Category Archives: carte des visite

Tiger Summers. A Dignified Cat Visits the Photographer’s Studio, ca. 1870

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“Tiger Summers,” carte des visite (cdv), no date (ca. 1870).  William A. Judson, New Britain, Connecticut, photographer. Judson was active in New Britain between 1856 and 1880.

Meet Tiger Summers who, at the time of this formal portrait, weighed 18 pounds, 3 ounces. Or so the penciled notation on the front of this carte de visite informs us.  The back, however, has a note that Tiger Summers weighed 19 pounds and 10 ounces.  In either case, this is a cat of substance.

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Tiger is posed in a child’s Windsor chair.  This plays with the scale of the image.  Without the notation of his weight, and therefore his implied size, Tiger could be the size of a human being — or a real tiger, for that matter.

Remember that this image was made at a time when a trip to the photographer’s studio was required.  I like to imagine Tiger’s owners arriving at William Judson’s studio with their prize cat in a large travel basket. If I can find out about Tiger Summers or his owners, I’ll update this brief post.

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Filed under anthropomorphism, carte des visite, cats, pet humor, pet photography, pet portraiture, pets

Posing for my Portrait is Such a Bore

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Carte-de-visite of a poodle, Wenderoth & Taylor, photographers. Philadelphia, between 1863 and 1865.

This little cdv of a small white poodle, who is unimpressed with the process of posing for his portrait on a tabletop covered with a dark cloth, presented a research puzzle that turned up a number of surprises.  I’m no expert on poodle grooming, but the web is a wonder for this sort of offbeat inquiry. So l learned that this little fellow has a traditional continental or hunting clip, which from what I can tell was quite rare in this country.  (Once upon a time, someone drew on the left ear with a pencil, and I have not tried to remove the marks.) Of course, poodles themselves were rare creatures, and the ones I have found in other early photographs are often left to be curly all over.  No one knew the conventions of grooming them, I think, and there were no professional groomers until purebred dog shows themselves became popular.  (While the first significant dog show in this country took place the the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, they were not all that popular until the early 1900s.)  The dark marks around the poodle’s eyes are probably the “tear stains” that light-colored dogs get.  Except for these, he’s quite fluffy and clean.

Most studio portraits of dogs depict them sitting on a chair or a tabletop, or looking alert on the floor next to their owners.  But a significant minority do feature this floppy “I give up” pose, which may have solved the problem of getting some dogs to hold still long enough for the exposure.  (By now, exposure times were short and easy to bear — unless the sitter was a small child or a pet.)

Then there is the photo itself, a product of the studio of Wenderoth & Taylor.  “Wenderoth” is Frederick A. Wenderoth (1819-1884), a painter of the American West, illustrator for Harper’s Weekly, printmaker and photographic innovator.  Born in Germany, Wenderoth joined the California Gold Rush in 1851 and is noted for his paintings and prints of mining life.  He apparently even had a sales gallery for his art in Sacramento, having failed to find much gold.  Wenderoth also became a daguerreotypist in the early 1850s, and he was known for his experiments with photographic processes.  In 1855, he invented a particularly laborious process, the “ivorytype,” that was intended to mimic painted miniatures.

By 1858, Wenderoth had settled in Philadelphia, and he appears in city directories as both an artist and a photographer. Around that time, he became joined a photographic studio headed by S. Broadbent. Locating in the 900 block of Chesnut Street, the business was in a prime location in a fashionable shopping district.  In the Philadelphia Inquirer for June 5, 1863, S. Broadbent announced his retirement. He assured readers that his partners Mr.  Wenderoth and Mr. Taylor (William Curtis Taylor) would continue to operate the business as before with Wenderoth as head of the “artists’ department” and Taylor in charge of business end, including the “reception rooms”.  Stylish photography studios of the time needed to have waiting rooms that recalled the parlors of respectable dwellings.  Wenderoth & Taylor promised clientele every conceivable kind of portrait, from cartes de visite to the “Ivorytype” and even oil paintings.

Pets Blog 22 March 2016_0010 This portrait was made right as the business turned over;  the back of the card reads “Wenderoth & Taylor, late Broadbent & Co.” The number “27370,” which was probably the negative number, is written on the back of the card, as is the scribbled notation “R H (the letters are crossed)  Bohlens.”  Could this be the owner?  I wonder whether this little poodle had been out promenading on Chesnut Street with his owner, who decided a photograph would be a nice way to commemorate a special dog.

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Filed under carte des visite, dogs, material culture, pet photography, pet portraiture, pets

“Nick” and the Basket, Boston, 1871

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“Nick,” carte des visite, 1871. Boston, Massachusetts, photographer unknown.

IMG pets blog_0020This carte des visite photograph of “Nick” is unsigned by the photographer, and the back of the card has no stamp or printing.  It does have a wonderful pencil inscription, however, so I scanned it for this post.  The card was presented to “Elise J. W.” in 1871.  At the top is a second date, 1873;  I don’t yet understand its meaning.

In any case, this is a lovely pose, and a rare example of a photo of a kitten from the cdv era.  Their portraits became more common with the development of easy photography for amateurs, especially with the arrival of roll film in the 1880s and the popularity of real photo postcards in the early 20th century.  The composition includes an empty wooden spool, probably used as a cat toy.  From the kitten’s expression, I can imagine the photographer waving a hand or another toy above the camera.

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Filed under carte des visite, cats, pet photography, pet portraiture, pets