United States Boys' Clothes: 1850s Families


Figure 1.-- This quarter plate daguerreotype is undated. We would guess that it was taken in the 1850s. While we unfortunately have no information identifying the family, they were clearly prosperous. And the image provides a great example of period fashion. It was in a full case and shows a man and wife with their young son. Click on the image to see the inside of the daguerreotype case.

The 1850s was the first decade in which large numbers of photographs are available. Many more portraits appear in the 1850s. More photographic studios openened as the more individuals developed the needed skills and photography becanme increasingly excepted. More people began to want both individual and family portraits. Prices declined, but were still relatively expensive, limiting the number of portraits made. New less-expensive formats including Ambrotypes and tin-types added to the growrg of the industrty. Boys tend to have short hair, but it is often down to their ears and sometimes covering their ears. Younger boys might have ringlets. We see tunics and tunic-like shirts. Jackets often buttoned to the neck. Collars were generally small. Most boys wore long pants. Dresses mostly had high neck lines, commoming buttoning at the collar. Also all the images are formal studio portraits so we tend to only see families dressed up in their best

1850s: Unidentified Family (Unknown state)

Unfortunately we do not yet know enough about the 1840s to be able to diferentiate between dagstaken in the 40s and 50s. We tend to think that dags from the early 40s are relatively rare and there are more from the early 50s than the late 40s. Thus we tend to think this family dag was taken in the 1850s, probably the early ot mid-50s, but we are largely guessing. This is two great sixth plate daguerreotypes. One of the mother and another of her children. They are combined in a union case. Both images have the same painted backdrop. There is some pinkish tinting in the sky area of the backround. Also some faint tinting on the younger child's shirt with low neck line. He is surely a boy. Note the top curl roll. He looks to be about 3 years old and has already been breeched. This child also holds a image case. His older sis is wearing earrings.

1850s: Unidentified Family (Unknown state)

This wonderful family Daguerotype shows the children of an unidentified family. The posture suggests a close-knit family. We woild guess that they are about 5-15 years of age. The older girl's lomg dress is one reason she may be 15 years old, perhps even 16. We see a range of clothing styles, but unfortunately the portrait is undated. This is a problem we face with most of the Dags we have archived. It is a major problem in dating 1840s-50s fashions. The boys wear the collar-buttoning military-style jackets tht were so popular in the mid-19th century. We think a dating clue is that the boys seem to be wearing matching pants--at least based on the older boy as we can see his pants. This would suggest the 1850s more than the 40s, perhps even the early-60s. Note the younger boy's jacket is done with cut away styling. We have never seen this styling before. Notice the small white collars without neckwear. We also believe this was more common in the 50s than 40s. The girls of course wer dresses. The younger girl who hold a great porcelin doll wears a short dress wih her legs covered by pantalttes. We are not sure how to date this, but believe it was the fashion in the 40s and 50s. Here we knw less about girls' styles. Another feature of the girls' defined-waist dresses is the low necklines. We thought this was more common in the 40s than the 50s, but are not at all sure about this. Note the older girl's neckline is edged with lace. This seems more common in the 50s than the 40s. The gir;s dresses are very plin, but we see smocking on the older girl's dress.

1850s: Unidentified Family (Unknown state)

This 1/6 plate Daguerreotype shows three children. There is no indormation associated with the portrait such as location on date. We do not know where it was taken, but would guess priobanly the early 50s. The 1840s is possible, but the early 50s would seem more likely. We have no idea who the children are, but they look about 6-12 years old. The children almost certainly are siblings given their coordinated outfits. The girls wear matching plaid dresses. The boy wears a different plaid shirt. Also notice the different hair dos. The curls have center parts. The portrait It is preserved in a geometric union case.

About 1850: Walter Family (Pennsylvania/Washington, DC)

Thomas Ustick Walter is best known as the Capitol arcitecht and respobsible for the building's impressive dome. Walter after losing his first wife married again. The second marriage in 1848 was with Amanda Gardiner. Amanda Gardiner Walter (1821-92). Ananda was the daughter of Richard and Hannah Gardiner. Amanda gave Thomas two more children and helped raise six children from the first marriage. We have found a daguerreotype of Walter's second family taken about 1850. The black nursemaid pictured with the family reportedly came with Amanda from Washington, D.C. Because both Amanda and Thomas were from Pennsylvania, a free state, we belive she was a free woman. Walter was appointed the Capitol architecht in 1851, about the time the portrait here was taken.

