Friday, August 11, 2017


In the infamous liquor boxes I’ve got stashed in the upstairs closet, there must be fifty or so of those wonderful cabinet shots—those stiff, cardboard photographs of some of my stiff ancestors posed in various photographic studios. I love the props—the chairs and tables, the fences and sofas—that those photographers used to set up the shots; the curtained backdrops are dead giveaways, aren’t they?
          At any rate, I’ve been looking at the cabinet cards themselves, especially the photographers’ imprints on the bottom front (and/or back): logo, address, etc.
          Some of them are just wonderful…

…two front imprints from the studios of Chickering (on West Street in Boston) and one from Benjamin Freeman in Somerville, both from the 1880s…

…and here’s a backside imprint from A.R. Fowler in Meadville, Pennsylvania (my paternal grandmother came from there…).
          Look at the flowers!!!

Here’s the backside of a portrait of Emma Tidd, a friend of my great-grandmother’s, taken by P.H. Rose. He was a very successful photographer in Providence, Rhode Island; his studio was in the Conrad building (see illustration) on Westminster Street.

I’ve got a cabinet shot of my grandfather, William Wescott Howell, taken in 1884 in Boston at the Ritz & Hastings studio on Tremont Street. On the backside, there’s a fancy imprint for the business, and a lengthy inscription written by my great-grandfather on the occasion.

For those of you who don’t wish to stand on your heads, the inscription reads:
Given to his papa with a kiss one Sunday night in the Library at Ingleside, Dec. 21st, 1884. Willie was 11 years & from June 23rd to Dec. 6th Will weighed         Heighth 4 feet 11 ½ inches. The picture was taken in Boston Dec. 6th, 1884 on Saturday when we had gone down for the lesson on Violin.

          That might be more than we need to know, but I’m awfully glad to know his “heighth.”

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Old Goat...

For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain...
      --Tennyson, The Passing of Arthur