Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ouch! Where's A Hidden Mother When You Need One?

How does this torture chamber work on the littlest portrait sitter? Afraid to ask?

The New Invisible Baby Holder

Pronounced by Leading Photographers the most ingenious time, labor and plate saving device ever invented. It is simple, inexpensive, and with ordinary care will last a lifetime.

Its Advantages:

The child is always in focus.
The child is instantly released.
The child is held absolutely safe.
The Holder is invisible when in use.
It can be used with any furniture or accessory.
It is quickly changed from one thing to another.
The child is supported in a comfortable manner.
It is instantly adjusted without operator handling child.
It hold twins.
It lasts a lifetime.
Any background can be used.
It hold the drapery in position.
It is adapted for standing positions.
It hold children up to six year old.
It pays for itself quickly, as it saves time, temper and plates, and secured more business.

Price, - - -$5.00
Send Orders To
Buffalo Photo Material Co.
Trade Agents
15 Niagara Street, Buffalo, N.Y.
Wilson's Photographic Magazine, 1908.

Pohle's Baby Holder

The Invisible Baby Holder was invented by Fred Pohle around 1908. The apparatus was manufactured by the Pohle-Wener Mfg. Company, also of Buffalo. In 1908 Mr. & Mrs. Pohle exhibited the device at the 1908 New England Photographic Convention. The Buffalo Photo Material Co. was the agent for Mr. Pohle.

"Fred Pohle, of Buffalo, showed an improvement on his invisible baby holder. His instrument fits round the body of the baby and holds it as the mother would hold her baby. It holds the child in a standing or sitting position on any kind of furniture or studio accessory", and is adjustable to any size child from two weeks old to six years.

It is a very neat little device, folding up into small space. In use it is not visible, as the baby's dress can be dropped, over the entire apparatus. It does not disfigure furniture in any way, as it is attached to a chair, for instance, by means of a thumb-screw fitting into a small female screw sunk flush in the chair. The saving in plates effected by its use will pay for one in about a month, as Mr. Pohle has figured out. Two or more can be used for group pictures." Wilson's Photographic Magazine, 1908.

The things they once printed. I would have thought it derogatory even then. And just to show you where my mind was when I started reading this, I thought the colored baby was going to be "red" from screaming or "blue" from being unable to breathe.

"Our compliments to Mr. Pohle for his novel and fetching idea of utilizing colored infants with which to demonstrate his "Invisible BabyHolder." The results were convincing. "Oh no! Not ours!" protested Mrs. Pohle, laughingly — an unnecessary denial, for the mother of the little pickaninny sat close by." Photo-Era Magazine, 1908.

I found no photographs that actually show the device in use, but I do have a photograph that I suspect shows the poor baby in the grip of the "Invisible Baby Holder." Look closely and you will see the arms stand away from the torso as if something is attached to the baby's body holding it in place. Also, the chair looks far to small for a mother to hide behind.

Again I Ask:
Ouch! Where's A Hidden Mother When You Need One?


Pickaninny (also picaninny or piccaninny) is a term – generally considered derogatory – that in the English language usage refers to black children, or a caricature of them which is widely considered racist. It is a pidgin word form, which may be derived from the Portuguese pequenino (an affectionate term derived from pequeno ("little"). In the Southern United States, pickaninny was long used to refer to the children of African slaves or (later) of African American citizens.

As the term was used by the Wilson's Photographic Magazine of Boston in 1908, I'd say this wasn't confined to the South.


Wilson's Photographic Magazine. New York : Edward L. Wilson, 1908.

Photo-Era, Volume 21. Photographers' Club of New England, Valley Camera Club. Boston : Wilfred A. French, 1908.


, Cabinet Card. ca. 1908. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, Preston, Washington. 2009.

Hidden Mother, Digital Image. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, Preston, Washington. 2009. Original image sold on eBay. Efforts to find the owner to request permission have failed. I am asserting fair use in the demonstration between the apparatus and a hidden mother.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I especially love the photo of the 'hidden mother'. I have a photo of my Dad, as an infant, that makes him look like he's floating in the air with his long gown obviously covering whatever kind of contraption being used.

November 19, 2009 at 6:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The baby in the first pic looks 'Jacked Up'! LOL

The children in the second pic have expressions of "This is so not cool! Why is my mom covered up like this?"

When I was in a stroller, 1951-52, some passersby commented on the 'cute little pickaninny'. My sister Elaine gave them a tongue lashing that could be heard around the block! It's a wonder that she got away with yelling at those adults.

Photography has much improved.
People's attitudes need to catch up!

"Guided by the Ancestors"

November 21, 2009 at 4:18 PM  
Anonymous Katrina McQuarrie said...

I love the expressions of the children in the second picture. Some things never change. Although I have to admit that I wonder why they bothered to cover up the mother at all, especially given that you can see her foot peeking out from under her dress...

November 22, 2009 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Renate Yarborough Sanders said...

Very interesting! We learn something new every day in the blogosphere, don't we? Now I'm going to be studying all of the old baby pictures I run across with a different eye! Thanks for sharing this. :)


November 29, 2009 at 9:14 AM  

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