History Detectives

Brr! A Brief History of Winter Fashion in New York

Winter is here! It seems that everyone is pulling on their boots, sweaters, parkas, and jackets this week. The weather channel is warning of snow, and, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, it is clear that the cold weather is here to stay.

Have you ever wondered how people used to stay warm in the winter a hundred years ago? Our New-York Historical Society Patricia D. Klingenstein Library digital archive shows us that people living in New York one hundred years ago not only had similar needs to stay warm, but that many articles of clothing that we wear were worn at the beginning of the century!
At the turn of the century, people who could afford it wore fur coats to stay warm. Furs in the 1900s were almost always from real animals – like beaver, wolf, marten, mink, fox, and lynx. Fur coats have been a popular way to stay warm for centuries and their high demand helped found this country!

French fur trappers (coureur de bois) arrived in Canada and the Northern United States in the 1600s to hunt animals for their fur to send back to the Old World. Nowadays, people mostly wear faux (fake) fur, but in the early 20th century the trend of wearing real fur coats was still very popular.

William D. Hassler Photograph Collection. Studio Portrait of Mrs. Reiser in Hat and Fur-trimmed Coat, February 13,1915. 1915. New-York Historical Society, New York. New York Heritage Photograph Collections. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

William D. Hassler Photograph Collection. Studio Portrait of Mrs. Reiser in Hat and Fur-trimmed Coat, February 13,1915. 1915. New-York Historical Society, New York. New York Heritage Photograph Collections. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

Mrs. Reiser, in the photo above, doesn’t have a full fur coat, but has a coat with some fur on the edge. Having the bulk of her coat made in a woolen fabric with just a fur accent was a less expensive way for her to keep her neck warm (and stay stylish!).

William D. Hassler Photograph Collection. Elizabeth and Margaret Creighton and an Unidentified Little Girl Posed on Front Porch Steps in Fur-trimmed Coats, Hats, and Muffs, Irvington, N.Y., Undated. 1913. New-York Historical Society, New York. New York Heritage Digital Collections. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

William D. Hassler Photograph Collection. Elizabeth and Margaret Creighton and an Unidentified Little Girl Posed on Front Porch Steps in Fur-trimmed Coats, Hats, and Muffs, Irvington, N.Y., Undated. 1913. New-York Historical Society, New York. New York Heritage Digital Collections. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

In the photo above, the women and little girl seated on the porch have fur on their coats and are wearing fur hats! If you look closely, you can see the tails of the animals on the women’s fur stoles. Stoles were furs that were worn on the neck, like an elegant version of a scarf. The perfect hair and poses in this image suggest that this is a special occasion photograph. They probably didn’t wear such pristine coats every day. But what are they holding in their hands? Muffs!

Muffs originated as a hand warmer for men and women in the 1500s. They are padded cylinders with holes on either end for hands, and could be made not only from fur (pictured here) but also silk, satin, and velvet. By the 1700s, it was mostly women that wore them. Women sometimes used their muffs like our modern-day purse and kept small trinkets in them – some women even put their lapdogs in their muffs!

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William D. Hassler Photograph Collection. Unidentified Baby in Coat and Woolly Hat, Held by a Man in a Bowler Hat, New York City, Undated (ca. 1916-1917). 1916-7. New-York Historical Society, New York. New York Heritage Digital Collection. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

Muffs are beautiful and warm, but they can be hard to carry, especially if you need to use your hands. At the turn of the century men wore gloves instead, and over time women too have opted for mittens and gloves to keep their hands warm. You can see in the photo above that the man is wearing gloves. The baby, you can see, is not wearing shoes but rather oversized and extra thick socks to keep her feet warm. Because she cannot run and play yet, these socks would have kept her toasty in her father’s arms.

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William D. Hassler Photograph Collection. Unidentified Group of Children Posed on an Old Cart, East Side, New York City, Undated (ca. 1911-1921). 1911-1921. New-York Historical Society, New York. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. New York Heritage Digital Collection. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

But what if you wanted to play in the snow in the 1900s? Children then had to bundle up for the snow just as children do today. The children in the photo above seem to be waiting for first snow on the Lower East Side. In front, one child wears gloves, but the others seem to be making do with what they have. They don’t have snow boots but almost all of them are wearing knit hats. Their wool coats are cuffed, most likely purchased by frugal parents who needed to extend the years of wear by anticipating their children’s growth spurts.

