July 4th Parade – Chicago

We can be reasonably certain that this 5" x 7" glass negative was taken on July 4th, and by the 38 star flags (used from 1877 - 1890) the year may be in the mid-1880s (bolstered by the prevalence of the men's bowlers with the turned down front brims, the droopy mustaches and other sartorial details). There are three hatless women on the sidewalk in the lower left, virtually the only people in the entire scene without hats – with the exception of three women hanging precariously out of a second story window, one holding a gesturing, not-so-little boy on her knee (good heavens, lady, it's at least 18 feet to the sidewalk!).

Flags are everywhere (even a non-official one with more than 30 stars arranged in a circular pattern that I can find no information about) and there are more people marching in the parade than are watching them go by! They are a motley crew with the exception of a band in the near foreground, followed by a group wearing broad-brimmed hats with the lead figures carrying brooms (?); in the far background is a streetcar that is skirted with star bunting, so perhaps they are dignitaries or local politicians who could not be expected to walk like everyone else (it is interesting that there are no other parade-related conveyances or anyone riding horses in this view).

If I had a business directory of the period, I could confirm my guess that this is Chicago, though I suppose another city might have a Chicago Street as well. On the left corner is a bank advertising a Safety Deposit Vault; on the right side of the street are named businesses: a millinery store, clothing store, stationery and news store, two cash grocery stores, a cafe that serves meals at all hours, a pharmacy, Acorn stoves and ranges, a candy factory that is practically next door to a dentist, a wallpaper store, real estate office, and a photographer's studio among others.

It is generally said that everyone loves a parade, but it may also be true that every antique photograph collector loves photos of parades. A glass negative of this size provides remarkable detail; I only regret that it isn't possible for online viewers to inspect them minutely on the scale at which I restore such prints.



B&O RR Inspection Engine 1870s

I have always been fascinated by the the more unusual railroad equipment of the latter 19th and early 20th centuries. This inspection engine is one of that genre, used not only by inspectors but by railroad dignitaries. One would assume that inspections could be done quite well and in greater comfort by using a private car behind an engine, but a benefit may be the high elevation afforded by perching the car atop the engine - even higher than a typical engineer's cab position. Surely, since such an engine would not ordinarily be used for anything other than the purpose for which it was designed, it was also something of a luxury – a bit of company arrogance.

Whoever rode in this affair would want to have a degree of faith in the operators since they were literally riding on the most volatile part of any steam engine – I have a few images of what an exploded steam engine looks like after such a mishap (I'll post a couple of them soon)!

The canvas tents in the background of this 4-6-0 engine seem to suggest that this was part of a display, perhaps the 1876 Centennial celebrations, an exposition or industrial exhibition of some kind. Since these engines are not newly painted and spiffed up, it may be equipment currently in use by the railroad, but they could be on historical display if this image is early 20th c. (I am not aware of any inspection engines that have survived as part of transportation museums and I have never seen them except in photos and illustrations).

Unlike the Galloping Goose and other self-propelled railroad equipment, the inspection engine is not popular enough among model railroad fans for them to be available for purchase; I built a scratchbuilt running model in the late 1970s for my own edification.


Mother And Children

Here is a late 19th century cabinet print that has more warmth and personality than many from the period, well composed with critical focus confined to the subjects' faces. The son is enjoying the studio experience and the others are relaxed and attentive. The mother, identified only as Anna, does not have a smile on her lips but her eyes reveal that she is a person of humor and goodwill; she may be nearly thirty but she seems to have weathered three children very well. A lot of material went into dressing a baby in some sectors of society though this may not be everyday attire. I would have been disappointed if I hadn't been able to acquire this photograph.

The photographer is J. W. Riche's Studio of Shemokin, Pennsylvania.


Solemn Little Maid

The CDV you see here, taken by Ateuer Classens of Bonn around 1880, is in incredible condition for its age – not a scratch, barely a speck of dirt, no spotting and not the least yellowing of the image or the card, even on the back, its pristine whiteness is startling and makes you realize what many photos looked like when they were new! The gold leaf on the card edges is flawless. I wish I knew how this photo was stored for 130 years.

The little maid is dressed in national costume and standing on a step meant to be a continuation of the painted backdrop. What eyes! A solemn little face of perfect symmetry. I am not adept at reading the old German handwriting but I think her last name was Christel.