In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Maine Memory Network

Eternal Images: Photographing Childhood

This Exhibit Contains 28 Items
1
Marcus Camillus Knox, 1791

Marcus Camillus Knox, 1791

Item 10096 info
Montpelier, The General Henry Knox Museum

Portraiture, an older medium than photography, first captured images of children.

Because so many children died in infancy, post-mortem portraits and later, photographs, became a preferred method for parents to remember deceased children.

Joseph Wright painted this portrait of Marcus Knox, son of Henry and Lucy Knox, in 1791. The painting was paid for after the boy's death, leading to speculation that it was done after he died in an accident at age eight.

Of thirteen children born to the Knoxes, only three made it to adulthood.

Henry Knox was a Revolutionary War general and the country's first Secretary of War. He moved to Thomaston in 1795.


2
Deceased child, ca. 1855

Deceased child, ca. 1855

Item 19273 info
Maine Historical Society

The daguerreotype photograph of this unidentified young child, most likely a member of the Sewall family of York, was taken after her death.

Postmortem photography was common in the mid-19th century. Many of these photographs were in this pose -- the deceased child laid out for pre-burial viewing and prayers.


3
James Clark Burnham, Portland, 1848

James Clark Burnham, Portland, 1848

Item 18674 info
Maine Historical Society

Not all portraits of children were post-mortem reminders, however.

Parents of means often sought portraits of their children as decorative items that frequently reflected the family's social position.

Charles Octavious Cole (1817-1858) painted this portrait of James Clark Burnham (1843-1930), son of a leading Portland family.

The setting as well as the boy's clothing and posture all are signs of the family's wealth and status.


4
Henry W. Longfellow's daughters, ca. 1863

Henry W. Longfellow's daughters, ca. 1863

Item 10528 info
Maine Historical Society

This framed copy of Thomas Buchanan Read's painting of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's three daughters was found on the battlefield at Gettysburg after the July 1-3, 1863 battle.

It was not found on, or close to, any soldier's body, so it is not known who was carrying it. The image is of "grave Alice, laughing Allergra, and Edith with the golden hair."

The pose suggests the closeness of the children, and hence, of the family. The three girls are touching one another and are huddled close together, with their heads especially close.

Many studio images were more formal, with the persons farther apart.


5
Merriman children, Harpswell, ca. 1890

Merriman children, Harpswell, ca. 1890

Item 17679 info
Maine Historical Society

A fairly plain setting surrounds Sadie, Ralph and Benjamin Merriman, the children Paul Sprague Merriman and Susan Dunning Randall of Harpswell.

The portrait was taken about 1890. Note that even though the children are grouped closely together, each is looking in a different direction.

The portrait suggests three individuals who happen to be photographed together rather than a close, cohesive grouping like the previous image of the Longfellow sisters.


6
Walter Andrew Monson, Woodland, ca. 1906

Walter Andrew Monson, Woodland, ca. 1906

Item 19194 info
Maine Historical Society

It is sometimes difficult to determine the gender of young children in photographs taken before 1920.

Children's clothes were similar for boys and girls until about the age of 6. Both wore dresses for everyday and formal occasions.

Young Walter Andrew Monson, the son of a farmer in Woodland, is a good example. The ruffled hat and dress fits today's idea of a girl's outfit.


7
Agnes Lucille Stanley, Kingfield, ca. 1888

Agnes Lucille Stanley, Kingfield, ca. 1888

Item 9448 info
Stanley Museum

This portrait of a girl, Agnes Lucille Stanley (1886-1978), daughter of Bayard Taylor and Laura Jane Stanley of Kingfield, show how similar the outfits of boys and girls could be.

Like the previous photo of Walter Monson, this one shows Agnes in a long dress with a frilly hat and bow at her neck.

Agnes' uncle, Francis Edgar (F.E.) Stanley, photographed her in his Lewiston studio in about 1888.

F.E. Stanley established one of the leading portrait studios in the Lewiston/Auburn area in the 1880s. "Photographing Children a Specialty" was a byword of Stanley's Studio, and this photo of his young niece is indicative of his work.


8
Arthur Stanwood, Brunswick, 1893

Arthur Stanwood, Brunswick, 1893

Item 17704 info
Maine Historical Society

John R. Stanwood and Mary Helen "Nell" Merriman Stanwood's first son, Arthur, was born in August 1892.

Nearly every year thereafter, the Stanwoods had a photographic portrait made of their son.

The couple, of Brunswick, had a second son, Ernest, in 1899. His life, also, was captured in studio photographs as he grew.

At eight months, Arthur sat alone in a chair, wearing a traditional turn-of-the-century childhood white dress.