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William D. Hassler Photograph Collection. William Gray Hassler (little Boy) with His New Sled, Ca. 1912. 1912. New-York Historical Society, New York. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. New York Heritage Digital Collection. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

In the photo above, we see that William Hassler has just received a new sled and is dying to try it out! His wool coat is complemented not only by a knit hat and gloves but waterproof rubber boots. Rubber boots, also known as The Wellington or “wellies,” came into being when Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, desired a shorter style of boot rather than the knee-high style popular in the early 19th century.

The style was first made in leather, then, in the mid-19th century, Charles Goodyear of Goodyear Tires patented a flexible rubber. Hiram Hutchinson integrated the two and began manufacturing the rubber boot. Farmers and gardeners loved the boot because it allowed them to keep their dry feet while working outdoors. In the photo, William is able to keep sledding without getting wet feet, though woolen socks would definitely have been needed to keep his feet warm!

Enjoy yourself outside this winter! Oh, but don’t forget your knit hats, fur coats, stoles, muffs, gloves, rubber boots…am I forgetting anything?

New-York Haunted Society: Check out the results of our Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln Halloween costume contest!

In case you missed it, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were all dressed up for Halloween last Friday – in the costumes that you voted for!

The winning costumes were sailor and Captain America – check out the transformations below!

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Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln weren’t the only ones decked out for Halloween on our front steps. They were joined by a stilt walker dressed as Abraham Lincoln, a feisty Nellie Bly, and a zombie George Washington!

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As much fun as it was outside, the real party was inside the Museum. One of the highlights from the night’s activities was a spirit photography booth. Take a look at some of the spooky results!

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More photos of our New-York Haunted Society Halloween festivities to follow – stay tuned!

Reading into History: A Deadly Interview with author Julie Chibbaro

deadlyIt’s October, so the Reading into History family book club decided to tackle a scary topic in history and, unfortunately, today: disease outbreaks. Our book this month has been Deadly by Julie Chibbaro, and we’ll meet to discuss the book on Sunday, October 19 from 3-5 pm here at the Museum.  If you want to not only discuss the history of diseases but also women’s rights and immigration —and meet the author and see original historical documents up close—we had better see you at the meeting!

In Deadly, readers follow the  fictional Prudence Galewski as she helps to find and stop a mysterious woman who carried  a horrible disease, typhoid, in her body and spread it to others while never getting sick herself. In 1906, when the novel takes place, the idea of a disease “carrier” seemed to most to be the stuff of science fiction, but it was real; this woman’s name was Mary Mallon, and she came to be known as “Typhoid Mary.” Was she a villain, a victim, or both? Prudence and readers alike struggle with these questions as they learn of Mallon’s reluctance to accept her condition and the harsh treatment she received by police and medical experts. Here is how one publication depicted Mallon in an illustration. What imagery do you see here? What does this artist want you to think and feel about Mary Mallon?

This image appeared in the journal The New American on June 20, 1909

This image appeared in the journal The New American on June 20, 1909

We spoke with author Julie Chibbaro, who will join us on Sunday, about her life and her book. Read what she has to say and come meet her this weekend.

DiMenna Children’s History Museum: What were you like between the ages of 9 and 12?

Julie Chibbaro: I was a city kid, child of divorced, unhappy parents, with two older sisters. I had a sense I loved books, but not necessarily of their value. My 4th grade teacher had rows of books, and I would take them home, devour them, and leave them in my secret spot behind my bed. After a while, my parents caught me with about 50 books hiding in my spot! Needless to say, they made me take them back, and my teacher instituted a new rule about book returns. I also loved to rollerskate, bike ride, play with my sisters, but in my darkest, loneliest, happiest moments, books were always there for me.

DCHM: What is your favorite time period in American history? Why?

JC: That’s a hard one. There are so many great stories! I’d have to say the Gold Rush fascinates me. All these men and women going from the East to the unexplored West in horse and wagon, with the intention of digging up gold to get rich. Some of the stories were extreme failures (look up the Donner party), and some were huge successes. That theme feels very American to me.

DCHM: What is the coolest thing you’ve ever seen at the New-York Historical Society?

JC: The first moment I walked into the Historical Society, I was hushed by its grandeur. Intimidated. Yet it also felt very accessible to me, like I could spend hours there (and I did). That’s the coolest thing.

DCHM: What is your favorite place in New York City? Why?

JC: I’d have to say it’s a tie between Chinatown and the Central Park Zoo. I love the foreignness of Chinatown, the different smells and tastes and people. The Zoo reminds me of my mom, who took me there a lot as a kid. I miss her.

