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Portraits: Looking Good

This slideshow contains 22 items
1
Early Republic fashion doll, ca. 1787

Early Republic fashion doll, ca. 1787

Item 48238 info
Maine Historical Society

"There, I wanted you to see this, -–'t is mother's picture. 't was taken once when she was up to Portland, soon after she was married.

"I reached out my hand to see her mother's [daguerreotype]… a most flower-like face of a lovely young woman in quaint dress."


–– Sarah Orne Jewett, "The Country of the Pointed Firs," 1896


2
Fashion doll, ca. 1790

Fashion doll, ca. 1790

Item 48239 info
Maine Historical Society

Portraits provide useful evidence of adornment and self-presentation. Sitters generally wore some of their "best" clothing and carefully chose embellishments that suggest how they saw themselves and how they wanted to be seen.


3
Male fashion doll, ca. 1793

Male fashion doll, ca. 1793

Item 48240 info
Maine Historical Society

Colonial artist John Singleton Copley was known for altering clothing or backgrounds in his portraits in order to project a certain image – wealth, social position, distinction. He was not alone in that effort to idealize people in portraits.


4
Parasol fashion doll, ca. 1794

Parasol fashion doll, ca. 1794

Item 48241 info
Maine Historical Society

When daguerreotypes ushered in the era of photography in the 1840s, books and photographers themselves advised people on what types and colors of fabrics would look best, on what to wear and how to wear it.

Photographers influenced the pose and sometimes even provided accessories and certainly influenced the pose.

Portraits reveal the style, age, and economic circumstance of the sitter.


5
Male fashion doll, ca. 1812

Male fashion doll, ca. 1812

Item 48242 info
Maine Historical Society

But how did people know what was fashionable?

Early Americans, who may have been an ocean away from fashion centers in London or Paris, found the answer in fashion dolls, sometimes known as Pandoras.

Dressed with attention to all the details of a fashionable woman or man, the dolls traveled across oceans and national boundaries. Dressmakers or tailors then copied the styles.

Such dressed miniatures had been in use since about the fourteenth century. The dolls were replaced in the early nineteenth century by popular publications such as Godey's Lady's Book, published from 1830 to 1878, which featured a color fashion plate in each issue as well as advice on attire.


6
Brooch with Don Juan VI miniature, Portugal, 1824

Brooch with Don Juan VI miniature, Portugal, 1824

Item 45778 info
Maine Historical Society

Some fashion accoutrements -- and the message they sent -- were hard to match.

Dom João VI (Don Juan), the 16th king of Portugal, gave this gold brooch, decorated with 27 diamonds and a watercolor miniature of the king, to American Minister to Portugal Henry Dearborn, who offered sanctuary to the king aboard a ship during an 1824 coup attempt.

Dom João (1769-1826), who had been in exile in Brazil since Napoleon's invasion of Portugal in 1808, became king in 1816 and returned to Portugal in 1820 when the country adopted a constitution. He swore loyalty to the constitutional monarchy.

One of his sons led several uprisings against him.

Kings and other heads of state often gave diplomatic gifts, although the circumstances of Dearborn harboring the threatened king were somewhat unusual.


7
Henry Dearborn, ca. 1820

Henry Dearborn, ca. 1820

Item 20174 info
Maine Historical Society

Dearborn (1751-1829), a native of New Hampshire and distinguished soldier during the Revolution, moved to Gardiner in 1783 and was a U.S. marshal for the District of Maine.

He served in the third and fourth Congresses and as Thomas Jefferson's secretary of war. He was minister to Portugal from 1822 to 1824.


8
Chief Sopiel Selmore, Pleasant Point, 1901

Chief Sopiel Selmore, Pleasant Point, 1901

Item 10928 info
Maine Historical Society

Passamaquoddy Indian Chief Sopiel Selmore's clothing and adornments reflect his status in the tribe. He was born in 1803 and lived at Pleasant Point. Selmore was a long-time tribal chief and wampum keeper, which meant he kept the decorative or ceremonial shell, knew how to "read" or interpret the tribal laws, and kept the tribal history.

His father, Selmore Soctoma, was a captain in the Marines and an Indian scout for the Maine Militia in the Revolutionary War. Sopiel Selmore was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.


9
Portrait of Big Mary, Pleasant Point, 1901

Portrait of Big Mary, Pleasant Point, 1901

Item 10927 info
Maine Historical Society

"Big Mary," a Passamaquoddy Indian and the second wife of long-time Passamaquoddy chief Sopiel Selmore, wears three trade brooches of ascending size, along with beaded necklaces, a collar band, and a feathered hat, all symbols of rank and status.


10
Silver trade brooch, ca. 1870

Silver trade brooch, ca. 1870

Item 25043 info
Maine Historical Society

This silver trade brooch, both which came from the family of James A. Purinton, Indian Agent serving at Old Town from 1860 to 1864, and others like it were objects of status and power for Maine Indians; both men and women wore them.

Non-Native silversmiths in Canada crafted the brooches and probably presented them to Maine Indian tribal members as part of diplomatic activity between the tribe and French Canadian government officials.


11
Portrait of Mary Merrill Thompson, ca. 1850

Portrait of Mary Merrill Thompson, ca. 1850

Item 11847 info
Maine Historical Society

In 1851, Mary Merrill Thompson, one of 12 children born to Captain Theophilus and Eleanor Thompson of Freeport, married John Abbot Rolfe in the parlor of Henry Ward Beecher's home in Brooklyn, New York. This painting may be her wedding portrait. It highlights her rings, pin, stylish collar, lace trim, and other decorations on her dress.

