Figure 1.--These American boys from San Faranciso wear both long pants and short/knee pants with their tunics. The image was probably taken in the mid or late 1850s. The image probably has been reversed laterally.
We know very little about this portrait. We know that these American boys from San Faranciso wear both long pants and short/knee pants with their tunics. The image was probably taken in the mid-late 1850s. Many of the tunics we have noted were tunic suits with the pants matching the tunic. Some boys, however, wore pants that did not match. We are unsure as to the conventions involved here. These outfits that did not match would not theoretically be called a tunic suit. While these boys wear identical tunics and blouses, we note that their hair style and pants aere different. We are unsure as to the precise conventions involved here.
We know very little about this portrait. We know that the boys are Americans, almost certainly brothers. They look to be about 5 and 8 yerars old. The older child is clearly a boy. The gender of the younger child is less clear, but we believe him to be a boy also. We believe that almost certainly a girl would have worn a dress rather than a tunic. Also we have noted a similar hair style on many boys. Unfortunately we do not know the boys' names or anything about their family. I would deduce from their clothing and hait style, that they came from a relatively affluent family. Presumably they were born in San Francisco. That would leave a relatively small number of families. At the time, Americans traveled to San Francisco by boat and in the 1840s and 50s it was mostly men who came, not women--especially women with young children.
We know that the portrait was taken in San Faranciso, California. The image was taken by Charles F. Hamilton of San Francisco, California. Craig's
Daguerreian Registry has biographical notes, but we have not yet been able to access this reference. [Volume 2. p.243]
This image is undated. We can, however, comfortably estimate the date with some degree of accuracy. Here their are several historical guidelines. First California was Mexican territory until the Mexican American War (1846-48). Even after the Ameican seizure of California in the War, there was only a small American population in California. That population quickly expanded after gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill (1848). At the time, Americans traveled to San Francisco by boat and in the 1840s and 50s it was mostly men who came, not women--especially women with young children. The Ambrotype process itself was only announced in 1851 and it would almost surelu have taken a few years to reach San Franciso. After the early 60s, the Ambrotype process was very rapudly replaced by nagatives, especially cartes-de-visite. All this taken into consideration, the image was almost certainly taken some time between 1853-61 and the late 1850s seems the most likely. We stress, however, that this is only our estimate.
These two brothers wear both long pants and short/knee pants with their tunics. Many of the tunics we have noted were tunic suits with the pants matching the tunic. Some boys as shown here wore pants that did not match. These outfits that did not match would not theoretically be called a tunic suit. Note how the front buttoning tunics are identical. I am not sure what colir they would have been. The sleeves end just below the elbow where the sleeve blouse blouces out to the wrist. This was a popular style in the 1850s and early 60s. We have noted it less commonly as late as the early 70s, but mostly with dresses. Also note the isebnticak belts wirn over the tunics. These belts had no practical purpose, but gave a military look. The boys also wore matching collars and little black bows. The one difference in their clothing is that the younger boy has short/knee pants matching his tunic with idenical trim. The older boy wears long black trousers. Also notice the younger boy's kneesocks. This is one of the earlies images I can recall of kneesocks.
One aspect of this image was that the boys were dressed so identicall with the same tunuics, blouse, ruffled collar, and little collar bows. While these boys wear identical tunics and blouses, we note that their hair style and pants were different. We are unsure as to the precise conventions involved here. We believe that the older boy's long trousers were probably seen as more suitable for his age, but whu not long trousers that matched his tunic. Were matchching tunic suits seem as more juvenile than tunics with pants that did not match. Here we do not know. It may be just coincidental vageries in how the boys were dressed. The difference in hair style, however, we do believe was mean to reflect a difference in age.
We are unsure if the image here has been reversed or not. Notice that the boys both seem to have right parts, but this is probably a result of lateral reversal. Here you have to be careful. On Daguerreotypes because of the process, there was usually a lateral reversal with the left becoming the right side. This was less commom with Ambrotypes like this image, although to be sure we would have to examine the actual image to see if the collodion side of the image has been turned down. Note that they both seem to have handkerchiefs in their right pockets. Handkerchiefs were usually carried in the right breask pocket, so it looks like the studio has not bothered reversing the image as was possible with Ambrotypes. This would also mean that the button pattern has been reversed. A HBC reader points out that "The buttons are on the right which would be the case with boys." HBC agrees that this is the case, but we are unsure about whether the modern convention for buttons was yet established in the 1850s. HBC has collected some information on buttoning conventions. We are not yet sure, however, as to the chronology and just when this convention became standadized. We suspect that standard buttoning conventions date to the development of mass produced ready made clothing in the late 19th century.
Note the dfference in the children's hair style. The younger child's hair has been combed with a top curl and is worn with ling straight hair at the back. We have noted this top knot or curl on other children, but are not sire about what it was called. The older boy has much shorter hair. We can not be sure about the parts, but it looks like the image has been reversed meaning that the older boy had a left part. The younger boy seems to have a double part, but the left part (if the image is reversed) is more obvious.
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