DCHM: What made you want to write Deadly?

JC: Many reasons. Typhoid Mary was a woman I’d known about as a kid, and wanted to know more. For years, I wanted to write something set in New York in the early 1900s. I was fascinated by early medicine, which seemed crude and outrageous (I had come across bloodletting and the use of leeches in my research for my first book, Redemption, which takes place in 1524, and found that those things were still being used in 1906!) I also felt it was timely – salmonella was a big subject in the news when I started writing Deadly, and of course, many of the big viruses, AIDS, SARS, and now, Ebola, are still present, and need to be conquered.

DCHM: What 3 words best describe Deadly?

JC: Discovery. Power. Prejudice.

New-York Haunted Society: What should Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln be for Halloween? You Decide!

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Last year, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln got in the spooky spirit of All Hallows’ Eve by donning costumes for the New-York Historical Society’s annual Halloween party. Douglass stood guard as a noble Jedi Knight on 77th Street and Lincoln greeted passersby as a heavyweight boxing champion on Central Park West.

Dressing up was such a blast that they’ll be getting into costume again and, this year, you get to pick what they’ll be! Click here to vote!

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Will Frederick Douglass be an astronaut? (Because he wasn’t afraid to shoot for the moon and definitely landed among the stars). A sailor? (As a nod to the way he escaped captivity and became a leader in the fight for freedom). Or a 1970s activist? (Because he was ahead of his time in the 1870s and would have fit right in in the groovy 1970s).

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As for Abraham Lincoln, will he be Captain America? (Because they’re both iconic American heroes). A railroad conductor? (As a nod to his nickname “Rail Splitter” as well as the Underground Railroad) Or a giraffe? (Because they’re both tall and larger than life!)

Image Credits:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aldrin_Apollo_11_original.jpg

http://www.oocities.org/dutcheastindies/US_Uniforms.html

http://www.reiss.com/us/explore/blog/throwback-thursday-the-seventies/

http://www.marveldirectory.com/individuals/c/captainamerica.htm

http://inmatesofwillard.com/2013/01/09/1886-hayts-corners-ovid-willard-rail-road/

 

 

 

Little New-Yorkers: From New York to India

In our Little New-Yorkers program, we explore living in New York through an array of wonderful children’s books that introduce us to and help us explore the city. We explore anything from travelling on the subway to meeting characters from different cultures that make up this city’s 8 million inhabitants.

As we continue to venture into the galleries, our little ones are being introduced more and more to the museum’s collections, such as our recent Madeline exhibition, or hidden gems like the painting below.

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Partial View of Building at Futtehpore-Sikri, New-York Historical Society

I recently came across this painting in our exhibition The Works: Salon Style at the New-York Historical Society. I was immediately drawn to its beautiful architecture and the warm colors. I was even more excited to find out that this seemingly random (and exceptionally small) painting of a corner of a building had a story attached that would transport us from New York to India.

In October, we’ll be exploring this painting by American artist Edwin Lord Weeks.

Painted between 1880-1890 it depicts a partial view of a building in India. Weeks was an American painter known for specialising in exotic subjects after he travelled extensively in countries such as Egypt, Jerusalem, Damascus and Tangier.

The building in the painting, called Birbal House, in Futtehpore-Sikri, was built in 1571 by the great Mughal emperor Akbar. He built the city as his capital, before the city was abandoned in 1585 when the capital was moved to Delhi.

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Birbal House today, Image courtesy of tybarchhistory.weebly.com

There are many stories and mythologies attached to the site of Futtehpore-Sikri, most about the Emperor Akbar’s and his ‘9 Jewels of the Court’. These were nine extraordinary people that the emperor, a lover of great intellectuals and talents, would surround himself with in his court.

One of these men was called Tansen the Great. He was considered one of the greatest musicians that ever lived and was known as a music magician. It is said that he could work miracles with his singing. It was this talent that led him to become the court musician and one of the 9 Jewels.

On 7 and 10 October, the Little New-Yorkers program will hear the most famous mythical story about Tansen and his music. We’ll explore the Raag (or Raga), a style of music native to India. And be introduced to the legendary Raag Deepak, a famous mythical song that has been lost and thus unknown to us today (adding to the mystery of the story).

Do you want to find out why this song is lost? Come and join us to find out!

An Interview with Frances McDormand: What was it like to be “Miss Clavel”?