9
Arthur H. Stanwood, Brunswick, ca. 1895

Arthur H. Stanwood, Brunswick, ca. 1895

Item 17705 info
Maine Historical Society

At about age 3, Arthur Stanwood is again posed in the white dress of childhood, sitting on a bench.

While his haircut and shoes suggest he is a little boy, his long white dress and pose are more reminiscent of babyhood.


10
Arthur Ek, Portland, ca. 1903

Arthur Ek, Portland, ca. 1903

Item 19188 info
Maine Historical Society

In his portrait at about age 1, Arthur Egburt Ek (1902-1990) of Portland, son of Emil Ek (1865-1952) and Inge Charlott Abrahamson (1870-1961), wears a childhood dress, but one that is more tailored than the loose white dresses in which many children were photographed.

The oval frame created by the mat directs the focus to the child, cutting out any background or props.

Ek's parents were natives of Sweden.


11
Arthur Ek, Portland, ca. 1906

Arthur Ek, Portland, ca. 1906

Item 19276 info
Maine Historical Society

When he was about 4, Arthur Ek was photographed in a more adult pose, leaning on the arm of a chair.

His clothing was a mixture of adult and child. The costume has a military-like appearance, but is essentially still a dress, with a large bow at the neck.

He has not yet graduated from baby or young child clothing to the pre-adolescent styles.


12
Arthur H. Stanwood, Brunswick, ca. 1894

Arthur H. Stanwood, Brunswick, ca. 1894

Item 17706 info
Maine Historical Society

Arthur Stanwood at about a year and a half appears in a more elaborate outfit and setting than he did in his earliest baby photographs, reflecting perhaps the family's upward mobility.

Arthur's father worked for the Railway Express Company in Brunswick and was the Brunswick tax collector from 1906 to 1933.


13
Nell Stanwood with son, ca. 1899

Nell Stanwood with son, ca. 1899

Item 17682 info
Maine Historical Society

While older son Arthur generally was photographed by himself, the Stanwoods' second son, Ernest, was captured as a baby with his mother, Mary Helen "Nell" Merriman Stanwood.

The portrait is without background or ornament that might reveal social standing or aspirations.


14
Florence Jewett, Norridgewock, ca. 1885

Florence Jewett, Norridgewock, ca. 1885

Item 1048 info
Maine Historical Society

Florence Jewett of Norridgewock dressed up for the camera and is surrounded by dolls and toys.

Her right hand is carefully posed so that the ring on her middle finger is visible.

The elaborateness of the surroundings and of her clothing are clear signs of the family's wealth.

She was the daughter of George Sidney Jewett (1849-1927) and Adrianna Evelyn Bentley Jewett. George Jewett was a long-time superintendent of the B & M Corn Factory in Norridgewock and in 1910 began his own canning company.


15
Percival Baxter, 1879

Percival Baxter, 1879

Item 8804 info
Portland Public Library

A studio portrait photograph of Percival Procter Baxter at age 3. Baxter went on to become governor of Maine.

The elaborate backdrop and props give this photo, taken in February, an appropriate wintertime feel, but also give the young child an air of independence out in the woods by himself with his sled.


16
Christine Johnson, Portland, ca. 1895

Christine Johnson, Portland, ca. 1895

Item 19192 info
Maine Historical Society

At about age 4, Christine Johnson of Portland appears quite feminine and demure in a portrait in which the background is soft and unidentifiable.

Christine Johnson (1891-1965) was the daughter of Hilda Ek, a native of Sweden, and Theodore Alfred Johnsen.


17
Ida Johnson, Portland, ca. 1897

Ida Johnson, Portland, ca. 1897

Item 19193 info
Maine Historical Society

Like the previous portrait of Christine Johnson, the photograph of her younger sister, Ida Ek Johnson (1896-1988) at about age 1, features an unidentifiable, softly blurred background.

Ida, however, is in a much less feminine pose, standing on a chair, looking directly into the camera.


18
Mabel A. Adde, Portland, ca. 1906

Mabel A. Adde, Portland, ca. 1906

Item 19185 info
Maine Historical Society

Mabel Adde, about two years old, stands on a chair and looks directly at the camera.

While she is a young child, a sense of self-assurance comes through in the portrait that is without much adornment.


19
Hilda C. Ek, Portland, ca. 1908

Hilda C. Ek, Portland, ca. 1908

Item 19190 info
Maine Historical Society

Colorized photographs (color added to a black and white photo) gave a new decorative appearance and softness to children's portraits.

This portrait of Hilda Christine Ek (1907-2003), the daughter of Emil Ek (1865-1952) and Inge Charlotte Abrahamson (1870-1961) of Portland, is different from many of the other portraits in that the child is smiling.

It also is different because of the added color and the extent of the blurred area around the child's upper torso, all adding a sense of romance or fantasy to the portrait.


