Older woman in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Click here to view it larger.

Here’s another photo I got this weekend at the book fair. It’s another CDV (Carte de Visite, measuring 2.5 x 4 inches). Since the comments in yesterday’s post turned to the topic of revenue stamps on the backs of photos, I thought I’d share one of the four I just bought. These stamps were a tax imposed during the Civil War to help fund the war effort. Photographers were required to add the tax to each photo they sold, verifying that the money was paid by sticking a stamp on the back of the photo. The amount of the stamp depended on how much the photo cost. In this case, the 2-cent stamp means that the photo cost 25 cents or less. Since the stamps were only used from August 1864 through August 1866, that means this photo is from that two year window.

This is what the back of the card looks like (click the image to view it larger):

The photographer is Tompkins’ Gallery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. But along the side is written “Mrs. P. Rosencrans Ohio”. Is this a picture of Mrs. P. Rosencrans? Was she visiting Grand Rapids and had per picture taken? Did she later move to Ohio? Or perhaps this woman had multiple copies of this photo made, and indicated on each one to whom she wanted them sent. Whoever she is, she’s posing very deliberately with a book, suggesting it’s something of significance to her. Is it a Bible? Some other book? It may also be a photo album. I’m not sure, which is too bad, because she looks very determined that I should understand.

14 comments on “Older woman in Grand Rapids, Michigan”

  1. I did a quick search on Ancestry for the name P. Rosencrans in Michigan in the 1860s, and there were no good results. I noticed a P. Rosecrans (sic), born about 1805, living in Iowa, who was a Methodist Minister. I didn’t pursue him, though. If your lady was the wife of a minister, they might have moved around.

  2. Just to clarify, P.J. Rosecrans, age 55, Methodist Minister, was living in Lake, Iowa, in 1860. Living next door was a Lizzie Rosecrans, age 20, Teacher of Common School.

  3. I had a cup of coffee and decided to take another quick look. In the 1860 Iowa state census, Lizzie Rosecrans is listed as having been born in Ohio. I looked at the original document of the 1860 federal census, and it says the same thing, but it wasn’t transcribed by Ancestry, so I missed it the first time!

  4. In the 1850 federal census, Mary E. [Elizabeth] Rosecrans, age 10, is living in Whitewater, Ohio, with her brother and sister and parents, Parmenus (age 45) and Mary (age 41, born in Ohio). I couldn’t find anything else about her mother, Mary.

    Find-A-Grave for Rev. Parmenus Isaac Rosecrans: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/109500492/parmenus-isaac-rosecrans

    Find-A-Grave for Mary Elizabeth Rosecrans Leming:

    • Wow, thanks for all this digging! I think I’m still left with the question of whether Mrs. P. Rosencrans of Ohio is the woman in this photo, but it’s fun to begin to put all the pieces together.

      • You’re right, we may never know the identity of the lady in the photo for certain. I looked at some family trees on Ancestry, and found that Mary’s maiden name was Sweet, and her husband’s first name was probably spelled Permanus, rather than Parmenus. Either way, it’s a name I haven’t run into before. The trees I looked at contained a photo of him, but not one of her.

      • I haven’t heard that name, either. Well, even if we don’t determine for sure who this lady is, it’s likely that she’s related to the family trees you’re finding, or at least is in the same social circle.

  5. Two thoughts. One, she is missing at least her upper front teeth. That collapsed look is due to no teeth to push out the facial lip structures. Two, I think she is holding a photo album. The posing of the book is unnatural which suggests it is hers and she wants to show it off. More artistic posing might be accomplished with a prop book that could be seen in the background but isn’t the focus of the image.so the album may have been something she prized and wanted to highlight in her portrait. These albums were relatively small comparatively but just big enough to feature one CDV per page. They often had straps or locks to keep them closed. One final thought – the day cap she is wearing was a popular style for older women during the war years. The lappets around the ears are a throwback to 1850s styles. She was most fashion-confident in the 1830s to 1850s and her clothing overall reflects that. Nice image.

    • Great to hear from you, Mrs. Marvel. Yes, I was guessing she was missing some teeth. And I agree that it’s likely a photo album. I have an old one like you describe (stiff pages for inserting CDVs or tintypes, one per page, with a clasp). I saw a number of them for sale this weekend, including ones that were large enough to have multiple pictures per page, but they were all way outside my meager budget. And thanks for your usual clothing expertise. It makes complete sense that she’d be wearing something that reflected an older fashion, a fact that makes for an interesting wrinkle when dating photos, which is why it’s useful to have the revenue stamp to help.

      • In my experience with the photo albums, after 1870 is when we begin to see multiple openings per page. CDVs of course were popular and traded for 40 years so it would be of use for multiple images per page or CDV and cabinet sizes in the same book. My favorite is a gem album I found.

      • That makes sense, that albums would have gotten more elaborate over time. How great that you have those albums.

  6. Clearly she is a force to be reckoned with!

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