Eli Bowen and his family
A. Newman of Philadelphia
A carte-de-visite portrait of Eli Bowen, sometimes called 'the handsomest man in show business,' born in Ohio in 1844. One of ten children, he was born with flipper like feet growing out of his hips, a medical condition now known as phocomelia. Fully grown, he weighed 140 pounds and stood two feet tall. In order to compensate, he developed a powerful upper torso. He taught himself to perform tumbling tricks and acrobatics (one of which was to balance at the top of an unsupported pole), and at the age of thirteen he joined Major Brown's Coliseum. Eventually he joined the sideshow of the impresario P.T. Barnum, who teamed him up with Charles Tripp, 'the Armless Wonder.' Their most popular act was to ride a tandem bike together, Bowen steering and Tripp pedalling.
Barnum was the greatest showman of them all, and his stable of oddly gifted individuals earned him a staggering four million dollars, an enormous sum for the period, part of which would have come from the sale of cartes-de-visite wherever the show appeared. His cast were well looked after and happy with the percentage they received. In many cases, their lot in life was far better than it would have been had they been born other than how they were. Bowen was thus able to turn what many considered a disability into a lucrative livelihood. He married and fathered three children before retiring to California.
The photographer is A. Newman of 228 North Ninth Street, Philadelphia.
Condition: both the print and the mount are in excellent condition.
A cabinet card portrait of Russian giant Elizabeth Lyska.
Born Elisaveta Philipovna on 16 September 1877 at Wiessolyj in Russia, she started exhibiting herself when she was only 11 years old. Or so her publicity claimed; she might have been a few years older. When she visited Vienna in 1889, she was advertised as being over 7 feet tall. In reality, she was about 6 feet tall at that time. She started touring after her father died, and the family lost their income. Her manager agreed to pay her weekly wages, which were presented as being high enough that she would be able to stop touring after one year and go back to her family. What exactly went wrong with this plan is not known, but a few years later she must have still have been touring since she visited London in 1893. After her London appearance she was never heard of again, so perhaps she died or or eventually returned to her family in Russia.
Condition: The print is in excellent condition, with rich and satisfying tones. The mount presents some faint foxing on its reverse but is otherwise clean, firm and solid. Pencilled inscriptions in the hand of an earlier collector give brief details of the sitter’s professional career.
A carte-de-visite portrait of Doctor Edmond-Désiré Couty de la Pommerais, who murdered first his mother-in-law and then his mistress with digitalis. He was guillotined on 9 June 1864.
When Pommerais found himself in financial trouble, he persuaded his mistress, a young widow named Madame de Paux, to fake an illness in order that he might collect on her insurance policy. The faked illness soon became all too real and Madame de Paux died in agony. His mother-in-law Madame Dubizy had already died suddenly under suspicious circumstances. The noted forensic pathologist Professor Auguste Tardieu established the presence of digitalis in the body of Madame de Paux; his evidence was sufficient to convict Pommerais, who was duly executed.
The crime was much reported in the British press. The following is an abridged extract from a much longer article in the Dublin Evening Mail (11 June 1864): ‘He made more than one abortive attempt to secure for himself a rich wife through the medium of matrimonial offices; and at length one day meeting Mdlle. Dubizy in an omnibus, and hearing that she was an heiress, he followed her home to discover her abode, and contrived to secure an introduction to her family. […] La Pommerais knew that his mother-in-law possessed some £2,000, which upon her death would descend to his wife without any similar restriction; and not long after his marriage, Madame Dubizy, whose health had previously been excellent, died suddenly, with symptoms strongly suggestive of the action of a violent poison. Whether she was murdered by her son-in-law is, of course, still an open question, since he was not brought to trial upon that charge; but, unquestionably, the circumstances of her decease are pregnant with suspicion. La Pommerais received her money, but so small a sum was far from being commensurate with his desires, and then it was that he conceived the cunning scheme by the accomplishment of which his life has become forfeit.’
The article here moves on to an account of the second murder. ‘He renewed his relations with Madame Paux – who was overjoyed to find her old lover once more at her feet – and told her that he had conceived a project by which he might make ample provision for her and for her children. He proposed to insure her life for £22,000, paying for her the first annual premium, which would amount to £758; and he told her that if, soon after this operation had been effected, she pretended to be seriously ill, the companies would gladly buy up the policies by giving her an annual income of £240, of which he would take half as reimbursement of his outlay. […] When he had induced Madame de Paux to make over to him the policies by endorsement, by deed, and by will, he told her that the time had arrived for her to simulate a severe illness, and that he would give her drugs which would produce the appearance of alarming symptoms. The end soon came. The oftener he visited her the worse she became, and at last she died in horrible agonies, only two or three hours after he had last quitted her.’
Condition: the print presents a small amount of graininess and its tonal range could perhaps be a little stronger. The mount presents one slightly damaged corner but is otherwise crisp and clean.
Frederick Jones of Walsall
A carte-de-visite portrait of a woman dressed in black, presumably a widow, surrounded by an apparition, presumably supposed to represent the spirit of her dead husband.
Photographed by Frederick Jones of Walsall in the West Midlands.
Condition: the print presents some spotting, most noticeably in the darker area of the woman’s dress and in the area of the dark curtain in the background; there are also a few other small imperfections but the print is otherwise in fine condition, with good tonal range. The mount is in excellent condition, with crisp edges and sharp corners.
American couple with Holmes viewer
O.W. LaPlount of Chatfield, Minnesota
A cabinet card portrait of a young couple, presumably Americans. The man is holding a a Holmes stereoviewer.
Photographed in the mid-1890s by O.W. LaPlount of Chatfield, Minnesota.
Condition: The print presents a number of small imperfections but is otherwise in fine condition, with excellent tonal range. The mount presents some stains, recto and verso, but is firm and solid.
Privates Jackson and Ford of the First Gloucestershire Regiment boxing in India
Omaid Singh and Sons of Lucknow
A cabinet card portrait of two British boxers identified in the negative as ‘Privates W. Jackson and J. Ford / First Gloster [sic] Regt.’ The two men, who are stripped to the waist and wearing boxing gloves, are posed as if squaring up for a boxing match.
Photographed by Omaid Singh & Sons of Lucknow, India.
Condition: The print presents few minor imperfections but is otherwise in excellent condition. The mount presents a small amount of edge and corner wear and verso there are some marks and abrasions; it is otherwise firm and solid.
Balloonists James Glaisher and Henry Coxwell
Negretti and Zambra of London
A carte-de-visite portrait of the English meteorologist and aeronaut James Glaisher (1809-1903), seen here with his usual co-pilot Henry Tracey Coxwell (1819-1900).
The son of a London watchmaker, Glaisher was an assistant at the Royal Greenwich Observatories at Cambridge and Greenwich, and Superintendent of the Department of Meteorology and Magnetism at Greenwich for thirty-four years. He was a founder member of the Meteorological Society (1850), the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain (1866) and a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Between 1862 and 1866, usually with Henry Tracey Coxwell as his co-pilot, Glaisher made numerous ascents in order to measure the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere at its highest levels. On one ascent in 1862, the two men broke the world record for altitude. Estimates suggest that they rose to more than 9,500 metres and as much as 10,900 metres above sea-level. However, Glaisher passed out around 8,800 metres before a reading could be taken. Coxwell, unable to use his frostbitten hands, opened the gas-valve with his teeth, and made an extremely rapid but safe descent.
Coxwell was the son of a naval officer and was educated for the army, but became a dentist. From a boy he had been greatly interested in ballooning, then in its infancy, but his own first ascent was not made until 1844. In 1848 he became a professional aeronaut, making numerous public ascents in the chief continental cities. Returning to London, he gave exhibitions from the Cremorne and subsequently from the Surrey Gardens. By 1861 he had made over 400 ascents. His last ascent was made in 1885 and in 1887 he published My Life and Balloon Experiences.
Photographed by Negretti and Zambra of London.
Condition: The print presents a small amount of foxing in the area to the right of the basket but is otherwise in very good condition. The mount presents minor wear at one corner and a small amount of faint foxing but is otherwise in excellent condition.
Edward Linley Sambourne
A cyanotype portrait in cabinet card format of the illustrator and cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne (1844-1910), seen here standing on the right, who contributed to the satirical journal Punch for more than forty years. His working method frequently involved photographing himself or members of his domestic staff in the desired pose, wearing a facsimile of the necessary costume; he then used the resulting photograph, usually a cyanotype, as a basis for the cartoon he wanted to produce.
His descendants include: his grandson, the set designer Oliver Messel; and his great-grandson, the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, who married Princess Margaret in 1960.
His family home at 18 Stafford Terrace in Kensington has survived largely unchanged and is open to the public as a museum.
Photographed by Edward Linley Sambourne.
Condition: The print presents a loss of tone at its lower right-hand corner but is otherwise in excellent condition. The mount presents some semi-legible inscriptions recto and verso in ballpoint pen, at least one of which identifies Sambourne.
Dr Bernhard von Gudden
Joseph Albert of Munich
A cabinet card portrait of Dr Bernhard von Gudden (1824-1886), the German neuroanatomist and psychiatrist who mysterious drowned in Lake Starnberg with King Ludwig II of Bavaria on the night of 13 June 1886.
Dr von Gudden earned his doctorate from the University of Halle in 1848 and became an intern at the asylum in Sieburg. By 1869 he had been appointed director of the Burghölzli Hospital and was also a professor of psychiatry at the University of Zürich. Later in his career he was professor of psychiatry at the University of Munich.
As director of mental institutions, Gudden advocated a no-restraint policy, humane treatment of the mentally ill, communal social interaction amongst patients, and a well-trained medical staff. These were considered innovative, if not revolutionary ideas concerning mental health treatment in the mid-nineteenth century. Gudden was a respected psychiatrist in Germany and was appointed personal physician to the eccentric King Ludwig II of Bavaria. On 13 June 1886, King Ludwig and Dr von Gudden were both found dead in the water near the shore of Lake Starnberg at 11:30 p.m. that night, allegedly drowned, possibly murdered. To this day the details of their mysterious deaths remain the subject of acute speculation
Photographed by J. Albert of Munich.
Condition: The print presents some fine spotting, mainly in the area of the background but some intruding on the area of the sitter's jacket. There is also some very faint foxing in the area outside the oval containing the image. The print is otherwise in excellent condition, as is the mount. A wetstamp verso identifies the Munich stockist where the cabinet card was originally purchased.
Lafayette of Dublin
A cabinet card portrait of the French actress Sarah Bernhardt (1845-1823).
Born Rosine Bernard in Paris, the illegitimate daughter of a Hungarian Jewish immigrant, Sarah Bernhardt was the French actress who dominated the stage of her day. She was neither the most beautiful nor the most talented, but she skilfully cultivated her super-stardom, performing at the Comédie Française in Paris and frequently touring the world. The Divine Sarah excelled in tragic parts, including Cordelia in King Lear, the title role in Racine's Phèdre, and the male roles of Hamlet in Shakespeare's tragedy and of Napoleon's son in Edmond Rostand's L'Aiglon.
A shameless self-publicist throughout her long career, Sarah Bernard was photographed time and again by all the best photographers in the world, invariably demanding to be paid up front, rather than accepting a percentage of the profits. At the same time, of course, she was wielding photography to foster her fame, skilfully manipulating her public image. As famous for her formidable personality as she was for her acting, the public were avid for details of her temper tantrums and her violent feuds, not to mention her many love affairs. Her patriotism made her a French national treasure. When she died in the arms of her only child Maurice on 26 March 1923, all France went into mourning.
Photographed by Lafayette of Dublin and London.
Condition: The print presents a few small white flecks, mainly in the area of the background, but is otherwise in excellent condition, as is the mount.
Fanny Lear, American adventuress
Charles Reutlinger of Paris
A cabinet card portrait of the American adventuress and traveller Fanny Lear, born Harriet Blackford in Philadelphia.
The indiscretions of this American adventuress included a notorious affair with a grandson of Tsar Nicholas I, the dangerously liberal Grand Duke Nicholas Konstantinovich. The subsequent scandal, which included the planned theft of some Romanov jewels, resulted in the Grand Duke being banished from court.
First published in Brussels in 1875 – under her nom de guerre Fanny Lear –she titled her account of her adventures and travels in Russia and Europe Le Roman d’une Americaine en Russie. The story has more recently formed the basis of a novel by Prince Michael of Greece, himself a Romanov descendant. First published in French in 2005, a later English version titled The White Night of St Petersburg received unfavourable reviews.
An extensive inked inscription verso in a fine period hand identifies the sitter and gives brief biographical details in French. This translates as: ‘Mlle Phoenix or the Beautiful American Miss Blackford, who was asked to leave Russia after the theft of his mother’s diamonds by His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Nicholas Constantinovich. She was also banished from Paris after the suppression of a booklet written by her in 1875. / The medallion worn around her neck represents on its surface the Grand Ducal crown and the initials of the Grand Duke N.C.’
Photographed by Charles Reutlinger of Paris.
Condition: The print presents some spotting, mainly in the area of the background but some also intruding on the area of the sitter’s arms and dress. The mount is in excellent condition. Two small paper labels verso identifiy the Paris stockist where the cabinet card was originally purchased.