Her husband, a native of Rumford, was in the furniture business, then in the insurance business, in Boston.

Family legend suggests that Mary was a formidable woman. She reportedly came face-to-face with a bear in the woods while holding her newborn child, Frank. The bear "took one look at Mary and scampered away into the forest."


12
Colonel Isaac Lane, Buxton, ca. 1830

Colonel Isaac Lane, Buxton, ca. 1830

Item 40325 info
Maine Historical Society

Isaac Lane (1765-1833), a native of Buxton, was the eldest son of Captain Daniel Lane and Molly Woodman. His father and his uncles, Captain John Lane and Captain Jabez Lane, all served with distinction in the Revolutionary War.

Isaac enlisted before he was 14 as a fifer in his father's company. He then served in the War of 1812, raising a regiment of 500-600 volunteers, mustered as the 33rd Regiment, U.S. Infantry.

He later served as sheriff of York County and customs collector in Belfast.


13
Sarah and Iantha Perley, Unity, 1855

Sarah and Iantha Perley, Unity, 1855

Item 48243 info
Maine Historical Society

When they dressed in finery for portraits in 1855, Sarah Perley was 23 and her sister Iantha was 27. The daughters of Benjamin L. and Rhoda Perley, they were born in Freedom. The sisters remained single.


14
Clara Shepherd, ca. 1845

Clara Shepherd, ca. 1845

Item 48245 info
Maine Historical Society

Little is known about Clara Shepherd whose image remains bright as do the details of her lace collar, neck pin, and decorative gloves.


15
John and Sarah Williams Young, Hallowell, ca. 1864

John and Sarah Williams Young, Hallowell, ca. 1864

Item 35011 info
Maine Historical Society

John and Sarah Williams Young posed for A.F. Morse of Hallowell in about 1864. The couple appear to be wearing outdoor or traveling clothes.


16
Penobscot Indian, ca. 1865

Penobscot Indian, ca. 1865

Item 48246 info
Maine Historical Society

A Penobscot Indian posed for a full-length portrait that shows off his decorative arm, leg, and head bands as well as his sash.


17
James Clark Burnham, Portland, 1848

James Clark Burnham, Portland, 1848

Item 18674 info
Maine Historical Society

As a child of four or five, James Clark Burnham (1843-1930) of Portland sat for a portrait by Charles Octavius Cole (1817-1858). The large portrait -- about 53 by 42 inches -- attests to the economic stature of the Burnham family.

Burnham's dress and hair curled at the temples, along with the flowers in the large straw hat, are stylish for boys of the era, even though all often are associated with women. But his cane is clearly a male accoutrement.

An obituary noted that Burnham "was always associated with Portland's oldest and 'first' families."

It also mentioned that he was "unchanged from the earlier generation in which he came into being … clothed in black and invariably carrying an umbrella, who might be styled eccentric in many respects but altogether inoffensive."


18
Henry Howe Richards outfit, Gardiner, 1885

Henry Howe Richards outfit, Gardiner, 1885

Item 48247 info
Maine Historical Society

Young boys in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries often were clothed in dresses. Many of the outfits, like this one belonging to Henry Howe Richards (1876-1968) of Gardiner, were velvet with lace collars and trim and, often, other adornments later associated exclusively with girls' clothing.

Richards was the son of a prominent family. His mother, Laura E. Richards, wrote numerous children's books. Julia Ward Howe, his grandmother, wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." His great-grandfather, Robert Hallowell Gardiner, founded the city that bears his name.

As an adult, Richards taught English at Groton School in Massachusetts and later was the school's Alumni Recorder. He worked at Groton from 1898 until his death in 1968.


19
Florence Jewett, Norridgewock, ca. 1885

Florence Jewett, Norridgewock, ca. 1885

Item 1048 info
Maine Historical Society

Status could be expressed in many ways.

Florence Jewett of Norridgewock is photographed with dolls, unlike many children whose portraits emulate adult poses and settings.

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, along with his son Fred.


20
Merriman children, Harpswell, ca. 1890

Merriman children, Harpswell, ca. 1890

Item 17679 info
Maine Historical Society

In a photographer's studio, each looking in different directions are, from left, Sadie, Ralph, and Benjamin Merriman of Harpswell, the children of Susan Dunning Randall and Paul Sprague Merriman.


21
Agnes G. Kerr, Portland, ca. 1911

Agnes G. Kerr, Portland, ca. 1911

Item 28430 info
Maine Historical Society

In a snapshot that resembles a studio portrait, Agnes G. Kerr, daughter of Daniel and Mary Dailey Kerr of Portland, stands outside her house in about 1911, wearing her dress-up clothes and holding a parasol.


22
Ruth Antoinette Chaplin, Bridgton,  1907

Ruth Antoinette Chaplin, Bridgton, 1907

Item 14778 info
Maine Historical Society

A family Christmas card featured Ruth Antoinette Chaplin (1904-1964), daughter of Mary Frances Chaplin and David Eugene Chaplin of Bridgton, posed on a chair with a large bow in her hair. Ruth Antoinette was born on December 25, 1904.

She later attended Smith College, graduating in 1928. Chaplin worked as a book designer at Anthoensen Press.


This slideshow contains 22 items