This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

A Medley of Violins

23 February 2018

It's not just a good photo.
It's a great photograph!
The clarity and definition are superb,
the result of a quality camera lens.
I know that mother and father were pleased
but I'm sure Daniel Y. Andre,
the photographer in Dixon, Illinois
was very proud to produce this quality of image.

This charming young girl is perhaps 10 or maybe 12 years old.
Holding her violin, her left fingers rest on the strings
while the bow in her right hand is ready for music.
Mr. Andre's camera has captured
the beautiful pattern in her gown
as well as the long ringlets of her hair.
But his real skill was balancing the light on her face
to give us a sense of her real character.

Her name was L. A. Garrison
which was written onto the back of her cabinet card.
Sadly this photo was made in the 1890s and
I can find no records for her or her family.

* * *

This second girl is
a couple years older, in her teens I think.
Her long wavy hair has no ringlets
but instead is tied back with two bows.
Her dress is similar to the Dixon girl
with ornate crochet work
and a long satin sash around her waist.
Her violin and bow is set in a proper playing posture,
but there is no weight, no tension in her hands,
so I don't think she is actually making any sound.

The photographer was Fritze Haase of Görlitz, Germany,
a city just on the border of Poland.
The girl stands gracefully just in front
of a sheepskin rug and a theatrical backdrop
that gives a crude illusion of wainscotting and bookshelf.
With her confident gaze into the camera,
she looks like an accomplished musician.
Sadly her musical dreams will soon be disrupted,
as her postcard was mailed on the 5th of June 1914.

* * *

This next violinist is older again by just a few years,
sixteen, maybe eighteen?
She strikes the same playing position
as the girl from
Görlitz, but her head is turned,
her eyes watching a hidden conductor
about to give the downbeat.

She also stands in front of a theatrical flat,
this one of a more artful interior if still crudely painted,
but with no sheepskin.
Her hair is carefully curled but pinned back.
The puffy shoulders of her white blouse
are a fashion of the late 1890s.
The photographer was Mr. Crain, Artist
of the Gem Studio
located at 1322 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, Washington.
The photo mount is small Cabinet Gem size, 3½ x 5¼,
just a bit larger than a cdv, which also dates from the 1890s.

* * *

Now another young lady looks to start her violin concert.
Her arms are a bit more relaxed than the Tacoma girl.
Her gaze is just to the right of the camera,
with just a hint of a sweet smile.
She is also age sixteen or eighteen,
to judge by her dress,from an earlier decade.
Her waist is tightly cinched
and her neck bound with a ribbon and lace collar.

We can not see her feet
because of the length of her dress.
But also the photographer's sheepskin,
or artificial grass, hides them too.
Behind her is another interior backdrop
showing faux wainscoting, coal fire,
and a decorative mantelpiece and mirror.
The photographer was C. M. Tuttle
of Sodus, New York,
a small town on Lake Ontario, just east of Rochester.
The gold scalloped edges on this cabinet card
were a new photo fashion from the mid-1880s.

* * *

My last violinist returns to a pose
not unlike the little girl of Dixon, IL.
However this young woman
displays eyes of a different kind for the camera.
Her fingers may be on the strings,
but her provocative glance seems intent
on playing more than just the violin.

The photographer was J. B. Scholl
of 210 State St., Chicago.
Mr. Scholl's studio had very good lighting
which he used with a simple gauze backdrop
to get a diaphanous effect on the woman's white gown.
The cabinet card's backstamp
claimed his successful specialty was the
Instantaneous Portraits of Children.
His initials J. B. S. were incorporated
into a design that showed he had exhibited in
Wien in 1873, Paris in 1880,
and also Berlin and Philadelphia.
His full name was John B. Scholl
and he was born in Illinois in 1857.

This violinist's name is written on the cabinet card's back.
She was Cora W. Dorman of Arcola, IL
G.F.C.    Apr. 1, 1891

In the 1880 census for Arcola, IL, which is a small town
about 175 miles south of Chicago,
Cora was the youngest daughter
of Solomon and Margaret Dorman.
Born in 1872 she was then the fourth of five children.
Her father was a furniture dealer
and her oldest sister was a teacher. 
In 1891, Cora was nineteen years old. 
Did her violin break a few heart strings too?

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where recycling is a time honored tradition.


Alex Daw said...

Absolutely stunning images - some of them quite haunting but yes the first is the best in terms of clarity...although I do find the smile of the fourth girl quite infectious.

Kathy said...

Oh that first one is my favorite, but all are lovely.

La Nightingail said...

Such an expression on that last young lady's face! Whoa - gentlemen, beware in a few more years! :)

21 Wits said...

Quite a group of talent here, they are lovely and happy without a dog or a bike! Play music play!

smkelly8 said...

They look so graceful. Now I'd like a portrait of me with a violin. I'd just use it as a prop. Wish I could actually play.

Wendy said...

Miss L A Garrison is my fav - I can almost feel that lace on her sleeves. As for the last gal, I wouldn’t be surprised to find little devil horns under all those curls.

Little Nell said...

You are so right about the clarity of that first photograph, and what a beautiful dress she is wearing, Ah, but Cora - intent on playing more than just the violin? You may be right about that too.

Molly's Canopy said...

Great selection of photos and photographer details. I did a quick search for L. Garrison in Illinois in the 1880 U.S. Census, and there is an L.M. Garrison (possible census-taker error?) born in 1877, so about age 3, living with her parents in Dodds, Jefferson, IL Not that close to Dixon, but the family could have moved by the 1890s. A shame not to be able to find her. The photo is so wonderful!

Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

I wonder how many people ordered their photos "life sized." The dresses are all
beautiful. I too wonder about Cora. Wonderful photos.

tony said...

Brilliant Photographs,All!
It strikes that female emancipation must have been progressed by such female musicians.
One of the few areas where women could 'compete' on an equal footing to men.
A Grand Post (again!)

Barbara Rogers said...

How sweet, young girls and violins. The photographers were giving directions to them, weren't they, as to where to look, how to hold their heads up or down? I think that last one demonstrates the photographer's changing an innocent look into one that has hidden meaning.


  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP