Still In Hiding, " Hidden Mothers ", Or, If Bag, Curtains And Quilts Could Talk

JPK Huson 1863

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#1
hand on head.jpg

Zouave jackets were hugely popular for children during the war. I cannot tell if her cap is intended to mimic a military hat, maybe? Did this image make it to some father's camp, keeping him warm through a brutal war? It's one example of an unintentional genre, " Hidden Mother " photographs.

Have heard both sides on the topic of photos in the era, meaning 1861-1865. We hear how expensive it was, how many families would not afford it. Have seen discussions stating this a fallacy; with photographs in most forms from 25 cents to one dollar, well, anyone could afford a trip to the photographers! Depends on ' afford '? Some of these mothers may have scraped to come up with the sitting fee in households where we know a soldier earned $13.00 month. You could start there.

photo prices 1861 ad.JPG

Began a trek into children's portraits, trying to understand our " Hidden Mother " photographs. These prices do not seem a lot different than those 10 years earlier.

Tying History together sometimes reminds me of watching that mysterious world whereby fly fishermen squint down the depths of a magnifying glass, catching fishing line in tweezers and tying miniscule knots amongst feather wisps and air. No knots, no fly, no magical ballet performed over hopeful, dark water, no fish- so they catch ends, tie knots we cannot see and go catch Time.

era dog.jpg

Staying era, this example is representative of a mother who ( I'm sorry ) had to be laughing hard enough to have the photographer request her to please cease. These tend to be described as ' creepy ' It's dear! Mom, kneeling, skirt spread, fingers on baby's arm, a wisp of Mom's hair is over the woven spread.

Without securing past to present, IMO ( omitting the ' H ' since it goes without saying ) , what we reel in is- nothing much. A Barnum's exhibit, who did enough damage. We just cannot dip a net into Time, scoop up some shells, marvel at the shiny ones and not understand heck- those shells were once sea creatures, those sea creatures, alive and wayyyyy back ' when '- us.

It's exactly what we do- in this instance, bringing up a delightful genre found in History's portrait studio, the " Hidden Mother ". ( Post Mortem photographs are another- short take on those is how intrusive they are, photos intended to remember a loved one, taken during one of the most awful periods of a family's life, now let loose on the web to ogle- because it's a dead person. ) Yes, many so delightful , and fun- and I'm as smitten as anyone.

era hand.jpg

Maybe a little pre-era, prefer these to post war, another ' type ', one hand emerging, as if no one would notice. Notoriously squirmy, eyeing that big, black machine with dislike, Hiding Moms of children was probably the single reason we have most of these.

aa new hidden mother.jpg

Disembodied hands and arms seem a little common........


But why do we have these? What on earth possessed a woman to throw a bag over head, or quilt, and surround herself with children for a portrait? And how did she not expire laughing, herself, 150 years ago? Or the woman huddled behind the chair, her skirts visible- and leaving out a Hidden Mother, whose two daughters are clearly dead. It's an awful photograph, widely available on various sites- no one seems to have noticed it's of deceased children.

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.fl14a5;view=1up;seq=19

Book published in 1860 on photography. One of quite a few, can find no mention of posing potraits in any of these manners. It's a great read. Of course you cannot fin " Hidden Mother " in any search- we made that up somewhere.

photo book 1864.JPG

There's a massive amount of chemistry in most era books, rightfully so, and principles applied to cameras, light, developing, etc- only several on the ' How To's '.

era gingham.jpg

Her head is held, albeit lightly- and she's unsure about the whole process. It's another era image- given the plethora of post war, Hidden Mother photos, it must have caught on in a big hurry.

era hiddn mom.jpg

Also supposedly ' creepy '. it would be good to view these as creative ways to just, plain get a formal photograph of your child done. Only once making the mistake of taking a small child to a studio, kudos to all who did, for the past 150 years. I'd have put a bag over my head, too, if it would have helped.

era skirt.jpg

Another skirt spread behind this happy baby's studio chair. Have a feeling the non-mysterious reason for all of these was " Please, Ma'am, can you get your child to sit still? " Obvious or not, the shrouded human form in some photos was better than none at all.

hm1 (2).jpg

OR just send the photograph home hoping your customer doesn't remember there was no cartoon curtain in the studio that day?

era shawl.jpg

Mom has a firm grip, behind her shawl and with a kind of rope keeping baby from sliding from her chair. Please, Moms, tell me you're not thinking about how funny this woman found it?

Still no answers except these mothers really are all of us- no mystery or creepy, Victorian meaning. Cheerios had not been invented much less cheese cracker fish. Or swift lenses, digital photos or children who sat still. We're still working on that. Time doesn't take much tying together sometimes and Mom's have changed not, one bit.

era 3 kids.jpg

We're all besotted enough to do this, to put our kids first. And pay one dollar toboot. ( still era- note another 'Zouave' jaclet! )

Hathitrust, Ebay, NYPL, Pinterest

 

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Mrs. V

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#8
I find these amusing as well. I can see the necessity of holding onto the child, to keep them from ruining the photo by squirming.

As far as the postmortem photo’s, once found one in an antique store. When I pointed it out the the clerk she removed it from the sales counter. I never saw it in the store again. I was very glad, I found it quite disturbing.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#10
A great subject for Halloween time.

Never thought of that, and it's true, thank you! They're hysterical and sometimes creepy- you've probably come across around a zillion of these. Much better than post mortems- people collect those! Always seems so horribly intrusive, a kind of memorial taken at the worst moments in a family's life collected because ( for some reason ) it's entertaining, looking at the deceased.


I find these amusing as well. I can see the necessity of holding onto the child, to keep them from ruining the photo by squirming.
As far as the postmortem photo’s, once found one in an antique store. When I pointed it out the the clerk she removed it from the sales counter. I never saw it in the store again. I was very glad, I found it quite disturbing.

That was very kind in you, both of you.

Oh hang on, there's an LoC photo of a squirmy baby on mom's lap you could easily miss- must have squirmed so much the little guy is almost invisible. Good reasons for these, if you wished a photo of your child. This is snipped from a much larger photo.

camp baby crop.jpg




I find it very strange that the Mother or Father would not want to be in the photo of their infant children


Oh, there's plenty of those around too. Guessing ( without knowing if it's true ) these were in demand for grandparents or other family who were already familiar with those boring parents- they wanted to see that baby!
 

chubachus

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#11
That reminds me, I bought a daguerreotype hidden mother-child portrait last year for pretty cheap. Looking at prices and availability on eBay of them, they seem rather expensive and somewhat rare.
 

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