Moving Day: New York Style

Early feminist Ernestine Rose, the heroine of my novel-in-progress, and her husband William changed residences multiple times during the more than 30 years they resided in New York City, which means that they frequently had to cope with what was known as Moving Day. Until well into the 20th century, most residential leases in New …

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Girl-Watching on Fifth Avenue

I couldn’t resist this charming poem and accompanying illustrations, apparently given as a contribution to a scrapbook in the early 1860s. (Sadly, I have only this page, not the rest of the scrapbook.) In case you have difficulty reading the poem, here’s a transcription: I’ve been requested in this bookTo write lines old or newBy …

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“Hidden Mothers”: Hiding in Plain Sight in Victorian Photography

A while back, I posted on the solemn subject of Victorian postmortem photography. Here’s a more lighthearted aspect of nineteenth-century photography: the phenomenon of what collectors have nicknamed the “hidden mother.” Contrary to legend, having a picture taken didn’t mean that the subject had to stand still for minutes at a time, except in the …

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Robert Dale Owen’s “Marriage Declaration.”

On April 12, 1832, in New York City, thirty-year-old Robert Dale Owen married nineteen-year-old Mary Jane Robinson. The son of reformer and socialist Robert Owen, Robert Dale Owen shared his father’s views and was a writer and a publisher. He also served in the Indiana legislature and Congress, was the American ambassador to the Kingdom …

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Postmortem Photography: An Appreciation

WARNING: This post contains photos of dead persons, though none are sensational or gruesome. If you are upset by such things, please skip this post. A few years back, I began collecting nineteenth-century photographs. In doing so, I have acquired a number of postmortem photographs. I find them moving and in many cases quite beautiful. …

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August Bondi

One of John Brown’s followers in Kansas was August Bondi (1833-1907), a Viennese Jew whose family had immigrated to the United States in 1848 and settled in St. Louis. Just before his family left Vienna, Bondi participated in the student uprising in that city. In 1855, eager for adventure, Bondi came to the territory of …

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