A Byerly Beauty

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This ca. 1880s cabinet card portrait was taken by John Davis Byerly (1839-1914) at his studio on Frederick’s Market Street,  founded by his father, Jacob Byerly (1807-1883), in 1842.

John joined his father’s business ca. 1863-1869, during which period their photographs bore the business name J. Byerly & Son.

Around 1869-1870, photographs began bearing the name J. Davis Byerly. In 1899, John retired and turned the business over to his son Charles Byerly (1874-1944), who ran the studio until it was destroyed in a building collapse in 1915.

A number of details, both of setting and of dress, place this photograph in the 1880s.

The advertising that  fills the card’s reverse employs a japonisme decorative motif, with a bamboo frame accented with small blossoms.

The subject’s dress features mid- to late-1880s details such as a high round collar, relatively tight sleeves set high on the shoulder, a bodice decorated with buttons, dark velvet trim and tucks. Her hair is worn pulled back, low on the head, with  curled bangs typical of the decade, as is her small, high-crowned hat, known as a “capote.”

Increasingly, photographers of the late 19th century used props and painted backgrounds to more closely approximate the naturalness of the best painted portraiture. Darrah distinguishes this more elaborate “staging” of a portrait from simple posing (William C. Darrah, Cartes de Visite in Nineteenth Century Photography, 33).

Byerly may have been thinking of M.A. Root’s instructions in The Camera and The Pencil to “place the model in a very easy and graceful manner” (quoted in Darrah, Cartes, ).

Byerly posed his subject in a faux outdoor setting with fake grass, papier mache tree stump, and painted backdrop, as if the young woman were reading outside her home on a fine spring day. The light emanates from the upper right corner of the frame in imitation of natural sunlight.

The photograph’s decorative framing however, cannot compete with the simple, fresh, confident attractions of its young subject.

As usual, the information and interpretations of the portrait above rely on several key sources: Ross Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers 1839-1900, William C. Darrah’s Cartes de Visite in Nineteenth Century Photography, and Joan Severa’s Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion 1840-1900.

Graduates of the Western Maryland Hospital Nurses’ Training School, 1911

It’s battered, worn, chipped and torn, but someone once cared enough for this photograph to identify each of these young 1911 graduates of Western Maryland Hospital’s Nurses’ Training School:

Front row (seated), left to right: Carrie Drucilla Wagner, Ada Brotemarkle, Mary McNeill Williams

Standing, left to right: Margaret E. Conroy, Mary Ward Stevenson

The Baltimore Sun printed a small announcement of the event:

Cumberland, Md., May 18–The graduating exercises of the nurses’ training school of the Western Maryland Hospital will take place at Emmanuel Parish House, Monday evening, May 22. The graduates will be Misses Mary McNeill Williams, Moorefield, W. Va.; Carrie Drucilla Wagner, Hyndman, Pa.; Ada Brotemarkle, near Cumberland; Miss Mary Ward Stevenson, Keyser, W. Va., and Miss Margaret Conroy, Mount Savage, Md.

I have only been able to trace a few fragments of their lives.

Carrie Drucilla Wagner (Carrie was short for Catherine, not Caroline), born April 1890, was the daughter of Hyndman, Pa. coal miner and grocer John H. Wagner and his wife Amanda.

Ada Brotemarkle came from an old Bedford County family.  Her great-great-grandfather, Friedrich Christoph Brodmerkel, was born in Germany in 1745 and died in Cumberland County, Md. in 1823. Ada was the daughter of Bedford County farmers Milton Brotemarkle (1854-1916) and Mary Eliza Anderson Brotemarkle (1851-1907). They are buried in in the cemetery attached to Centenary United Methodist Church, in Alleghany County, Md.

Ada married North Carolinian John Henry Johnson in 1918. They lived first Edgecombe County, North Carolina, where their two children were born: Nellie Johnson (abt. 1922) and David Milton Johnson (b.24 July 1923). In 1930, they had returned to Alleghany County, Md., where they lived in in Wills Creek. John was working as a quarry laborer.

