Perhaps as a distraction from yet another month of winter weather, turning the calendars to February focuses some of our thoughts on Valentine’s Day and romance. While we are all familiar with today’s ubiquitous visual records of weddings, I found myself wondering about love and marriage and photography in an earlier time period, and began looking through the Library Company’s collections with an eye to romance.
In the late 19th century marriage and courtship found their way into popular visual culture through comic stereographs like this one by Philadelphia photographer William Rau. The large umbrella undoubtedly hid the young couple’s furtive kissing.
William Rau. Before Marriage, albumen print stereograph, 1897. The Library Company of Philadelphia. Gift of Sandra Markham.
The interruption of clandestine romantic activities between courting couples or within (and even outside) a marriage was a recurring theme of comic stereographs. Rau, for example, also copyrighted a series of a dozen stereographs telling the story of Mr. and Mrs. Turtledove. When a new attractive French cook entered their household, romantic complications ensued. Mrs. Turtledove finds incriminating flour-covered handprints on Mr. Turtledove’s jacket and demands that he leave their home. The sheepish husband wins back his wife’s affections and replaces the good-looking young servant with a homely older woman.
William Rau. “She Must Leave This House At Once,” albumen print stereograph, 1902. The Library Company of Philadelphia.
More respectful visual depictions of matrimony can also be found in the Library Company’s collections, including marriage certificates. A number contain photographs of the bride and groom, and in some cases, even the officiant presiding over the ceremony.
Marriage Certificate for Thomas Rhahle and Mary Dasher, chromolithograph with albumen photographs. York PA: Crider & Brother, ca. 1885. The Library Company of Philadelphia. Gift of David Doret.
This chromolithographic marriage certificate celebrates the union between Thomas Rhahle and Mary Dasher that took place in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on September 28, 1885. Although the certificate incorporates the still somewhat new technology of photography, its owners have not yet acquired mastery of the visual language. The bride’s photograph is placed in the oval on the right side with the result that her back is to her groom. The photograph of the groom shows a man looking far more like a carefree bachelor with his cigarette dangling out of his mouth and his hat placed at a rakish angle on his head than a man about to enter into the solemn bonds of matrimony.
Amateur Philadelphia photographer Marriott C. Morris has captured a more expected, and now traditional, view of a wedding couple in this photograph.
Marriott C. Morris, Wedding of Sarah W. Perot and Richard M. Lea, April 17, 1901, digital print from original glass negative. The Library Company of Philadelphia.
Sarah Perot and Richard Lea, the bride and groom, are placed in the front and center of the group which includes a large number of groomsmen and bridesmaids. The older gentleman with the high collar in the background is most likely the minister who performed the ceremony on April 17, 1901.
Library Company photographs document not only the beginning of wedded bliss, but also celebrate the longevity of love and marriage like this portrait of an older couple. Taken at a Philadelphia studio, the cabinet card’s mount has been customized to commemorate the unfortunately unidentified husband and wife’s fifty- year marriage.
Tyson & Son. Unidentified Couple’s 50th Wedding Anniversary, albumen print cabinet card, 1903. The Library Company of Philadelphia.
Sarah J. Weatherwax
Curator of Prints and Photographs
The Library Company of Philadelphia
1314 Locust St., Philadelphia, PA 19107
TEL 215-546-3181 FAX 215-546-5167
https://librarycompany.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/lcp_print.png00nscalessahttps://librarycompany.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/lcp_print.pngnscalessa2015-02-09 16:06:002017-03-01 20:47:16Love is in the Air
Click on the different category headings to find out more. You can also change some of your preferences. Note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our websites and the services we are able to offer.
Essential Website Cookies
These cookies are strictly necessary to provide you with services available through our website and to use some of its features.
Because these cookies are strictly necessary to deliver the website, you cannot refuse them without impacting how our site functions. You can block or delete them by changing your browser settings and force blocking all cookies on this website.
Google Analytics Cookies
These cookies collect information that is used either in aggregate form to help us understand how our website is being used or how effective our marketing campaigns are, or to help us customize our website and application for you in order to enhance your experience.
If you do not want that we track your visist to our site you can disable tracking in your browser here:
Other external services
We also use different external services like Google Webfonts, Google Maps and external Video providers. Since these providers may collect personal data like your IP address we allow you to block them here. Please be aware that this might heavily reduce the functionality and appearance of our site. Changes will take effect once you reload the page.