Frances McDormand

Frances McDormand

As our Madeline in New York exhibition winds down to its close on October 19, we are inviting families to join us this Sunday for a screening of the 1998 movie based on the books, Madeline.

We are so excited that local Upper Westsider Frances McDormand will be here to introduce the film! You may know that Ms. McDormand played the wonderful role of Miss Clavel who leads the girls on their adventures. We were able to interview Ms. McDormand recently and here’s what she said:

1. Ms. McDormand, this month is the 75th Anniversary of the story of Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, a book that continues to be read nightly to children everywhere. To what do you credit the appeal of this story and the character of Madeline?

A girl, ostensibly on her own, navigates the magical city of Paris and her preadolescence in the company of other girls her age and a benevolent caretaker.  No messy parents and lots of adventure!

2. Did you have a favorite bedtime story? What did you like to read to your son when he was smaller?

Bill Peet books! Almost all of them! Cyrus The Unsinkable Sea Serpent, Chester The Worldly Pig, How Droofus The Dragon Lost his Head.

3. In the story of Madeline, Miss Clavel plays such a central role in the lives of Madeline and the girls. How did you think about Miss Clavel when you were preparing for your role in the movie Madeline?

I felt it was. It was important not to be friends with the girls as myself nor as Miss Clavel.  She is there as the voice of authority and security.  I tried to stay peripheral until necessary so that when I spoke, my voice would be heard.

4. What were some of your favorite parts about this role and, conversely, what were some challenges to portraying Miss Clavel?

My favorite thing was learning to drive the Deus Cheveux. I loved that car and it is very difficult to drive.  Both Miss Clavel and I are very macho about our ability to drive well.

The most challenging aspect of the filming was that, because I was always at the back of the “twelve little girls in two straight lines,” they were often stepping impatiently backwards onto my toes.  I had very angry and inflamed toenails by the end of our two months together.

5. Making movies seems like a lot of work but also a lot of fun…do you have a favorite memory about making the moving Madeline?

As the character of Miss Clavel, I wore a uniform most of the film.  I became very fond of my habit and especially the fact that I didn’t have to worry about my hair most of the days I worked.  I did, however, enjoy the day that we shot Miss Clavel in her nightclothes and without a veil.  I think we matched Mr. Bemelmans’ illustration quite well…”Something is not right. Something is quite wrong!”

6. In our exhibition, we learned that Madeline was actually created in Pete’s Tavern by Gramercy Park. Which New York places inspire you?

I have lived in NYC for 35 years and most of that time on the Upper Westside.  A piece of my heart will always be attached to the Elephant playground in Riverside Park.  It is where my son experienced his first swing and slide and learned to sing the ABC song.  It is Our Park.

Thank you, Ms. McDormand! We look forward to seeing you on Sunday!

The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at the corner of 77th Street in New York City. Madeline will be shown at 2 pm. Come early for Madeline-themed activities and storytelling beginning at 12:30! Everything is free with Museum admission.

Madeline’s Tea Party!

All summer long, the New-York Historical Society has been celebrating the special exhibition Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans.

Madeline came to the Museum and joined the Independence Day festivities on the 4th of July…

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Little New-Yorkers read Madeline stories and made Madeline accessories…

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Madeline books were read during Story Time every Sunday and additional Story Times were added throughout the week…

cAnd, maybe most fun of all, the New-York Historical Society has been hosting Madeline tea parties!

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If you haven’t already, come for an elegant and playful afternoon tea party in Caffè Storico at the New-York Historical Society! At Madeline’s Tea Party, guests enjoy an array of Parisian treats (both sweet and savory) while surrounded by Madeline décor (including a special activity placemat). Guests can then visit the exhibition Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans and listen to their favorite Madeline stories being read aloud.

Don’t miss out on the chance to attend one of these delightful teas – only a few dates remain! Check out our family programs calendar for more details.

This is Not a Humbug–Reading into History is Back!

giant cover

Even though school has started and homework assignments are already piling up, it’s important to remember to read for fun! We’ve got that covered here at the Reading into History Family Book Club. This Sunday, kids ages 9-12 and their adults will gather to discuss Jim Murphy’s incredible book The Giant and How He Humbugged America and see precious artifacts related to it from our Patricia D. Klingenstein Library. What giant, you ask? Are there really giants, you also ask?

