Mannish woman posing awkwardly with a chair

Click here to view it larger.

What it is:

Cabinet card measuring 4.25 x 6.5 inches.

What I know about it:

Photographer is Urlin’s Mammoth Art Gallery of Columbus, Ohio.  Otherwise undated and unidentified.


When I’ve shown this one to friends, reactions have ranged from “We’re probably seeing her hair grow back in after it was shaved to deal with a lice infestation” to “Ooh, a drag queen!”.  My guess would be something closer to the former.  The idea that she might be a lesbian or drag queen would be delightful if true, but I suspect Columbus in the 1880s was not a good place for a lesbian to be so obvious, and I believe a female impersonator of the day would have worn a wig, or at least a hat, to complete the effect.  Whatever the case, it’s a strikingly unusual look.  Then there’s the odd pose with the chair.  I wasn’t sure what to make of it, and I didn’t recall having seen anything like it before.  But I just discovered this photo with a similar pose.  The difference is that Countess Virginia de Castiglione manages to look insouciant and sexy, while our gal from Columbus manages to look like she’s never seen a chair in her life and has no idea how to use it.  Whatever is going on here, the overall image is one that continues to puzzle and amuse me.  By the way, if anyone is interested, some biographical information on the photographer, George C. Urlin, can be found here.  And be sure to check out the back of this card, with a proud display of Urlin’s many awards and professional associations.  While it wasn’t uncommon for photographers to show off like that, I think there’s an extra touch of the grandiose in the way he includes “U.S.A.” in his address, as if he is anticipating international acclaim.

2 comments on “Mannish woman posing awkwardly with a chair”

  1. “Never seen a chair before in her life and has no idea how to use it”? That made me laugh. A lot.

    Thanks for that.

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