badger...infrequently you are successful, the rest of the time you get bit!
(2) As I dont know what the photo looks like, fading wise or under a microscope guessing the type of process is problematical, however just so I can make a complete Ass of myself ( thank you for the applause) I am going to venture that this is an example of the matte collodian developing out process due to the excellent tone and detail preserved. If you boosted the tone and cleared up any sepia cast, I would suspect a late Albumin printing out process photo. The other process that might have been used is that of gelatin developing out, especially if the surface is smooth and shiny and the tones are as good on the original as they are on the example. Albumin photos tend to be more faded and loose detail more than the Developing out process ones.It looks as though there may be some oxidative/reductive deterioration at the edges of the photo extending in towards the center which one would expect to see if the photo had been kept in an album or in a stack with other photos. I see no evidence that the photo was framed as there is no tell tail discolorations or protected areas around the edges. Photos will typically deteriorate from the outside borders in when stored...as the edges are more exposed than the center portions.
Again, wonderful old photo Ed!!! Wished I lived closer so I could come over and play with you toys....Tom
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Old 09-02-2002, 04:11 PM
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Ed, I'm just curious - how big is the image? Is that what's known as a "cab" card or cabinet card?

I have some of those too that I got at an antique store and every so often, it's fun to dig them out and try to find out when they might have been made.

Tom I appreciate the explanation of the hair styles and fashion and also the developing process - thanks to you, I get to sound more intelligent when talking to my clients

Margaret
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Old 09-02-2002, 04:27 PM
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Margaret, You might see if the local library carries the following book...it is easy to read and very informative:
American Victorian Costume in Early Photographs by Priscilla Harris Dalrymple

A very exhaustive tome on the same subject is:
Dressed for the Photographer, Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840 - 1900 by Joan Severa.
This is the Rosetta stone for Dating by fashion but be warned..It is exhaustive in its coverage and unless you really have a burning interest in such matters, reading it could induce one to periodically bite ones self to stay awake. In short, if reading a 500 page report detailing the dating of Mesopotamian pots by the character of their handles gives you a warm fuzzy feeling and makes you want to lock the doors and curl up by the fire to devour the tome as a delicious intellectual dessert, then Severa's book will be the intellectual equlivent of a plate full of Beliuga caviar with a side of Truffles and smoked salmon...if not, it may leave you bewildered and thankful for unisex clothing styles...Tom
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Old 09-02-2002, 08:14 PM
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Margaret,

The size of the cabinet card is 4 1/4 X 6 1/2. I have a few of them. Just picked them up because they were interesting to me.

Ed
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Old 09-02-2002, 08:24 PM
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Tom,

Thanks for a great reply. The image is actually slightly warmer in color than what I see on the monitor. I didn't make any corrections on it. The photo is shiny, and it is in such good shape that it looks like it was made yesterday. I see no signs of deterioration at all. I do see what appears as some type of deterioration on the downloaded file, but it is not visible on the original. I also have another cabinet card which has the same type of look, but it is quite faded. I know I could make a test, but the process used isn't important to me. It's just a very nice photo. Thanks again for the reply.

Ed
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Old 09-02-2002, 08:34 PM
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From that description it is either an early gelatin or collodian developed out print. It is very difficult, even with microscopic exam to differentiate between them. There is a test involving placing a drop of water on one corner of the print, allowing it to stand for 1 minute then carefully blotting it off. Examine the area, if swelling of the surface is present/ the area is soft, it is a gelatin print. No effect, collodian. I advise against this as there is really no reason for it unless you must positively identify the process used.
Due to the changes to the silver produced by the developing out chemicals, these images tend to retain the tones and gradations and resist the ravages of time much better than Albumin photos. They are clearer, sharper and dont display the degree of Sulfur based deterioration the albumin ones are so prone to. However, they are subject to the silver mirroring deteriorative effect..I think there are a couple of threads on it buried in the Vaults somewhere on the site...Tom
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Old 09-02-2002, 08:53 PM
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Yeah, that's the test I was referring to. But like you said, there's no real reason to run the test. If memory serves me correctly, early gelatin came in sometime around 1880 or so, and that's probably earlier than the speciman I have. Now you've peaked my curiosity. I'll have to dig out my book. Thanks again.

Ed
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Old 09-02-2002, 09:08 PM
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Ed, looking closely at the mounting card, I think the date of production is most possibly the early 1890's rather than my first off the cuff guess.....the mounting card is actually a better indicator than the Clothing when it comes to dating Mens photos...try this link for some more info...

http://www.city-gallery.com/guide/cabinet_date.html

Good luck....Tom
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Old 09-02-2002, 10:06 PM
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Very interesting site Tom. Thanks for the link. I'll be passing that one around.

Ed
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