: The Cardiff Giant being removed from his “grave” on A.C. Newell’s Farm in 1869. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

The Cardiff Giant being removed from his “grave” on A.C. Newell’s Farm in 1869. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

We’ll answer your second question first: no, as far we know there are no real giants. The giant Mr. Murphy writes about was a ten-and-a-half foot tall stone statue of a man buried on a farm in Cardiff, New York in 1868 and then dug up by the owner of the farm, A.C. Newell, and some hired hands a year later. Most who first saw the giant thought it was a “petrified man,” or a man whose corpse had turned to stone after being buried for thousands of years . Others thought it was an ancient and significant statue. It took a long time to uncover the truth about the statue and its unsavory origins.

One man who became entangled with the giant’s rise to fame and remained powerful through its downfall was Phineas Taylor Barnum, the famous American showmen and co-founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. As the Cardiff Giant become popular—and lucrative— Barnum tried to buy a stake in it, but he was rejected. So what’s a famous humbug artist to do? He built a copy! But was it really a copy or was it the original? That’s what Barnum asked audiences to decide when they came to see it in his American Museum, which you can see in this image below.

P.T. Barnum’s American Museum at the corner of Broadway and Ann St., 1853. Collection of the New-York Historical Society.

P.T. Barnum’s American Museum at the corner of Broadway and Ann St., 1853. Collection of the New-York Historical Society.

The question “Is it real or fake?” is one that Barnum wanted people to ask themselves when they went to see his museum. That is-it-or-isn’t-it quality is what separates a humbug from a pure deception.  Barnum and those who exhibited the original Cardiff Giant swore up and down to the authenticity of their curiosities, but invited the public to debate that authenticity amongst themselves. This strategy gave ordinary people the power to become authorities on what they saw equal to scientists, archaeologists, or other so-called learned men. It also drove in crowds by the thousands. Here’s how one advertisement described what was on display for people to see in Barnum’s Museum, which included historical objects, animals, and people from places most Americans would never go:

This text comes from a poster advertisement for Barnum’s American Museum from the 1800s. Collection of the New-York Historical Society.

This text comes from a poster advertisement for Barnum’s American Museum from the 1800s. Collection of the New-York Historical Society.

We’d like to try humbug you right now into joining us this Sunday from 3-5 pm for the book wrap! There’s no pre-registration, no extra fee besides museum admission—just step right up, folks! You’ll decide if the Cardiff Giant’s creators were geniuses or charlatans; you’ll decide if the nineteenth century scientists who believed the giant was an ancient relic were as right as they could have been given the evidence, or if they were no-nothing amateurs duped by antiquated ideas; Finally, you’ll decide if people today are more or less susceptible to humbuggery than people were 146 years ago. We can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

Camp History: It’s a Wrap!

 

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This summer, Camp History at the New-York Historical Society was all about the Civil War. Twenty-one precocious campers had the unforgettable experience of going behind-the-scenes at the Museum and Library to speak with museum and Civil War experts; styling and posing in their very own tintype photographs; and putting together and starring in their very own museum exhibition.  Check out some photos from Camp History below!

During Camp History, we explored in the galleries…

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met with a conservator…

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(and performed some conservation work!)

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met with an exhibition designer…

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(and made our own mounts!)

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created our own quilt squares…

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looked at artifacts up close…

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learned all about Civil War era medicine…

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(and performed surgery on our very own wounded soldiers!)

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put up an exhibition in the Museum…

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(which was written about in the  New York Daily News!)

and just had a lot of fun!

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Please stay tuned to learn more about our upcoming February sessions of Camp History!

Suspended in Silver: Camp History & Photography Then and Now

Guest post by Robert Christian Malmberg

Color photo pf RCM, camera, model with caption: Malmberg with his large format camera on set at Broderson Backdrop Studio, 873 Broadway, New York, NY

Malmberg with his large format camera on set at Broderson Backdrop Studio, 873 Broadway, New York, NY

Starting Monday, August 11, photographer Robert Christian Malmberg will be photographing Camp History campers as people from the Civil War. We’ve asked him to guest-write a blog post for us to get to know him better. Here he is, in his own words:

My fascination with “alternative process” photography began in the back rooms of antique stores, sifting through boxes of old portraits and vintage photographs. I was always amazed by the craftsmanship that went into the earliest forms of the medium. While living in an ever-changing digital world, my desire to create something tangible with my own hands grew deeper. I wanted to get messy, to use photography as an art form. I soon discovered the “tintype” process, which I have been working with for over a decade now!