20
Elizabeth F. Ek, Portland, 1933

Elizabeth F. Ek, Portland, 1933

Item 19191 info
Maine Historical Society

Elizabeth F. Ek, daughter of Arthur Egburt Ek (1902-1990) and Frances Moir Parker Ek (b. 1907), is shown at about age 2 in 1933.

Unlike earlier full-length depictions of children, this portrait shows only Elizabeth's head and a slight hint of neck and shoulders.

Again, the blurred background removes the usual hints of status or interests of the child or family.


21
Arthur Stanwood, Brunswick, ca. 1897

Arthur Stanwood, Brunswick, ca. 1897

Item 17707 info
Maine Historical Society

By age 5, Arthur Stanwood of Brunswick has moved from young childhood to an almost adult pose.

His short pants and style of jacket and tie, however, give away his age. The setting suggests elegance and wealth.


22
Arthur H. Stanwood, Brunswick, ca. 1899

Arthur H. Stanwood, Brunswick, ca. 1899

Item 17708 info
Maine Historical Society

As Arthur Stanwood grew, his portraits increasingly reflected his role as a "little man," showing a neatly groomed, well dressed, and formally posed boy.

In this portrait, Arthur is about 7.


23
Percival Procter Baxter, 1886

Percival Procter Baxter, 1886

Item 8805 info
Portland Public Library

Percival Baxter is photographed at age 10 in 1886 in the costume of the Eton Home School, London, England.

In the photo, the costume, pose, and setting give young Percival the appearance of being much older. Unlike most childhood portraits, this one clearly suggests adulthood.


24
Arthur H. Stanwood, Brunswick, ca. 1903

Arthur H. Stanwood, Brunswick, ca. 1903

Item 17709 info
Maine Historical Society

In painted portraits in the 18th century and in many later photographic portraits, children generally are shown in full length, while adult portraits focus on the face and upper body.

Arthur Stanwood of Brunswick, at about age 11, has moved from childhood clothing to adult clothing and from full-length portraits to a more adult upper-body portrait.


25
Philip E. Brown, 1922

Philip E. Brown, 1922

Item 19186 info
Maine Historical Society

As they approached adolescence, children's poses and clothing changed, influencing the message suggested by the portraits.

Philip Eldridge Brown, the son of Alice Christine Ek (1881-1972) and Parker Augustus Brown (1882-?) of Portland, is wearing fairly formal clothing with the short pants indicating he has not yet reached adult status.

While his clothing is formal, his reading material, The Boy Scouts in the Maine Woods, suggests his interests.

Philip Brown (1913-1990) was born in Massachusetts.


26
Lawrence Plante with a fish he caught, c. 1920

Lawrence Plante with a fish he caught, c. 1920

Item 11981 info
Abel J. Morneault Memorial Library

Unlike many of the other portraits of young boys, this example shows a boy in fairly casual attire and with props that are stereotypically boyish, rather than props than are intended to suggest status or elevate the child beyond boyhood.

Lawrence Plante, the son of Alfred and Elise Plante of Van Buren, was probably about 8 when this picture was taken.

His father had worked in the woods, although the family moved to Massachusetts sometime during the 1920s and Alfred Plante began working in a department store.

Lawrence was the only son among about eight Plante children, a fact that might have affected this pose.


27
Quoy Wong family, Bangor, 1922

Quoy Wong family, Bangor, 1922

Item 10374 info
Maine Historical Society

In the early decades of the twentieth century, more and more portraits included the entire family rather than just a child or a child and mother.

This closely posed portrait of the Wong family of Bangor captures a typical family pose: the woman is seated, the man is standing behind her and the children are clustered in front of their father, with the mother holding the youngest.

In this case, the formality of the pose and the dress of the family suggests a certain social and economic status.

Wong, an immigrant from China, owned a restaurant in Bangor.


28
Surette Family, Mexico, 1919

Surette Family, Mexico, 1919

Item 14078 info
Bangor Public Library

This family portrait, by contrast, is much more casual.

Both parents are seated and both are holding children. The message is less about status than it is capturing the images of a growing family.

Also immigrants, George and Marguerite Surrette came from Canada. George Surrette worked as a machine operator in a mill in Rumford.


Selected Bibliography
Hawes, Joseph M. and N. Ray Hiner, eds. American Childhood: A Research Guide and Historical Handbook. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1985.

Heininger, Mary Lyyn Stevens, Karin Calvert, et.al. A Century of Childhood, 1820-1920. Rochester: Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum, 1984.

Macleod, David I. The Age of the Child: Children in America, 1890-1920. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.

Robinson, William F. A Certain Slant of Light: The First Hundred Years of New England Photography. Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1980.


This Exhibit Contains 28 Items