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Nineteenth Century Studio Portraits Donated to Special Collections

May 17, 2019

Special Collections recently received a gift of mid to late nineteenth century portraits representing the work of 21 Texas studios.  The prints, mounted on cardstock, are in the popular forms of presentation at that time, either carte de visite (4 ¼ x 2 ½ inches) or cabinet card (4 ½ x 6 ¼ inches).  Most are albumen prints, but a few are gelatin silver prints.  Many of the reverse sides include the photographer’s logo and an advertisement for the studio.  These card photographs were often displayed in albums in the family parlor and extra copies were traded among friends and relatives.  The photographs, a gift from Mary Eck, are mostly of unknown subjects who were friends of the Creaton, Eck, Hoffstetter, and Sutor families in Austin.

The images provide information about both the photographer and the subjects.  We see the hair styles and clothing, probably their “Sunday-best,” worn by middle class Texans during those decades.  Likewise, we see the way photographers positioned their subjects in idealized environments among painted backdrops that were conveniently rolled into place. [1]

These are a few examples of the photographs.

 

Albumen carte de visite by William James Oliphant (1845-1930), who operated a studio in Austin from 1866 until 1880. The photograph, taken around the late 1860s, shows girls wearing identical dresses and similar pantalettes. (119-0003-01)

 

 

 

Albumen cartes de visite by Mrs. Martin, late 1860s. Although she placed an ad in an Austin newspaper in 1868, her full name is unknown. (119-0002)

Albumen cartes de visite by George Schuwirth (1843-1906), a native of Hesse, Germany, who operated a studio in Austin from the late 1870s to the early 1900s. These composite images have a backstamp with cherub and camera, a common motif in studio logos in the 1870s and 1880s. (119-0006)

Albumen carte de visite by Samuel B. Hill (1840-1917). Hill gained notoriety for his photographs of the fire that destroyed the State Capitol in 1881 and he incorporated an engraving of one of them in his logo. (119-0012)

Albumen cabinet cards by Samuel B. Hill. These double portraits of men, taken in the 1880s, have the studio name in the lower margins, but no backstamps. (119-0013)

Albumen cabinet cards by Harvey R. Marx (1821-1902), who had a studio in Austin from about 1870 until shortly before his death. These portraits, from the 1880s, show some of the picturesque hats worn by both younger and older women at that time. (119-0015)

Albumen cabinet card by Maximillian T. Jesse (1842-1929), who was born in Russia. The portrait of “Daisy” wearing a velvet bonnet was taken about 1888, based on the various locations of Jesse’s studio in the San Antonio City Directories. (119-0030)

Albumen cabinet cards by F. G. Mills, with studio in Bastrop.  The subjects are Celestine Prokop Schuelke and her twins, Olive and Frank Schuelke, born in 1889.  No advertisements or other information about the studio has been located.  (119-0023)

Albumen cabinet card by David P. Barr (1839-1925), who operated a studio in San Antonio from about 1880 until the early 1920s. The subject, wearing knickerbockers with cap on the floor beside him, is posed with a cane that is probably a studio prop.

 

[1] For information about Texas photographers see Haynes, David.  Catching Shadows:  A Directory of 19th Century Texas Photographers.  Austin:  Texas State Historical Association, 1993.

 

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