Mary McNeill Williams (b. Apr 1885, Hardy Co., W. Va.) was the daughter of farmer Edward Williams (1831-1902) and Anna Elizabeth Van Meter Williams (1853-1929); both her parents are buried in Olivet Cemetery, Moorefield, Hardy Co., W. Va. In 1930, Mary was living at home with her parents in Moorefield, and working as a private nurse. Her father may have served with the Confederate army during the Civil War.

Margaret E. Conroy (b. Sep 1876) of Mount Savage, Allegheny Co. Md., may have been daughter of Irish immigrant miner Timothy Conroy (b. Feb 1828). In 1920 Margaret worked as nurse in Frostburg, Maryland’s hospital.

The building on Baltimore Avenue these women trained in was dedicated in 1892. It seems likely this photograph was taken on the hospital’s grounds.

Thanks to Jill Craig of the Western Maryland Regional Library for pointing out that Maryland’s county is spelled “Allegany,” not “Allegheny.” The WMRL has agreed to accept the original of this photograph into its photographic collection.

Thanks to Dave Tabler of the cool site ApplachianHistory.net for his help and interest in this photograph.

The Two Mrs. Alexander Chaplains: Emily Thomas

My last post concerned a portrait of Elmira or Elma Kemp Chaplain (1837-1869), first wife of Talbot County Superintendent of Schools Alexander Chaplain (1835-1918).

A short time after I acquired that portrait, I had the very good fortune to find a portrait of Chaplain’s second wife, Emily, also called Emma, Thomas (1838-1904), in an old album of Maryland portraits.  On the back is written “Aunt Emily Chaplain, Uncle Alex’s 2nd wife.”

Emily Thomas, daughter of Dorchester County farmer Algernon Thomas and Deborah Shannahan, married Alexander Chaplain in 1872.  In 1880, Emily bore a half-sister, Eleanor Chaplain,  for her husband’s daughter Maude.

This  carte de visite portrait was made at the studio of Frank Kuhn, in Baltimore. According to Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers, Kuhn , who also partnered for a time with James Cummins, occupied 48 and 50 N. Charles Street 1879-1880. Note that Kuhn identifies himself not as a photographer, but as an” artist.”

Emily sports a long curl worn over one shoulder, a style typical of the 1870s, and possibly made of false hair.

Other surnames found in this album of mostly western Maryland portraits are Spalding, Bourne, Bowers, Willis and Martin. The presence of one Chaplain, referred to as the wife of an “uncle,” and another of Margie Robinson, one of Alexander Chaplain’s nieces (see previous posts under “Chaplain Family”), sent me on a frustrating search for family connections that remains full of unsolved puzzles.

The Two Mrs. Alexander Chaplains: Elmira Kemp

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When a number of cartes de visite from the very old Chaplain family of Trappe, Talbot County, Maryland came up for auction recently, I was fortunate to acquire some of them. One that got away: A portrait of Alexander A. Chaplain (1835-1918), a graduate of Dickinson Collge, teacher and Talbot County’s Superintendent of Schools for many years.

I did, however, manage to acquire a carte portrait of one of his two wives.

Chaplain was married twice: first, to his Trappe neighbor Elmira, or Elma, Kemp (1837-186), and second, to a Dorchester County lady, Emily Thomas (1838-1904).

Elma was the daughter of Trappe physician Samuel Troth Kemp and Elizabeth Hardcastle Kemp. Elma and Alexander had a daughter, Maude.

Elma’s sister Evalina Kemp married Alexander Chaplain’s brother, physician James Stevens Chaplain (1827-1908).

Elma may be buried in the private Kemp cemetery in Trappe. Alexander is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery, Easton.

The carte de visite portrait above was taken in Philadelphia, by Edward P. Hipple, Arch Street. Mr. Hipple advertised the advantage of a “skylight on ground floor,” meaning ladies would not have to climb several staircases to reach the studio.

If the full sleeve, dropped at the shoulders, and the wide skirt, weren’t enough to do so, the simple setting, steadying chair and plain advertising mark all place this carte in the early 1860s.