British photographic history

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Information: Photos identification and questions

Can anyone help with the three photographs below and the questions posted? 

Date of Photo and age of man

Date of Photo and age of woman

Can anyone help - we think they are relatives but the date and age would help to decide ?

Is this a mourning photo - mother of a lost baby ?

can anyone explain the photo - any idea when and how old she is - was this a usual thing to do ?

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Comment by Peter Leonard on April 1, 2015 at 12:58

fantastic feedback and opinions - thank you for your expertise both.


Comment by Robert Pols on April 1, 2015 at 12:55

Like David, I can't fully make out the details of the cover design, but I agree that it appears to feature a moulded still-life wreath of a fruit-and-veg kind. The photograph itself is hidden from our view inside the case. But, unless it is a later kind of portrait (a carte de visite, say, trimmed to fit the earlier case)  it seems unlikely to be of John Stewart. If the hidden image is a daguerreotype, that process was losing its share of the market by the mid-1850s (or early 1860s in the USA). If, more probably, it's an ambrotype, then the heyday of the good quality ambrotype in a union case extends from the 1850s into the earlier 1860s. (Examples from the 1870s and later tended to produced for the lower end of the market and to be less grandly housed.) None of this fits very comfortably with a portrait of a child born c1870. I can't shake off the notion that there is significance in the juxtaposition of case and ring(s). I fear, though, that the inexplicably* closed case is going to keep its secret.

*Inexplicably - unless David is right to suspect that this is no more than a studio prop.

Comment by David Gobbitt on April 1, 2015 at 11:51

Apologies - the "Wreath of Fruit" link is in fact here.

Comment by David Gobbitt on April 1, 2015 at 11:43

Frank's step-sister Marian (1844-1930) would seem to be quite a likely candidate, and it would be surprising if none of her many descendants had inherited other photographs that could be compared with this one.

Without the benefit of a high-resolution image, I'm not so sure about the cover design of the union case, which Robert has dated to the 1850s or thereabouts. A broadly similar example has been catalogued by an American trader as a Wreath of Fruit.

Comment by Peter Leonard on March 31, 2015 at 21:55

David, Robert,

We now think we know who this lady is. We think it is Marion Sarah Walton, Frank's younger sister, born in 1843 so in the age range of 28-33 years in the WINN photo in 1871-76. We know she had a son called John Stewart who died aged 6 years old in 1876 in the same area as WINNS studio. Looking under a strong magnifier the photo she is holding seems to be of a child's face with a hood around it, but it is not easy to see if it is a baby's face or a 6 year old perhaps. Does this all tally with your opinions ?

Comment by Robert Pols on March 30, 2015 at 20:55

Re the union case: whilst I do feel it's being offered for the viewer's consideration, I take David's point that you'd expect it to be opened to reveal the picture inside. That would, indeed, be the usual practice.

I'm glad Frank Walton's mount design has been seen by someone connected to him. It's good to be reminded that every studio portrait is a family photograph in a double sense - for the subject's descendants and for the photographer's.

Comment by Peter Leonard on March 30, 2015 at 19:49

David & Robert, thanks for your comments. 

Robert, I have your book "Dating 19thC Photographs and my ancestor, Frank Walton's CDV design is shown on Page 86 - many thanks for that.

Comment by David Gobbitt on March 30, 2015 at 12:55

Good points, Robert. The front of the case is certainly displayed very prominently, and perhaps embossed with an initial letter of some significance. But if this is not merely a studio prop, I wonder why the photograph inside is not shown instead.

Incidentally, the photoLondon website states that Benjamin Winn's wife was "Susan (b Heneage, Suffolk 1842)" and that he died in Preston in 1905. I now see from other sources that she was Susanna(h) Farrants (baptized at Horringer, Suffolk, in November 1843) and that by 1880 they were living in New Zealand, where Benjamin died in 1921 (

Comment by Robert Pols on March 30, 2015 at 0:14

The picture by Winn is interesting, and I'm sure the cased photograph she's holding has to be the key to its significance. It seems to be being displayed to the camera rather than just keeping her hands busy, and whilst it partly obscures the ring finger, it's actually being held next to the ring. It appears to be in a union case and is likely,  to be an ambrotype or, possibly, a daguerreotype. Either way, it's a photograph that was taken about 15-20 years before the carte on which it appears. I think the carte has been contrived as a memorial to someone who was photographed some years earlier, and who could have died soon after, or recently, or at any point between. The carte may mark the death or an anniversary of the death. The juxtaposition of ring and cased portrait would seem to nudge us in the direction of a husband rather than a child. (Does this make sense?) 

Comment by David Gobbitt on March 29, 2015 at 18:34

The photographer Benjamin Winn (1843-1905) is listed at 369 Kingsland Road, Hackney, from 1871 to 1876 ( so if his subject was about 25 to 30 years old, she could have been born in the 1840s. Her fur-trimmed clothing looks too ornate for mourning but not unusual for that era. She may have been given a folding photo-frame to occupy her hand. Partially obscuring her ring finger, I think it makes this portrait unlikely to be in celebration of her engagement or wedding.

I'd say the first two prints are earlier (mid- to late 1860s?) and the subjects probably a little younger, perhaps in their early twenties.

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