In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Early Maine Photography

Human Interest

Two young women with whiskey glasses
Two young women with whiskey glassesItem Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

While most early photographers created formal images of their sitters, some portrayed their subjects with a touch of humor, mystery, or charm. Four tintypes in the Maine Historical Society Collection depict pairs of women in novel studio poses. Two of the tintypes show the same pair of ladies playing chess. In a third tintype, as a defiant gesture toward Maine’s prohibition laws, two young women with whiskey glasses in hand rest their elbows on a table displaying a liquor bottle (pictured at right).

Daguerreotype of a man dressed in fur, ca. 1850
Daguerreotype of a man dressed in fur, ca. 1850Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

An element of mystery surrounds a daguerreotype of an unidentified young man in a large Russian style fur cap and a fur scarf. Weather resistant clothing is also the feature of a tintype of a young man in a large overcoat with a scarf wrapped around his neck. A hat, gloves, and a big umbrella complete the picture.

Children often prompted photographers to be less formal and more creative in composing studio portraits. In an ambrotype, little Eleanor Bradley Peters proudly wears her large fur lined winter coat, an elaborate piece of Victorian clothing that appears to be twice her size. Equally well dressed is young Ernest Perry, who stands next to a chair with his drum.

Eleanor Peters, ca. 1860
Eleanor Peters, ca. 1860Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

A daguerreotype and a tintype tell the stories of two adventurous young Mainers who sought their fortunes in the gold fields of California. Facing an uncertain future three thousand miles from home, Charles H. Baker presented his daguerreotype portrait to Mary, Lucia, and Lizzie, three friends in the Central Maine town of Palmyra. Baker’s poignant inscription in pencil reads: "May 11, 1855 -Tomorrow I am to send this picture to my friends in Palmyra. I am to start for California next Friday and may never return. C.H.B."

In the case of nineteen year old Henry I. Hanscom of China, the search for gold in California proved fatal, for he died of small pox in Sacramento. His modest tintype serves as a reminder of a young life cut short.

Family pets were as treasured in the 1840s as they are today, and their owners sought to capture their images by the newly discovered means of photography. Zip, the bull terrier shown in this daguerreotype, belonged to Dr. Summer Cummings (1800-1848). Born in Waterford, Dr. Cummings graduated from the Medical School of Maine at Bowdoin College in 1823 and practiced medicine in Portland with his father Stephen Cummings. Regretfully, the Cummings family genealogy contains no biographical information about Zip.

Portrait of Zip, ca. 1845
Portrait of Zip, ca. 1845Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society