United States Boys Clothing: 1840s Families


Figure 1.--This quarter-plate Daguerreotype shows a young family with their little boy. Often families at the time were larger. We are guessing that this is a new family with their first child, although the father and mother do not look real young. Note the mother's classic hair style. The little boy and father are holding a pull toy of some sort, perhaps a fluffy dog whose tail is in front of the boy's face. The boy looks to be about 2-3 years old. Note that he has aklready been breeched. This and other early images suggest that many boys in the early-19th century were breeched atcareklatively early age. We suspect that this was a function of social class and prosperity. A dealer dates this image to about 1849. We are not sure how such a definitive dating is possible. The dealer seems to have used the case design. We believe the late-1840s is posible, but so is the early-50s.

Photographic studios began to open in America during 1840 and spread very quickly, much more quickly than in Europe. Thus we have many more American Dags than European Dags. The first commercially viable photographic process was the Daguerreotype. We have a few family images which we believe to be from the 1840s. This is difficult to determine because most Daguerreotypes are not dated. The number of 1840s Daguerreotypes was still limited and the cost still relatively high. Thus images from the 1840s are relatively rare. Many are individual portraits of wealthy or important individuals. There are realtively few family portraits. Even so there are more Daguerreotypes than painted portraits which were even more expensive. Thus while 1840s Daguerreotypes are relatively rare, we have more images from the 1840s than the earlier decades of the 19th century. Unfortunately most Daguerreotypes are not dated and we find it extremely difficult to destinguish between 1840s and 1850s Dags. Very early-1840s Dags are rare, but by the end of the decade with the spread of the industry, quite a fews Dags exist.

Morgan Family (about 1843)

J.P. Morgan is perhps themost renowned finncr in AMERICan history. He was a kinf of in-official national banker before the creation of the Federal Reserve. We notice a very early photographic portrait probably taken about 1843. He loks to be about 5-6 years old. The girls wear dresses with full skirts, the youngest has low-neckline. Pierpont wrs a kind of blouse with a frilly white collar and buttons set off in black velvet, long oants, and white sicks. This is onee of our earliest photographic images. It looks to be a CDV reproduction of a Dag. It is a very high-qulity image, probably reflecting the Morgan family's ability to aford a good sudio.

Saran L. and William Chifa (Late-1840s)

The image here is a mother and son, Sarah L. and William Chifa (sp?). Unfortunately we have no information about the family. There is, however, information associated with this Daguerreotype. We have no idea where it was taken. All we know for sure is Sarah died in 1857. The boy's less than stylish clothes suggest that it was not in one of the developing large northeaster cities where people dressed more stylishly. We are also unsure about the date the portrait weas taken. The clothing suggests the 1840s to us, but the early 50s is possible. The boy looks to be about 11. years old. He has a shirt with a small collar and he wears a stock. He also wears a jacket unlike we have seen before. We see some influence of the frock coats worn by men as well as a hink of the smocks worn by laborors. Perhaps readers will know more about the style. Presumably it is a jacket that the boy's mother made at home. There were no readt maf=de clothes yet. This may have been a style worn in the 1840s. Or it may have been a more unique style. The mother wears a bonnet. We see quite a few women with bonnets in these early poertaits. We are not entirely sure why.

Unidentified Family (1840s)

Here we have a beautifully posed Daguerreotype of a mother and her two children who look to be about 5-8 years old. The typical formality of a Dag is softened by the way the photographr as placed the children's hands. It ispossible that this happened without prompting, but we suspect that this was the touch of a very competent early Daguerreotypist. The hair is very carefully done, something we do not always see in Dags. This may be mom's work, but we suspect that the Daugerreotypist probanly mentioned it to mom. The Dag is not dated, but the clothes suggestthe 1840s to us. The girl wears a basic stripe print dress. As is common with Dgs, mny of the boys do not wear suits. The boy wears a button on blouse with a small rounded collar. It looks to be heavily pleated, something we have not noted before. He also seems to be wearing felt long pants.

Unidentified Family (About 1847)

A British dealer offered this late 1840s (1846-48) American cased daguerreotype. It depicts eight children, presumably from the same family. They are posed according to age/size. Two of the children appear to be twins (not identical). All the boys wear suits, some with clearly visible vests. The most interesting fashion observation is that the older boys have stock neckwear and tucked in collars. The younger boys do not have neckwear and their larger collars flare out. Strangely there are only two girls who can be identified by both dress and center-hair parts. They are gently being held by their big brothers. The variety and scope of personality in this image make it an intriguing portrait. Unfortunately there is no maker's mark and no identification for the children. The back of case has a swirly radial pattern or design on it.

Young Family (United States, about 1849)

This quarter-plate Daguerreotype shows a young family with their little boy (figure 1). Often families at the time were larger. We are guessing that this is a new family with their first child, although the father and mother do not look real young. Note the mother's classic hair style. The little boy and father are holding a pull toy of some sort, perhaps a fluffy dog whose tail is in front of the boy's face. The boy looks to be about 2-3 years old. Note that he has already been breeched. This and other early images suggest that many boys in the early-19th century were breeched at an relatively early age. We suspect that this was a function of social class and prosperity. A dealer dates this image to about 1849. We are not sure how such a definitive dating is possible. The dealer seems to have used the case design. We believe the late-1840s is posible, but so is the early-50s.

Unidentified Family (United States, 1840s)

This 1/6th (2 3/4 x 3 1/4th inch) plate Daguerreotype shows an unidentified family with two children, a boy about 8 years old and a teen age daughter about 16 years old. As with most Dags, there is no information included in the cased about the subjects. The boy wears a single-breasted jackets with a ptterned vest and long pabts. American boys almost always wore long pants in the first half og the 19th century. We can't tell about the collar, but he has a smallbow rather than a stock. Notice that his father has a patterned stock and not a back one. Notice his faher's wide lapels worn with a vest that also had lapels. Mother and dayhter are primly drssed in simi;ar patterned dreses. Notie their tighly done hair tyles. Mother hs varefully combe th boy's hair, but the husband's hair is wild. We think this is an 1840s Dag, perhaps the late-40s or early-50s. We are, however, not at all positive. We do not yet hve a good fix on descriminating between 1849s and 50s Dags. Perhaps readers will have some clue. The clothe suggest to us that the gamily was in confortable circumstances.







HBC






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Created: 3:25 AM 10/29/2011
Last updated: 2:45 AM 1/13/2015