1850s: Unknown Family (Unknown state)

A Daguerreotype portrait show what looks kike a family group, the father, mother, and apparently an only child. We have no idea where they lived in America. The mother has lightly tinted cheeks in checkered dress holding a book. This was somewhat unusual because it was more common for the boy or man to be pictured with a book. The father has lost an arm. I thought this night be a Civil War veteran, but he looks rather old to have been in the War. The boy holds his father's stubby arm. He hs a very plain suit. The Daguerreotypist has tinted the boy's shirt blue. I am not sure. butthis suggests that the shirt may actually have been blue. Is curly hair covrs his ears as does that of his father. We think this is an 1850s dag, but we are not at all sure how to date these dags.

1850s: Unidentified family (Unknown state)

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 and the cape the girls wore. The boys have relatively short hair, but down to their ears.. Their sister wears ringlet curls.

1850s: Unidentified Family (Ohio)

Here we see a Daguerrotype portrait the children of an unidentified American family. All we know for sure is that they lived in Cincinatti, Ohio. The portrait is undated, but we believe was taken in the 1850s. It could have been taken in the 40s or early-60s. There are three neatly dressed children about 4-11 years old. The younger girl stands on an iron chair and wears a dress with a low neckline and short skirt along with pantalettes. Her older sister wears a dress with a high collar and skirt down to her ankles. Their brother wears a collar-buttoning suit jacket with many brasss buttons, a white collar, and long pants. Many were blue, but the black and white photography of the date only hints of the color as most of these jackets are dark, suggesting blue. The collar buttoning jackets look rather like U.S. Army uniforms. We know the studio because it was stamped into the metal frame--Frais in Cincinati, Ohio. This was not very common.

1850s: Unidentified Family (Ohio)

Here we have a wonderful half-plate Daguerreotype of a Cinncinati, Ohio family. The portrait was taken at the Faris studio. The portrait is undated, but the fact that it is a Daguerreotype and based on the clothing and hair style, it is most likely a pre-Civil War portrait. Thus the 1850s is a good approximation. This is a charming family portrait showing a very tender relationship within the family. Some portraits are taken with family members not touching each other. Here despite the fact that the family members had to be very still for the portrait, it does not have the stiff feeling of many old portraits. It also provides a wonderful look of period hair styles and clothing.

1850s: Unidentified family (Unknown state)

This quarter plate daguerreotype is undated. We would guess that it was taken in the 1850s. While we unfortunately have no information identifying the family, they were clearly prosperous. And the image provides a great example of period fashion. It was in a full case and shows a man and wife with their young son. The little boy is wearing a polka dot button up blouse with what looks like a small ruffled collar. The mother has on a beautiful cameo brooch. The father looks a little stern and wears a pop-up collar. The leather case has two clasps and is with velvet and gold accents.

1855: Unidentified Family (Connecticut)

The Daguerreotype here is a wonderful portrait of the children in a family. We do not know the name of this American family, but we know that they were from Danbury, Connecticut on November 16, 1855. The children look to be from about 1-6 years old. We have not been able to find many dags which have dates or location. Here the portratist has written "Ritton, Danbury, Ct. Nov. 16th, 1855." We know from John Craig's Craig's Daguerreian Registry that E.D. Ritton was a Daguerreian working in Danbury during 1850-1860. The posing is wonderful and understated. The daguerreotypist knew how to put the emphasis on the children and to capture them as a threesome. The body language and interaction is as good as it gets. Much of the char, of this image is how the children are holding on to each other. On the actual dag there is a masterful application of color. Notice the boy's hair cut over his ears. He has a small whirte collar wirn with a modest bow. He looks to be wearing a jacket without lapels, but it could be a sweater. Notice that the jacket does not match the pants. Also notice the bold pattern of his long pants. Even quite young boys like this commonly wore long pants in the 1850s. He is wearing stripped stockings, but we are not sure abougt the length. The child on his right is surely his sister. Both the other two children wear dresses and pantalettes. The dresses are different. The older girl has a print dress while the younger child a very plain dress. Notice thatthe two children in dresses wear knee socks and not long stockings. We are not sure, however, about the gender of the middle child. We are not sure, but the younger child seems to have ringlets. Note that the older girl does not.

