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Dark Lady: 1890

Washington, D.C., circa 1890. "Mad. Aragon." That's Madame to you, bub. 5x7 inch glass negative from the C.M. Bell portrait studio. View full size.

Washington, D.C., circa 1890. "Mad. Aragon." That's Madame to you, bub. 5x7 inch glass negative from the C.M. Bell portrait studio. View full size.


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Finished Product?

Would this be considered a raw or stock picture? I don't think it's the final product as it shows the rough edge of the backdrop.

[This is the negative, not the finished print. - Dave]

A Lady From Costa Rica

She was in the United States for a few months in 1889-1890, accompanying her husband, the Honorable Dr. Manuel Aragon, representative from Costa Rica to the International American Conference. This from page 9 of the Saturday, December 7, 1889 edition of the Evening Star (Washington D.C.):



They arrived in early October 1889 and left sometime in April, 1890. They took apartments at 1012 13th Street.

Her husband—from the December 28, 1889 edition of the Evening Star:

Dr Aragon

In mid-October U.S. Senator Joseph Hawley (R-CT) took the delegates on a tour of the Colt factory in Hartford, Connecticut, whereupon Dr. Aragon laughingly remarked "I do not see why we came here, our conference is in the interest of peace; we are not favorable to war." However, Senator Hawly related "But I noted that the senor was interested more than a little in the weapons despite his carelessly jocular remark."


I am looking at all those tiny ruffles and gathers and wondering how they stored and cleaned such outfits. I understand that it wasn't like today. She'd have petticoats and undershirts, bloomers, stockings, a corset, and slip under that, keeping her body oils from touching that jacket and skirt.

But even so, babies spilled milk, mud splashed. Stuff happened.

What did they do with outfits like this to keep them wearable for more than taking studio pictures?

Extraordinarily high coefficient of weirdness

Just about everything about this portrait is exceeding strange: the dress and hat, the umbrella as a prop, the blank gaze off-stage, the excelsior on the floor.

Presuming that the dress is black, is she in mourning? Some kind of spiritualist? An actress? A society doyenne gone over to the dark side?

Looking in census records for 1910 reveals many women with the surname Aragon, most Amerindians, but none in DC. Perhaps she is the wife/sister/mother of some Latin American diplomat?

Whoever she is and whatever she is up to, she certainly has gravitas!

Or do you say umbrella?

A rather ornate, fine & fancy bumbershoot you're sporting, Madame Aragon!


Library of Congress dates it between 1873 and ca. 1916. I'd say 1880s, just by the dress. My wife says 1895, because of the 'leg of mutton' sleeves.

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