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About the Photos

Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • VOLUNTEER FOR VICTORY

(Tintype) Mother and Baby

(Tintype) Mother and Baby

This tintype was found in a collection of pictures from my wife's grandfather Charles Mathew LeGallienne. He came from Liverpool to Atlanta around the turn of the century. The mother appears to be in mourning with what appears to be a dead baby. I would love comments on this photo. The woman was probably the sister of Ruby Love Andrews from Alabama.

For more information on these photographs

For more information see: Updike, John. "Facing Death: Our Ancestors Look Gravely and Steadily upon Things That We Cannot." American Heritage May-June 1992. Web. http://www.americanheritage.com/content/facing-death. Volume 43, Issue 3

The article is a review of the book, “Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America” by Dr. Stanley B. Burns on the topic of postmortem photography from 1842 to 1925. While the subject is macabre to us, today, Updike places it tenderly within the context of the times. While it’s certainly not a nominee for the “feel-good book of the summer”, I can’t help but feel closer to these people from the past after reading Updikes article.

Postmortem Child Photos

It was common for a time to take photographs of children who had died. In many cases, the parents simply hadn’t had one made yet. American Heritage had a poignant article about this practice several years ago. As a parent, it is easy to see wanting to have an image – any image – of your child. I suspect that this picture was either looked at a million time or just a couple. These really tug at your heart. Was it taken in Atlanta?

Dead baby photos

This picture breaks my heart! The tightness of the young mother's lips shows how hard it was for her to keep from crying. This certainly would have been only a day or two after the death of the child. I also have a picture of a young woman with a dead baby, from about 1902, which was of the brother of my grandfather, being held by his aunt. This picture was obviously taken decades earlier, but I think it is probably the same story; that a young child died, never having had any kind of likeness made of him/her, so they had one made before burial. The one I have was made to look as if the baby was only sleeping. This one doesn't appear as if they were making any attempt to hide the fact that the baby was dead. It was a common occurrence, until recently, for babies to die, but that didn't make it any easier for mothers.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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