Mid-1850s: Unidentified Family (Maryland)

This beautiful half plate Daguerreotype portrait is undated, We know, however, it was taken in the 1850s. This is because the Daguerreotypists was Henry Pollock in Baltimore, Maryland. And he omly opened his studio in 1850. We suspect it was taken in the mid-1850s because other formats (Ambrotypes and tin-types began to compete with Dags by the 1850s. Also we don't see outfits like this bdeing worn for the CDV portrait that becamd popular in the early 1860s. The portrait of this young fmily has been wondurfully tinted. The children look aboot 3-6 years old. Gorgeous hand tinting for the boy's tunic and the and the little girl's dress, as well as Mom's bow. The mother holds her daughter's head close to her to keep her little girl's head still during the long exposure. The portrait was housed in a full case (split spine) with a plain design.

1858: Gaillard Family (South Carolina)

Franklin Gaillard was a Lt. Col in the Army of Norther Virginia, the 2nd South Carolina Infantry. He was a competent officer receiving rapid promotions during the War. He is of interest to Civil War historians primarily because he was a prolific letter writer. His descriptive and insightful letters of the various campaigns in his letters home to his two children are valuable historical documents. Franklin was born to planter parents in Pineville, a small town north of Charleston, South Carolina (1829). We know little of his childhood. From an early point he proved to be an excellent student and fine writer. His family moved to Alabama, but Gaillard remained in South Carolina with his uncle in Fairfield County. This was a county in north-central South Carolina, just north of the state capital in Columbia. The county seat was Winnsboro. Franklin attended Mount Zion Academy in Winnsboro. As an older student, Gaillard developed a strong interest in politics. He graduated from South Carolina College (today's University of South Carolina). His academic skills made him the class valedictorian (1849). He then took off for the California gold fields where he spent 3 years. When he returned to his uncle's home without making his fortune, he purchased the local Winnsboro Register (about 1852). This was a small newspaper with a strongly southern democratic meaning pro-slavery outloook. And the readership shared that opinion. He married that same year. The young couple had two children, a boy and girl. His wife tragically died (1856). Gaillard's journalistic work in Winsboro was noted. He accepted an offer to become the chief editor of the Carolinian, an important daily state newspaper. As a result, just as the American sectional crisis was reaching a critical point, Gaillard was thrust into the middle of the public discourse in his state, the most radical of all the southern states.

Late-1850s: Brother and Sister (Unknown location)

Here is a wonderful Ambrotype portrait of a little American boy and his big sister. The portrait is undated, but we would gues it was probably taken about 1855-60. The children are emacuately dressed, suggesting aell to do family. The boy looks to be about 5-years old. He wears a collar buttoning jacke wuth a small white collar. His hair come down to his ears. His big sister looks to be about 13-14 yers old and has an elaborate hair do. Here hairs seems to be done ip in plaits on top of her head looking lmost like cap. Notice the checked hair ribbons in back. Her plaid dress has a low neckline, a very sender waist, and a full skirt. The short sleeves have a white ruffle. She wears a ring on her left rig finger and has some kind of wrist band. I'm not sure what material was used. She also seems to have one on her left arm. This is how southern belles are often depicted in the movies. And the dress would seem most appriorriate for a southern climate, but northern girls may have dressed like this during the summer.

