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Head and Shoulders: 1850

Circa 1844-1860 daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew Brady. "Unidentified man, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly right." View full size.

Circa 1844-1860 daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew Brady. "Unidentified man, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly right." View full size.


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A window into the past

This is an amazing portrait. It made me want to clean it up and see what I could do with it. Here is my photoshopped version.

Dag Guy

Looks like any emo teenager at any mall in the world today.

A prank of sorts?

Knowing that he had to hold still for the long exposure time, can't you see him betting a friend that he could hold a straight face for the duration while wearing a silly hairpiece?

Although I am pretty sure that is his real hair. What is that tuft on the other side? Why such a feminine bob?

[Wigs and powdered hairpieces for men go back hundreds of years and were not uncommon in the days before daily baths and shampoo. Men's hairstyles were what we might regard as feminine -- think George Washington. - Dave]


No - this guy works at my local Starbucks. Nice dude.

A Romantic!

I don't think I've ever seen a portrait of a man with collar undone! It's also a soft, loose collar, unlike the stiffly-starched high collars still in vogue. This young man is making a strong statement. As part of what we now call the Romantic Movement of the 1840s, he's almost certainly a writer (poetry or prose), an artist, or a self-style philosopher.

The hair is, by contrast, not at all unusual for the 1840s. Most young men had wild-looking styles.

On closer study, I think he's wearing an overcoat over his suit coat or a waistcoat. It must be an overcoat because it's so loose and wrinkly. The shoulders also seem a little strange; possibly it's a caped overcoat with the capes thrown back. But ordinary suit coats were trimly fitted and extremely structured. No suit coat with padding and interior structure could hang like that. Only the edge of the suit coat or waistcoat is seen, on the left by the fold of the overcoat lapel.

He must have been quite the lady-killer! Those large, expressive eyes and clean, strong features would make him quite the ideal fellow.

John Doe

This is driving me crazy. He reminds very strongly of someone modern. At first I thought it was mechanic extraordinaire Jesse James, but I am not sure.

I am sure it is a wig, too; they had costumes and proprs like now. Maybe this is "young poet" complete with hand in coat.

These portraits are fascinating. I could look at them all day.

MySpace 1850

I love the facial expression. And he looks so modern, like he plays in a rock band.

Toupee or Not Toupee?

Seriously , that does like a hairpiece. Or Mumsy's wig. Doesn't match his fair facial hair. I like this picture, he has a lively, friendly expression rare in daguerreotypes.

Percy's Locks

Wonder if he belonged to the Wig Party.

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