Reverend George Kitchin, father of Xie Kitchin
J. Petersen of Copenhagen
A carte-de-visite portrait of the Reverend George Kitchin, father of Lewis Carroll's favourite model Xie Kitchin.
Photographed by J. Petersen of Copenhagen.
Condition: The print presents a small amount of spotting, mainly in the area of the background, and a very slight loss of tone at three edges; it is otherwise in very good condition. The mount is in excellent condition, with crisp edges and sharp corners.
Young man with an Ordinary
(commonly called a penny-farthing)
A carte-de-visite portrait of a young man with a penny-farthing bicycle, also sometimes known as a 'high wheeler' but more properly called an 'ordinary.'
Photographer and location unidentified.
Condition: The print is in excellent condition. The mount presents a few small marks verso but is otherwise also in excellent condition.
An early cycling event
with a large number of Ordinaries
A carte-de-visite showing a meeting of early cycling enthusiasts. The outdoor portrait shows at least twenty young men posed with their penny-farthings or high-wheelers (more properly called an Ordinary).
According to an inked inscription verso in a period hand, the man marked with an X is 'Grandpa,' only I can't find anyone in the portrait who is marked with an X.
Photographer and location unidentified.
Condition: The print's tonal range could perhaps be a little punchier, and it presents one or two small blemishes; it is otherwise in fine condition. The mount is clean, firm and solid.
The opening of The Green in West Cowes, Isle of Wight
A child's entry ticket to the ceremony, 2 June 1864
A carte-de-visite showing the newly refurbished Green in West Cowes on the Isle of Wight. The reverse of the mount makes it clear that in addition to commemorating the improvements, the carte also doubled as an entry ticket for the ceremony held to mark the opening of the public space.
According to a report in the Isle of Wight Times (5 May 1864): ‘The work of improvement on the Green still goes on, and in a few days the whole will be completed, and will form a most complete change when compared to the old rough spot over which our residents and visitors heretofore stumbled rather than walked. In the centre of the green a handsome place has been created to accommodate the band intended to play there during the summer season. To the Northward of this a beautifully designed Drinking Fountain has been placed, to give water to them that are thirsty. We believe it was intended to have some public demonstration on Monday last the 2nd of May, but as the whole of the works were not complete, it has been delayed for a time.’
On 26 May 1864 the same journal reported: ‘The extensive alterations and improvements now being made on our Green, are nearly completed, and from a printed bill we learn that it will be formally opened on the 2nd of June, when an open-air concert of vocal music, by a choir of 250 voices, will take place, under the management of Mr G.W. Martin, of London. The Hants Yeomanry band, together with the private band of G.R. Stephenson, Esq., will also perform on the Green during the day. Should the weather be fine, an immense concourse of people may be expected to attend. The children of the various schools, and the old men and women, are to be regaled with a substantial meal, and we believe it will be a day long remembered among us, as the commencement of a long career of prosperity to the town of Cowes. […] While noticing the subject, we cannot avoid expressing a hope that as the Green is now public property, every man who visits it will not only refrain from doing it, or its ornaments any injury, but will strenuously aid in putting down all improper conduct, and endeavour to bring to punishment, any who shall wantonly injure the property.’
From the various reports that subsequently appeared in several local papers, it seems that ‘the day and all its proceedings were all that could be wished,’ despite ‘some pitiful scoundrel’ stealing the calico that had been used to cover the seats of the orchestra (Isle of Wight Times, 9 June 1864).
The upper right corner of the print (and mount) carry a blindstamp showing the arms and motto (Latin: Fidus in Arcanis; English: Faithful in Secret) of the Stephenson family, George Robert Stephenson, nephew of the locomotive engineer, being the benefactor who had purchased and refurbished the space for the town.
Condition: The print presents a few small imperfections but is otherwise in excellent condition. The mount presents a few linear indentations verso but is otherwise also in excellent condition, with crisp edges and sharp corners.
Queen Victoria and Princess Feodora,
Carl Backhofen of Darmstadt
A cabinet card portrait of Queen Victoria and her first great-grandchild, Feodora.
Born on 12 May 1879, Feodora was the only child of Princess Charlotte of Prussia, who was the eldest daughter of Crown Princess Victoria (‘Vicky’), Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter.
In 1898 Princess Feodora married Prince Henry XXX of Reuss. Their marriage was childless. Feodora was plagued by ill-health throughout her life, possibly as a result of the genetic disease porphyria. According to the historian John Van der Kiste, ‘the princess who had so desperately wanted children of her own had instead continued to battle with constant physical ailments, insomnia and severe depression, and endured many years of ill-health similar to that of her mother.’ Feodora committed suicide on 26 August 1945, dying shortly after World War II ended.
Photographed by Carl Backofen of Darmstadt.
Condition: please see scans. The print presents a small amount of very fine spotting, all of it peripheral, but is otherwise in excellent condition, with rich and satisfying tones. The mount is also in excellent condition, with crisp edges and sharp corners.
A Javanese policeman and his prisoner
J.B. Jasper of Surabaya, Indonesia
A carte-de-visite showing a Javanese policeman and his prisoner. An inked inscription verso in a period hand reads: 'Javanese Policeman with Prisoner.'
Photographed by J.B. Jasper of Surabaya in Indonesia.
Condition: The print presents a small amount of fine spotting and some small black flecks in the area of the background but is otherwise in excellent condition, with very good tonal range. The mount is also in excellent condition, with sharp corners and crisp edges.
Doctor Pierre-Michel-Arthur de Montmeja
An albumen print showing a woman suffering from Syphilide Pigmenataire, according to a caption printed in the lower margin.The English translation would be ‘pigmentary syphilide.’ A syphilide (plural syphilides) is a cutaneous eruption due to syphilis. Nowadays, the term ‘leucoderma syphiliticum,’ or LS for short, is preferred. It encompasses a spectrum of dyschromic lesions that emerge during the course of secondary syphilis.
The photograph was originally one of the illustrations in a book titled Clinique Photographique des maladies de le peau by Dr Alfred Hardy and Dr Pierre-Michel-Arthur de Montmeja. First published in 1868 with a second edition appearing in 1872, the book presented studies of patients suffering from various skin diseases at the Hôpital Saint-Louis in Paris.
The book was published for a third time in 1882 with the illustrations reproduced as Woodburytypes but the photograph offered here is an albumen print from one of the earlier editions.
Doctor Hardy had earlier published a similar work titled Leçons sur les maladies de la peau in 1860.
Photographed by Dr A. de Montmeja.
Dimensions: the print measures4.7" by 3.5" (11.9 cm by 9 cm) ; the page on which it is mounted measures 11.1" by 7.7" (28.3 cm by 19.7 cm).
Condition: The print presents a few small imperfections and some discolouration in the area of the area of the background but is otherwise in excellent condition, with good tonal range. The stiff piece of clean card on which it is mounted is also in excellent condition, with crisp edges and sharp corners.
Hunting dogs and symbols of the hunt
A cabinet card portrait of two hunting dogs lying in front of a dog's kennel; a large brass hunting horn and a rifle are resting against the roof of the kennel and there's a hunting cap perched on the end of the barrel of the rifle.
Photographer and location unidentified, but judging by the mount probably French.
Condition: Both the print and the mount are in excellent condition.
A well-dressed crowd enjoying a picnic
with a hamper from Fortnum and Mason
A flat mount stereoview showing a well-dressed crowd enjoying a picnic in a photographer’s studio rigged up to represent a woodland setting. A hamper from Fortnum and Mason is prominently placed in the foreground.
Condition: The prints are in excellent condition, with rich and satisfying tonal range. The mount presents a small amount of corner wear but is otherwise also in excellent condition. A small paper label verso identifies the stockist where the stereoview was originally purchased at Boston in Lincolnshire.
('Out of Luck')
A hand-coloured, flat mount stereoview showing two fishermen bemoaning the meagre return for their day’s efforts. A small paper label verso gives the image its title: ‘Brighton Shrimpers / Out of Luck.’
Condition: The prints are in excellent condition and the hand-colouring, which has been particularly well executed, is fresh and unfaded. The mount presents some faint foxing verso and a small amount of corner wear but is otherwise clean, firm and solid.
Five men on a pole
with bizarre, hand-written messages
A large format panel print showing five men standing in a line with a long pole between their logs. Each man is holding a piece of paper inscribed with an odd message. Some of the messages are simply bizarre but one or two of them border on the surreal. It's possible that the pieces of paper were blank when the men were photographed and that the messages were added later on the glass negative.
Photographer and location unidentified but almost certainly North American.
Dimensions: The print measures 6.3" by 8.4" (16 cm by 21.1 cm) and is mounted on a slightly larger piece of cream-coloured Bristol board with a beveled edge finished off in gold leaf.
Condition: The print presents a few small imperfections but is otherwise in excellent condition, with very good tonal range. The mount presents a small amount of edge and corner wear and some faint stains verso but is otherwise clean, firm and solid.