Late-1850s: Unidentified Family (Unknown state)

This is a 1/2 plate tinted tintype of four children well dressed, two boys and two girls. They look prosperous, but we wonder if the tin-type suggests that perhaps grandmother was pincjing pennies. They are pictured with who looks to be their grandmother kneeling by their side. The one red dress and gold jewelry are beautiful. Such a brightly colored dress is unusual in these old portraits and makes the little girl stand out against her siblings. We assume this means that little girls at the time wore brightly colored dresses, but this needs to be confirmed. One boy is also wearing a gold cross necklace. It was quite common in dags to add a touch of gillding to gold jewelry. Note that only the younger boys wears a necklace. The younger boy wears a cut-away jacket with a vest. The older boy wears a collar buttoning jacket. Both have small white collar. They also both wear long trousers which were still common at mid-century. We can see very little of their older sister. Grandmother wears a horizontaly striped dress. The portrait is undated, but its dag-like metal frame and the clothing suggest the late 1850s or early 60s.

Late-1850s: Unidentified Family (Unknown state)

This is a cased tintype which helps to date the portrait to the late-1850s. The early-1860s is possible. We see mom and dad with their young son. Most portraists woyldhave placed the boy in the center. Here we suspect that moher wanted to be in the center. The body language suggests a closeknit family. We alwats wonfer in these portraits to what extent the body lanhug is posed or nturally occurs. Dad has his hand behind mother's back and the boy has slipped his hand under mother's arm. Fatherwears a suit with a cravatt. Mother wears a voluminour dress with a lace collar and hair ribbons.The little boy who looks to be about 5 years old seems a little worried. He wears a white collar and collar buttoning jacket cut rther like a short tunic. We notice two brothers in New Zealand wearing similar short tops only tunics. Similar tops at the time look like they were done more in lihht shirt fabric r=than suiting. Unlike many early portraits, their hair is well combed.

Late-1850s: American Brothers (Unknown state)

This a quarter plate ambrotype portrai of four boys (presumavly bothers). Thie portrait is nicely tinted with a peripheral ring that is iridescent and toning on the edge. Unfortunately the boys are not idebtified and we have no idea where the portrait was taken. Looking at the photograph you can see that the two younger boys have matching cut-away jacket suits with white collars and no neckwear. The two older boys have collar bows with lighter-colored sack suits. This complementary dress is also seen in their hair styles with the younger boys having ringlet curls. The older brothers look to be about 9-14 years old. The younger brothers look closer in age , about 5-7 years old. They may even be twins. old. The portrait is not dated, but was probably taken in the late-1850s. The early 60s is possible, but the CDV rapidly replaced both Daguerreotypes and Ambrotypes after about 1862. The cut-away jackets were very common in the 1860s, but note that they are not significantly cut away.

Late-1850s: Unidentified Family (Unknown state)

This ambrotype portrait shows a woman with two children. They clearly come from a well-to-do family. It was probably taken in the late-1850s. The very early-60s is possible, especially as the father is absent. We do not know where in Anmerica it was taken. The mother wears a voluminous dress with a small lace collar. Women's dresses at the time used copious quantities of fabric. The children look 8-10 years old. The girl wears a low-cut dress edged with trim and holds flowers. Her hair ids done in ringlert curls. Her oklder brother wears a dark jacket that does not button at ther collar, but we cannot make out much detail. He has a prominant starched collar which he wears with a blue stock. Bows were not yet very common.

Late-1850s: Unidentified Family (Illinois )

This colorized ambrotype portrait shows an unidentified yong family family, orobably during the late-1850s. The dealer believes it came from Chicago or the Chicago area. The man had a fashionable beard, a style we have noted at mid-century. We have noted Mormons wearing this style, but are not sure if it had any association with specific communities. He wears a stock, vest and suit jacket with wide lapels. The pants are a contrasting rather than matching color. His wife wears a patterned dress with a white collar and narrow waist. They have two children. The younger child on the left looks to be about 1-year old. He wears a patterned dress with a belt and we think long trousers, although it us a bit difficult to tell. Notice his top roll hair do. His older sibling looks to be about 5-years old and seems to be a girl, especilly as she has flowers in her hair. She also wears a patterned dress. She also has a belt which we think was more common for boys. We do see girls with belt-like waistlines, but they seem more like fabric waistbands than belts. This girl seems to have a belt.








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Created: 4:59 AM 1/4/2007
Last updated: 3:50 AM 6/27/2018