“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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Another Boardinghouse, Another Conspiracy

In 1865, a widowed Washington, D.C., boardinghouse keeper named Mary found herself at the center of a conspiracy: to kidnap President Lincoln. When the conspiracy plot turned into an assassination plot, Mary Surratt paid with her life, being hanged on July 7, 1865. Nearly six years earlier, however, another widowed boardinghouse keeper named Mary was …

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A Stop by the (First) Washington Monument

A few days ago, my family and I stopped by Maryland’s own Washington Monument–the first such structure erected to honor George Washington. In 1859, John Brown’s son Owen, fleeing with others after the raid at Harpers Ferry, stopped by the monument as well. In an interview by Ralph Keeler published in the March 1874 of …

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