Figure 1.--This unidentified boy was photographed in Baltimore, Maryland, probably about 1890. He wears ringlet curls with a Fauntleroy suit. Baltimore at the time was a more important, fashionable city than is the case today.

U.S. Boys' Ringlet Curls: Regional Trends

Another factor which needs to be considered is possible regional differences. We believe that ringlet curls were especially popular in the South before the Civil War, a least among the wealthy planter class. Here we know ringlets were popular for girls and young women. We are less sure about boys. A factor may have been the ready availbility of servants because of slavery. Ringlets are time consuming to do, so servants to assist with the process may have been a factor. The whole question of regional differences, however, is a topic that we have not yet begun to address in detail. One aspect we do notice is that the fashion was very widespread and not just one found in the major cities. We note boys in the fashionable major cities wearing ringlets. We also note boys with ringlets even in small towns of rural states. A good example is an unidentified Amercan boy in Independence, Iowa about the turn of the 20th century.

The Image

A reader writes, "How old would you guess the boy to be? I think 5 or 6 but that is only because he has curls. Also he has one of the most bored looks. My guess is the picture took a long time to capture." Your age estimate sounds about right to us. Yes the ringlets make it tricky to estimate the age as they give the impression the boy is younger than he looks with shorter hair. He sure desn't look to ethused about the project. By the 1890s, however, film speed were much faster than they had been earlier. Perhaps several different poses were shot.


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Created: 8:02 PM 12/3/2007
Last edited: 5:44 AM 12/4/2007