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Early Maine Photography

Family Groups

Unidentified family, ca. 1857
Unidentified family, ca. 1857Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

The Vickery-Shettleworth Collection contains several examples of daguerreotypes and ambrotypes of family groups. A well-dressed family sat for Charles L. Marston of Bangor between 1856 and 1859. Marston skillfully posed the seven sitters - a father, mother, three sons, and two daughters – to accentuate their individual personalities, expressions, and postures, creating a balanced but dynamic composition.

More direct in approach is the ambrotype of the Patch Family of Bangor. This three generation portrait places a grandmother at the center flanked by a mother and father. Two boys stand behind them and a third sits in front of his father.

O.R. Patch family, Bangor, ca. 1865
O.R. Patch family, Bangor, ca. 1865Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

The faces of pre-Civil War rural Maine are symbolized in a daguerreotype of John R. Pearl, his wife Harriet Spofford Pearl, and their three children. Following their marriage in 1839, John and Pearl Spofford moved from Massachusetts to Dedham in the northwest Hancock County, where they farmed and raised their family. Large families were common in the mid-nineteenth century, as reflected by an ambrotype of a father, a mother, and their three sons and three daughters.

The composition of a daguerreotype of a father, a son and two daughters invites questions as to the family dynamic shared by these individuals. The father sits alone to the left, indicating that his wife has died, while the son, seated center right, receives the attention of his two sisters.

James Fowler family, Unity, ca. 1855
James Fowler family, Unity, ca. 1855Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society
Family Groups in the Vickery-Shettleworth Collection
Family Groups in the Vickery-Shettleworth CollectionClick on the image for full slideshow

Several daguerreotypes and ambrotypes in the Vickery-Shettleworth Collection depict smaller family groupings of three figures. In a daguerreotype by Samuel L. Carleton of Portland, the serious countenances of a father, mother, and their son are tempered by the affectionate holding of hands by father and son and the boy’s Napoleonic pose of his other hand in his coat. More straightforward is an ambrotype of Mr. and Mrs. John Fowler of Unity and their young daughter. This image is accompanied by an ambrotype of their two sons.