The Salvation Army arrived in Baltimore in 1881, just a few years after the first family of “Salvationists” arrived in America from England.
This young woman may have been a member of what became known as the Hampden Corps, located a few blocks east of Falls Road on Roland Avenue in Hampden, the neighborhood on the eastern side of the Jones Falls and Woodberry.
The sitter wears a version of the newly-created Salvation Army “uniform,” a navy blue serge skirt, high-necked blouse, and the black straw hat with black silk band and trimmings. She carries a stack of the group’s publication, “War Cry,” which she probably sold on the streets of her neighborhood.
In her 1997 essay “Hallelujah Lasses and the Battle for Souls: Working- and Middle-Class Women in the Salvation Army in the United States, 1872-1896,” historian Lillian Taiz writes that the Salvation Army was an avenue to public careers for young women with limited vocational options. The corps offered women an opening to positions of authority and creativity within the organization, as well as relative equality with their male counterparts (Journal of Women’s History, 9:2, Summer 1997).
The demure uniform for women corps members, developed by Maud Bollington Booth, set young women evangelizing in the streets apart from “worldly” women of questionable morals, and helped make such work more acceptable to middle class arbiters of female behavior.
Booth campaigned relentlessly for the Corps, both through middle-class “drawing room” gatherings and public lectures.
When she appeared in her corps uniform, writes Taiz, Booth “taught her audiences to distinguish Hallelujah Lasses from ordinary working women in the streets whose sexual conduct remained suspect” (95). “For working- and middle-class Salvationists, wearing the Salvation Army uniform publicly announced their rejection of either sins of the body or a life of luxury and ease” (91).
This youthful corps member interpreted the uniform through the two-piece skirt-and-waist outfit that became popular in the late 1890s. Her extremely plain, simple, ill-fitting skirt is clearly homemade. Her baggy blouse, with its loose, subdued bishop sleeve gathered at the wrist, is determinedly unflattering.
Considering that this young woman’s work would have been in an urban setting, the sylvan painted backdrop against which she is photographed is more than ordinarily incongruous. The backdrop, along with a papier mache column, were popular studio props from about 1880 on.
Ross Kelbaugh’s directory does not include the firm name of Armiger & Fuhrman, but Benjamin W. Armiger (1851-1932) and William Furhman are both listed separately as having studios at 303 and 303-1/2 Falls Road during the 1890s and early 1900s.
Growing Up in Baltimore mentions that “the photographer Armiger of Woodberry was popular in this area at that time, and his studio was located on what was then Third Avenue, now 36th Street” in Hampden (Eden Unger Bowditch, Growing Up in Baltimore: A Photographic History, 2001, 29).
The current location of the Salvation Army Hampden Corps is at Roland Park and 34th, just a few blocks south of the business district where Armiger had his studio.
The excellent site Baltimore City Nineteenth-Century Photos has a page on Benjamin W. Armiger, including a portrait. According to this site, Armiger was born in Anne Arundel County to farmers John W. and Harriet Neff Armiger. He is buried in Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore.