*** United States boys clothes: families chronolgy

United States Families: Chronology

American families
Figure 1.--This cabinet card portraitbof an unidentified American was taken in the 1890s. We see a young teenage girl, a small boy in a Fauntleroy suit and their parents. The children look to be about 5-15 years old. There is no indication as to the studio and location. This was rather unusual in the 1890s as most studios had mounts advertising their name and location. We suspect it was a low budget studio in a small town, but portrait itself is done resonably professionally. Mother is clearly very fashionable. Everybody is dressed in their best, and everybody gazes a bit stiffly into the camera. The dresses with the balooning sleeves strongly suggest the portait was taken about 1895.

Images of American families over time provide a wide range of not only fashion information. but insights into American society abnd culture. Even if we have no information about a family image, we can usually estimate the decades represented by the fashions, photograpic charateristics (type, mount, frame, ect.), or other characteristic. Family images are fairly limited before the 19th century. There are paintings, but the numbers of such images are relatively small and mostly limited to the upper classes which could afford the cost. This changed with the the 19th century. One factor was the Industrial Revolution in Europe and North America and the great wealth it created. Another factor was invention of photography (1839), but really large numbers do not begin to appear until the introduction of albumen prints and CDVs (1860s). This mean that virtually any family that wanted a portrait could afford to have one made. And in the 20th century with the the appearance of the snapshot and simple, inexpensive amateur photography we move outside the studio snd formal images. We thus have much greater insights into family life.

The 17th Century

Engish investors founded the first permanent settlements in the early 17th century, first at Jamestown, Vurginia (1609) and then at Plymouth, Massachusetts (1620). We do not yet have any images of American families during this period. The number of such images is limited, but hopefully we will eventually be able to find a few.

The 18th Century

Portait painters from city studios and more commonly itinerate artyists have left us several wonderful images of Amerucan families in the 18th century. Most of these artists had no real artistic training. While they were not great mastyers, many depicted hair styles and dashion in great detail. We have only a few images of early American families in the 18th century, but have not yet linked them here. Most are located in the American art section. A good example is the William Mosley family in 1791. Readers should remenber that for the most part the painted portraits record the Colonial elite who largely following European styles. We know less about back woods styles.

The 19th Century

Images of early 19th century American families are mostly affluent families which could afford to have a portrait painted. With the development of photography in the 1830s, we begin to see many more imsges of American families by the mid-19th century. Photogography enabled even humble families to have their portraits taken. Most 19th century imsages, however are very formal views of the American family. Snap shots begin to appear in the 1890s, but amateur photography was still relatively complicated and expensive and early informal snapshots are generally of affluent families.

The 20th Century

The development of the Kodak Brownie camera in 1900 meant that many American family could take family snap shots. We begin to get less formal images of family life. Soon we begin to get candid often amimated images of family life. These images show the clothes worn by the entire family thriughout the century. Not only do we see the varioys garments, but we can observe the steady development of informal styles as the century progressed--the most important single fashion trend. Color images bregin to appear before World War II, but do not become common until the 1970s. Digital imaged begin to appear in the 1990s.

The 21st Century


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Created: 8:10 AM 12/10/2011
Last updated: 11:16 PM 1/12/2013