While the wetplate collodion process has changed quite a bit since the Civil War Era, the basic elements remain unchanged: sheets of glass (or metal, aka tintype) are coated with an emulsion (the collodion), dipped in liquid silver nitrate, loaded into a light-tight “plate holder”, exposed in the camera, and then hand developed as the latent image arrives from the abyss. The magic in the “reveal” of these final steps is a cross between alchemy and a quirky home science project!

There is a resurgence of wetplate work happening in the fine photography world today, which I find to be quite promising. It’s encouraging to see so many young photographers wanting to experiment with dated processes. Most current “wetplaters” stay pretty true to the time period, ie: staging Civil War Battle scenes or reenacting historical people and events. However, I’ve ALWAYS used the technique to photograph contemporary people, fashion, and subject matter.

john and luke

Left: John Ward, Jr., Lieutenant in 18th Regiment, NYSM in May 1861. Collection of the New-York Historical Society PR 012-3-494. Right: Original tintype by Robert. Model:Luke Ditella, styled by Altoriso, Groomed by Walton, Backdrop by Charles Broderson, Fashion by Tommy Hilfiger

In the above comparison, we can see how this process has transformed from the 1850’s to today. On the left, we see a portrait of a soldier from the Civil War. Early tintype plates like this one were almost always presented in an ornately crafted pocket frame. The plates were often cropped to conceal the imperfect edges and chemical errors. You will notice in my portrait of Luke to the right that I welcome sporadic grit and beautiful imperfections.  The hand poured image is like a fingerprint: no two are identical.

Aside from the obvious and drastic differences in fashion and lighting in the above photographs, there are many similarities: both men have stylized beards; both images have painted canvas backdrops; and both men have been posed deliberately by the photographer (notice the hands).

Unidentified Artist, Portrait of Two Girls, Collection of the New-York Historical Society, PR.012.1.326.Box12. Untitled Portrait, RCM

Left: Unidentified Artist, Portrait of Two Girls, Collection of the New-York Historical Society, PR.012.1.326.Box12. Right: Untitled Portrait, RCM

There are many visual differences between the portraits of yesteryear and today, even if the process is basically the same. In the above examples, we see children of the past on the left and a current tintype portrait I made of a child on the right. My specific technique offers a much warmer tone on the plate surface. Usually, time period plates have a much cooler, and sometimes greener, hue due to variables in the chemistry and processing times. Note on the left: it was very common for photographers to paint in a little “blush” on the cheeks of their sitters. This splash of color added warmth to the otherwise monochromatic portrait.

Isaac Rehn, Mrs. Charles S. Lewis (Elizabeth Harley), Matilda Anna Harley, and Hullina Harley, ca. 1860-1880, Collection of the New-York Historical Society, PR.012.1.361.Box14. 8x10” original tintype by Robert. Model: Nikki Alexa Reynen of  Click, styled by Altoriso, Hair and makeup by Jerry Lopez, Backdrop by Charles Broderson, Bridal gown by Elizabeth Fillmore

Left: Isaac Rehn, Mrs. Charles S. Lewis (Elizabeth Harley), Matilda Anna Harley, and Hullina Harley, ca. 1860-1880, Collection of the New-York Historical Society, PR.012.1.361.Box14. Right: 8×10” original tintype by Robert. Model: Nikki Alexa Reynen of Click, styled by Altoriso, Hair and makeup by Jerry Lopez, Backdrop by Charles Broderson, Bridal gown by Elizabeth Fillmore

Lastly, we can see the stark difference between these studio portraits of women. On the left, we see a group of women (probably sisters) posing stiffly with a forlorn countenance. The studio portraits of the era were generally created using window-daylight and very long exposure times. It was average for the sitter to hold completely still for 30 seconds to as long as 10 minutes! This often led to very serious facial expression as it’s easier to hold a straight face than a big cheeky smile.

Through the use of high voltage flash “pops” in my recent bridal portrait to the right, my exposures are very controlled, allowing for instantaneous capture. This is a major leap in technology from the era: it gives me control over the posing and facial expression. This was not a tool or luxury available to photographers of the 1860s.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the time travel through photography. For more information about camp history, email camphistory@nyhistory.org. Robert is also available for private portrait sessions by appointment only in his downtown NYC studio. For inquiries and to book your session please contact info@robertmalmberg.com or  917.202.0599. You can find him on Instagram at: @rcmgallery and online at www.robertmalmberg.com.

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This is a clubhouse blog for kids who love history! It is created by the staff of the DiMenna Children’s History Museum and New-York Historical Society.
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