American Family (probably 1850s)


Figure 1.--This American Daguerreotype shows some of the toys children played with in the mid-19th century. The Daguerreotype is undated, but we would guess the 1850s. This is a quarter plate size daguerreotype of three children. There is a wooden puppet held by the boy at right. It appears to have a case. The boy at left holds a wooden horse. The girl in the center holds a small wooden swan.

This American Daguerreotype shows some of the toys children played with in the mid-19th century. The Daguerreotype is undated, but we would guess the 1850s. This is a quarter plate size daguerreotype. Unfortunately we have no information about who the children are or who took the portrait and where. We note the small white collars and identical outfits the boys wear ab=nd the cape the girls wore. The boys have relatibely short hair. Their suster wears ringlet curls.

Toys

This American Daguerreotype shows some of the toys children played with in the mid-19th century. Toys have been found in ancient civilizations. The ancient Roman children loved toys and games. The popularity or at least the availability of toys declined in the general economic decline after the fall of Rome. Toys again begin to become more plentiful as the economy of western Europe develops. As late as the 18th and early 19th century, however, there was a general consensus that toys and games were wasteful indulgences and that even young children should be involved in more beneficial activities. This attitude had begun to significantly change by the 19th century and the Victorian era. The popularity of toys increased greatly in the 19th century as modern concepts of childhood began to form and play as an activity for children became more accepted.

Daguerreotypes

Daguerre continued Niépce's experiment. He accidentally discovered that exposed photographic plates were developed by Mercury vapors. This greatly reduced the exposure time from 8 hours down to 1/2 an hour. Daguerre announced his discovery in 1839 and named it the Daguerreotype. It was a sensation and an instant popular success. The announcement that the Daguerreotype "requires no knowledge of drawing...." and that "anyone may succeed.... and perform as well as the author of the invention" was greeted with enormous interest, and "Daguerreomania" became a craze overnight. The process could produce strikingly beautiful images. They provide us the first true photogaphs of the 19th century. The Daguerreotype process, though good, was expensive. In addition, it produced a positive image which could not be duplicated. This is a quarter plate size daguerreotype.

Chronology

The Daguerreotype is undated, but we would guess the 1850s. The quality as well as the rarity of 1840s Daguerreotypes suggests that it does not date from the 1840s. It could possibly date from the very early 1860s, but we think the 1850s more likely. After 1861 newer photographic processes suh as the CDV rapidly replaced Daguerreotypes. The clothing seems appropriate for the 1850s.

Family

Unfortunately we have no information about who the children are or who took the portrait and where. It is probably safe to say that the children are siblings. The fact that they are having a Daguerreo type taken as well as their smart clothes suggests to us that they came from an affluent damily. So would the goys, although we do not know if they are studio props.

Clothes

It is difficult to tell but the boys look to be wearing identical outfits with small white collars with rounded tips. There does not appear to be any neckwear. The girl wears a large cape with a patterned trim over her dress.

Hair Styles

The hair styles are interesting. Although the boys seem to be dressed identically, their hair styles are quite different. The younger boy seems to have his hair parted on both sides. He looks to have long hair in back, but this probably is scratches on the Daguerreotype. The older boy has a center part and hair over his ears. The girl also has a center part, but with ringlet curls.







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Created: 3:52 AM 11/4/2004
Last updated: 3:52 AM 11/4/2004