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mystery man in a mourning brooch

My wife’s family has handed down to us an interesting trio of early case photos, Daguerreotypes, all meticulously well identified. But from my father’s family in Kentucky have come a couple that alas remain unidentified! One is a hand-colored Ambrotype under glass in a typical mid-19th century case (photo after the jump). Another image is probably printed on paper, but set under glass into what appears to be a gold (or siver gilt) brooch: is this a mourning image? Can anyone identify its vintage from the photo (clothing style) and also from the brooch? Here he is, the mystery man:

Big lapels, satin waistcoat, straight tie. Is this about 1870 or so? Here (below the jump) is the Ambrotype:

Rosier cheeks! A rather younger man—almost a boy—but with satin waistcoat & tie in roughly the same era of men’s dress. Any comments on likely vintage of these, and suggestions for reading on the culture of mourning brooches (if this is what the top image is), would be most welcome.


  1. joey066 wrote:

    I think you are off about 10 years on the first picture. With the hairstyle (covering the ears), and the oversized jacket, this photo I suspect is circa 1858-1864. Any earlier a beard and the longish hair would be unusual, and any later the tie would be more loose fitting, with a smaller jacket.
    –Great pics, thanks!
    Joe Cook

    Friday, August 15, 2008 at 01:30 | Permalink
  2. Nat Taylor wrote:

    Joey066, thank you for this comment. I don’t have a good reference that dates styles so precisely (things I could find online, and in one of Maureen Taylor’s books on dating photographs by clothing styles, seemed vaguer than the detail you’re giving). Can you recommend a good source on this, for men’s styles, women’s styles, or both?

    I should say the mourning brooch has a beveled clear-glass back, but all that’s visible beneath it is black fabric. Not sure whether that’s a memento of the man, or something put there in place of the lock of hair or whatever.

    Friday, August 15, 2008 at 17:52 | Permalink

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