Our Darlings Rest Amongst the Flowers that Bloometh Over There

Mourning images from my collection.

In this early 1/4th-plate daguerreotype, taken about 1845, a sad, proud widow peers at us through what seems to be a hole in time.
The sitter wears a white widow’s cap, a hair mourning brooch, and jet bracelets. The back of the plate is inscribed with the numbers “48-36-42,” the meaning of which is unknown. This 1/6th-plate daguerreotype dates to circa 1855.
This hand-tinted 1/9th-plate Ambrotype was created in about 1858. The beautiful woman so stunningly colored by the photographer is almost certainly not a widow like the two ladies above. Widows, even in deepest mourning, wore white crape caps, bonnet ruches, or other touches of white, to indicate their status.

In this 1/4th-plate ambrotype, circa 1858, an unidentified Scotsman wears a top hat with a crape mourning band. Mourning for a man meant his best black suit and a hatband of the dull, black cloth. The width of the crape band indicated the level of closeness to the deceased. In this case, the wider band shows the loss was probably of a near family member.
This sad tintype image of a Civil War-era mourner features a blue tax stamp on its reverse, dating it exactly to the year 1864.
The photographer of this circa-1867 tintype has purposefully cast the young woman on the right in the role of supporter. She has a handkerchief on her lap to show that whilst the death has touched her, she is not a relation compelled to wear mourning. She holds the hand of the woman on the left, who is in second-stage mourning clothing, and looks at her intently, offering her own strength. The mourner stares with determination into the future. They are marking a loss but are determined to survive it.
This young mourner posed for this cabinet card by Patton & Dietrich’s Photo Gallery, “Cor. of 7th & Penn Sts., Reading, PA,” in about 1878.
This lovely mourner sat for this albumen cabinet card in about 1885. The back stamp reads: “New York Portrait Co., Geo. G. Utt, Manager, Nos. 1426 and 1428 Franklin Avenue, Saint Louis, MO. The negative of this photograph preserved for future orders and can be reduced to the smallest locket or enlarged up to life-size and finished in Crayon or Watercolor.”
When I first posted this image on Flickr, I was asked why I thought mourners had their pictures taken. I replied that it was done to “mark the moment.” When something happened that an individual wanted to remember — such as marriage, confirmation, coming of age, or university graduation — he or she went a studio to sit for a picture. As with the aforementioned happier events, photographing oneself in mourning was very much considered a moment to remember. The resulting image was a kind of evidence that the individual truly grieved a loss and held the deceased in high respect.


All images from the Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.

Author: Ann Longmore-Etheridge

Writer, journalist, editor, historian.

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