I love this picture. The kids are adorable, they are obviously siblings (look at those little faces: identical, even if one is a little grumpy), and can you see those sweet little toes? I feel a bit sad that I will most likely never know who they are. But I do have children in my tree (obviously); I wonder if I can narrow these two down at all. I think she can't be more than three and he no more than five or maybe six. Again, I am not an expert, but I'm going to walk through what I do know, and see if it gets me anywhere. Please take it with a grain of salt and feel free to point out flaws in my reasoning or interpretation!
Ok. This photograph was tucked inside Ruth Elizabeth Bentley's album, so it could be connected with the Bentley family, the Tupper family (which she married in to), or the deaf community of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was pasted in a scrapbook at one time, however (see all that black paper, below), and I wonder if Lizzie used a scrapbook before she was given the album in 1872.
As for the type of picture: this is unquestionably a carte de visite. What jumps out first to me is that this card has two gold borders around the edge, one thicker and one thin, and PhotoTree says that that border was popular between 1864 and 1869. That is just lovely from my point of view; it narrows everything down considerably. However, I'd feel better with a bit more confirmation than that; isn't it possible some of those gold-bordered cards were lying around a little bit longer?
Other features that seem to support a date within the 1860s:
- this card has square corners (generally pre-1870),
- a very simple photographer's impression--on the back--of three lines (according to Cartes de Visite by William C. Darrah, usual between 1861-1866)
- a relatively simple painted background, which had become "garish" by the late 1870s (according to Darrah, pg 33).
Luckily there's photographer information on the back, although it's partially obscured. Luckily, I recognize the street name as being from downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia. Even better: I have another photo that reveals all his details.
James Ross, Photographer. (See front of the photo.)
To the city directories! Library and Archives Canada has a selection of directories from all over the country available (and searchable) online at Canadian Directories: Who Was Where. It's certainly not complete, but the Halifax coverage is pretty good: I was able to find James Ross, photographer, at 197 Hollis Street continuously for twenty years from 1868 until 1888.* Excellent.
Now the clothing. It has been more difficult for me to date the children's clothing; there aren't as many examples out there and the styles seem to change more slowly. There is, however, one picture in Dressed for the Photographer by Joan L. Severa that shows a little girl in a ca 1862 dress trimmed with dark soutache braid that looks very similar to the trim on my girl's dress (pg 217). Popular throughout the 1860s, Severa says, "little girls' dresses were not ruffled or excessively fluffy at this time, and most had the soutache braid trim" (pg 210). She goes on to say, however, that this style continued to be popular into the first three years of the 1870s, when dresses had a "trimming of soutache braid patterns and usually a back bow or belt set rather low" (pg 315). Lovely.
The little boy, on the other hand, is wearing a Zouave-style jacket tied at the neck with a little white stand-up collar. A tiny bit of waistcoat peeks out underneath. He wears long trousers tucked in to knee-high boots. In the 1860s, "littler boys were also often dressed in suits consisting of a full white shirt with trousers and a short jacket, the latter usually fastened at the top only and curving away at the front edges; the Zouave and the bolero style of jacket were both featured" (pg 211). There is a photo of a young boy at PhotoTree dated 1871 with a similar style jacket, long pants, and tall boots (third row down, third from left).
Knowing the earliest date for the photo is 1868, thanks to James Ross and his photography studio, I'm going to plant a guess that this picture was taken between 1868 and 1873. That gives me a tentative range of birth dates for these children of about 1862-1868 for the boy and 1865-1870 for the little girl. Unfortunately, that eliminates my nothing-but-a-hunch that these two were Frank and Maria Tait, Lizzie Bentley's niece and nephew, who lived in Halifax. But they were born ca 1860 and 1862, respectively. Even if we take the earliest date of 1868, that little boy would have to be about eight, and the girl six--just a smidge too old to be these two, I think. So...who else has a boy first, then a girl....
- The McAlpine City Directories for Halifax from years 1868-9 through 1900-1 are avilable online at Canadian Directories: Who Was Where. I also used the McAlpine Nova Scotia Directory for 1867-8 and the Hutchinson's Nova Scotia Directory for 1864-5 and 1866-7.
- The Wisconson Historical Society Children's Clothing Collection. Wonderful. Search for images of actual clothing by decade.
- Dressed for the Photographer by Joan Severa
- Cartes de Visite in Nineteenth Century Photography by William C. Derrah
- Library and Archives Canada for the 1881 and 1891 census returns.
- www.novascotiagenealogy.com revealed James Ross's marriage and death register in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
- A browse through PhotoTree was helpful.
*More about James Ross: James Ross, photographer, was born 12 Feb 1836 in Scotland, the son of Donald and Janet Ross. I first find him in Halifax listed in the 1866/7 directory as a photographer, but with only a home address listed (Garrish Street). I wonder if he was employed at the time. But on 14 May 1867 he married Hannah Richardson of Halifax; they then found a family home at 9 Moran Street and promptly began having children. The next year he set up shop for the first time at 197 Hollis Street.
In the 1881 census, James Ross's son (named James A. Ross) was working as a photographer as well. I imagine they were working together, the father teaching the son the photography business, as only one James Ross is listed in the directories at that time. By the 1891 census, James Ross Sr. is working in Photo Stock, while his son has become the photographer. At any rate, the 1889-90 directory shows that James Ross of 9 Moran Street has moved his photography business to 161 Barrington Street, a location right in the middle of downtown and considerably closer to his home. James Sr. died in Halifax 26 August 1906.