*** image guide for childrens clothes dating photographs

Dating Images Photographic Images of Children

dating old photogrsphs
Figure 1.--There are all kinds of aspects of a photograph that can be used to date it, including the mount, portrait type, posing, background, emulsion. clothing styles, props, furniture, and other elements. Notice the whicker furniture here. White whicker furniture was commonly used in American studio portraits at the turn of the 20th century. We see them most commonly during about 1895-1910. This unidentified boy was from Selma, Alabama. The portrait was taken in 1898.

Note: The authors would be very interested in any suggestions for time-line indicators to help date photograpic images.

Sometimes information is available identifying the children depicted in drawings, paintings, and photographs or in many instances the precise date a photograph was taken. Such information is extremely helpful in establishing actual fashions and trends. More often, however, images are available without any accompanying information. The type, quality, and setting of photographs often provide helpful information. The clothing and hair styles worn by the boys can also provide useful information in dating old images. Technological inovations are also useful, especially in the 20th century when more and more photographics were taken outsie and there is useful background information.

Chronological Period

19th Century Images

With few exceptions the earlist photograpgs date from the 1840s. The vast majority of 19th century images are studio portraits. Thus clothing and hair styles as well as the photographic technology and print type are the primary clues. Props can also be useful.

20th Century Images

Photography changed radically in the 20th century. George Eastman came out with the inexpensive Brownie in 1900 and suddenly large numbers of snapshots become available of boys in their everyday dress. Now we are able to see how people actually lived--rather than how they look with they dressed up for studio portraits. Another bonus was that photographs taken outoors often have useful background information. Home styles, cars, machinery, and other technological developments can often be dated.

Time Line Indicators

Both the type of photograph and the objects appearing in the photograph can often provide some indication as to when a photograph was taken. These indicators usually provide an age range rather than an exact date. Combined with an assessment of the fashions worn, these indicaors can be very helpful in helping to date old images. This is an area we have just begun to assess. We would be very interested in any indicators that may occur to HBC readers.


HBC notes that the Albumn.1900 website has developed some indicators for old photographs as erll as compiled a list of websites offering advise in dating old photographs. We have not yet assessed the site links, but plan to do so.


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Created: September 5, 1998
Last updated: 2:01 AM 1/23/2009