Friday, June 12, 2009

The Brides of Maureen Taylor

Shades was very honored to have Maureen Taylor write an article last year discussing her collection of bridal photographs. As June is the month of Brides here on Shades, we thought you might enjoy reading that article one more time. Thank you, Maureen.

I Do Collect Photos!

The Photo Detective Website
Family Tree - Photo Detective Blog

After six years of researching and writing about members of the Revolutionary War generation who lived long enough to be photographed, i.e. after 1840, I’m focusing my spare time on one of my collecting interests—weddings photos. See Projects.

I’ve been slowly building a collection of wedding portraits because they tend to be a little (!) more expensive than your average family photo. Digital collections are helpful. The Library of Congress has a nice group of various wedding pictures. Attendees at my lectures and readers of my blogs also volunteer images. The Revolutionary War project sidetracked my collecting of wedding pictures for a while, but now I’m back at it. My collection ranges from c. 1860 to the mid-twentieth century. I’m always looking for all sorts of weddings from theatrical depictions to the average bride and groom.

Several times in the last decade I’ve written proposals for a book on wedding history and approached commercial publishers. Don’t you think all those new brides would be interested in the traditions of past generations and love to look at old matrimonial photos. Nope! Not a single taker. Now I’m seriously thinking about self-publishing on the topic. I have files, books and electronic files all in preparation to start laying it out plus I have some great photos. Over the years I’ve written articles on the topic. For a couple of years I even wrote about contemporary weddings for a fashion magazine. (It was a lot of fun to interview living brides!). I think of these pieces as preliminary work towards a book. I’ve included a list in the bibliography at the end. Here are some pictures from my collection of wedding photos.

The earliest photo in my wedding collection is this couple from the 1860s. It’s a paper print. (I’d love to have a daguerreotype of a bride, but those are very far out of my price range. Gazing at them in auction catalogs will have to suffice.) In this photo the couple’s formal attire signifies a wedding. She wears a wreath on her head, a veil and a gorgeous dress. A corsage is pinned on her bodice. Her husband wears the long sack coat popular at the time and a white tie.

(Image 1)

A chance discovery at a photo show yielded this great image. Doesn’t it look like she’s just wearing a nice dress? Well, it’s a perfect example of how not every photo of a woman in a white dress is a bride and not all brides wore white. On the back is written, “Aunt Ella in her brown corded silk wedding dress 1876.” No way could she sit down with that bustle! In 1876, this bride wore brown to show that she knew what was fashionable for weddings. It’s my favorite picture. I especially like the fact that she’s a blonde but wore a brown hairpiece on the top of her head. Color coordinated hair?!

(Image 2)

I have a lot of photographs of brides from the 1880s and 1890s. Most are not in traditional wedding gowns instead they’ve accessorized with bridal details such as white veils and flowers like this young couple from the late 1890s. The bride definitely looks older than this groom!

(Image 3)

I think this tintype from the 1880s depicts a wedding. Jumping the broom (note the broom on the floor) was a wedding tradition in African American families and also some European families. Can’t imagine what the significance of the broom is, if this isn’t a wedding. I really like the fact that they are smiling; caught in a private joke.

(Image 4)

I’ll leave you with two (o.k. three) more pictures. I’m still investigating the significance of faux weddings with children called “Tom Thumb Weddings” after the famous nineteenth century personality.

(Image 5)

There were trends in wedding photos from portraits of a couple to those that I consider glamour shots of the bride. Then there are the photos that seem to include the entire extended family.

(Image 6)

(Image 7)

Obviously, I could go on and on about wedding photos. Had enough?

Sources: All photographs in this article are in the collection of the author.

Image 1: “unidentified” Bachrach Studio, Massachusetts identified as an undated copy. Original c.1860. Collection of the author

Image 2: “Aunt Ella’s Wedding Dress. Heavy brown “corded silk” “Compliments of Ella F. Miller, March 29th, 1873.” OOPS! Said 1876 in the article. J.W. Vail, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Collection of the author

Image 3: “Christian Lynge, Maria Gegusen, Mom and Pop Nelson” DeHart & Letson, Red Bank, N.J., c. 1898. Collection of the author

Image 4: “Unidentified tintype.” Collection of the author.

Image 5: “Unidentified.” Seaver, Hyannis, Mass., c. 1901. Collection of the author.

Image 6: “Unidentified.” c. 1925. Collection of the author

Image 7: “Unidentified ethnic wedding.” c. 1905. Collection of the author


“For Love or Money?” American Spirit (May/June 2004), pp. 40-43.
“Foreign Adventures,” Family Tree Magazine, Identifying Photos
“ I Do!” Ancestry Daily News,
“My Big Fat Vintage Wedding.” Family Tree Magazine (June 2003), pp. 34-39.
“The Story Behind the Picture,” Family Tree Magazine, Identifying Photos.
“Wedding-Bell Clues, Photo Detective, Family Tree Magazine (December 2003), p. 66.
“Wedding Favors” Photo Detective , Family Tree Magazine (June 2006), pp. 72-73.
“Wedding Photos to Have and to Hold,” Ancestry Magazine (May/June 2002), pp. 16-21.


Blogger Judith Richards Shubert said...

I love Maureen's photographs and her enthusiasm. Hope she doesn't give up on that book. We genea-bloggers would love it!

June 13, 2009 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Nice to see these wedding images as a "collection." Seems like a whole new story is told when they are shown as a group.

June 13, 2009 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

I love the way people zero in one topic and study it like this. It really enriches life for all of us.
Evelyn in Montreal

June 16, 2009 at 3:47 PM  
Blogger Tina said...

I love old photographs. These are wonderful! Don't give up, Maureen. You'll get that book published.

June 17, 2009 at 5:47 PM  

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