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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fabulous Antique Photo Album

I recently acquired this wonderful antique photo album from a consignment shop. I had seen it previously on several occasions, but it was a little on the expensive side, and so I passed it by, though not without longing.
 I have a collection of cabinet cards, many of which date from the 1880s until the early 1900s, and an old photo album was something I hoped to acquire at some point to put some of my favorite cabinet cards in for display.
Surprisingly, these are often hard to come by and are usually in really poor condition, with pages missing and loose and the bindings torn. More often than not when I find these they have no photos in them, although sometimes there are. The ones that are in good condition can be quite expensive and they appear to be highly collectible. I finally caved in and bought it, since I just couldn't pass it up. It is in fairly decent condition, and even though it has no photos in it, the pages are all in good condition and the binding intact.

The album is on a stand, and still has it's pretty clasp. On the front is a small circular mirror centered in an anchor. The anchor is often mistaken for having a Naval or seafaring connotation. The dealer who owned this piece must have thought so too, for it was marked as a "nautical" album, however, to the Victorians, and to many Christians from the first century and onwards, the anchor meant something else entirely.
 The anchor is a symbol of hope. Because of the great importance of an anchor in navigation, it was regarded in ancient times as a symbol of safety. Early Christians adopted the anchor as a symbol of  hope in future existence. The hope spoken of is not earthly hope, but heavenly hope and consequently relates to the hope of salvation. The Epistle of the Hebrews (Hebrews 6: 19-20) was the first time the idea of hope was connected to the anchor; "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil...". The symbol of an anchor appeared in catacombs and tombs as far back as the second and third centuries. It was popular again during the 19th century, particularly with the sentimental Victorians, and was a motif often used on gravestones and mausoleums. If you have ever wandered in any old cemetery, you might have seen the anchor carved on some stones.

In many old photographs from funerals during the Victorian period, there is often a floral arrangement that is made to look like an anchor present at the service. Sometimes it would be photographed with other floral arrangements, sometimes it would be photographed as part of a display that included a portrait of the deceased. It was not uncommon, or unusual, for photographs to be taken of funerals and floral arrangements, or the deceased themselves laid out in their coffin, surrounded by all the flowers.

To many modern eyes, the assumption would be made that the person must have been associated with sailing, or the Navy, or the sea, but this is not the case. Certainly it would have been a popular motif for someone who had been involved in the seafaring life, or coastal towns, but the anchor ,as a symbol, was not limited to just those who were. And, as evidenced by this photo album, it seemed to have been used as a motif on other things as well, besides at funerals and cemeteries; anything that might be associated with remembrance, it seems.

When the clasp is undone, it folds down like so, revealing another mirror behind it. You can also see how vivid the colors of the velvet was originally.

When it is unfolded like this, now the album itself can be opened.
The pages are quite pretty, and though there is some wrinkling and slight foxing on some pages, they are all still intact, none of them loose; all attached to the fabric binding.

 A couple of the pages had small tears at the bottom of the photo frame, where there is a slot to insert the photos into, and some of them had been taped, but I just slit the tape using an Exact-O knife.
                            Then I proceeded to add some of my old cabinet cards into it!

I filled up the whole album, except for the last two pages, which had smaller frames for photos that would be about the size of calling cards. I don't have any that size, so I left them empty.

Did I also mention that the original owner's name is written in pencil on the inside front cover? "Romman Ulbrich" it says in typical 19th century script.  Additionally, there is also a music box on the backside of the stand, tucked into a small, pocket-like box. It's very rusty, but we did get it to work, since the key was still in the back!
I've tried to date this photo album, but it's quite difficult. The fabric covered albums like these were popular for a long period of time during the Victorian Era, and even into the early 1900s. The style of the album and the vivid, bright, almost garish, red-pink color of the velvet fabric seems more like 1880s or 1890s to me, but at this point I'm only guessing.

It certainly makes a statement, and currently occupies a small table in our parlour, on prominent display.

Thanks for stopping by!



Willow said...

It is just lovely. I had to go on ebay and see if I could find one and I did. It is black. Wished I could bid on it, but not sure where I would put it. You are lucky to have one so pretty.

GinaBVictorian said...

Hi Katie! I love your photo album!!! I have one just like it except mine is the dark green and gold colors, but faded of course, and it has an oval mirror on the front. You can see it on my blog if you go to the "Step into my Parlor Part 2" post. The colors on yours are so bright and beautiful and nice mirror in the back, mine is very aged looking! Be careful with the photos in the pages, since the cards are kind of heavy they can tear the paper. I am so glad you shared about the anchor being a Christian symbol, I have only ever known it as a nautical symbol. How cool! Have a great week and enjoy that beautiful album!! Gina

GinaBVictorian said...

Hi Katie! Me again, that post was done in May, if you want to try and find it quickly on my blog. Gina

GinaBVictorian said...

Oops! It was March not May! Sorry!

Anita said...

Wow, that is an amazing find and in such beautiful condition!! I did not know the background info on anchors, but I recall seeing them. You are lucky to find this. Thanks so much for stopping by!!

Pam said...

That is gorgeous. I never knew that about anchors, because I probably would have thought it was nautical too. It found a great home!

Debbie@Debbie-Dabble and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...


What a fantastic piece!! I have never seen one like this and it is stunning! Love all the cabinet photos you placed inside it and a music box to boot!! What a treasure!!



janice15 said...

It's just simply lovely...I never have seen anything like it..Nice to put all the photos inside....Happy Tuesday, with love Janice

Bead and Needle said...

THIS is EXQUISITE!!! I have never seen one in such good shape, either - at least one that I could afford BECAUSE it was in good shape, lucky girl! I have a large collection of Cabinet Cards and the CDV's (Carte de Visite - the smaller, calling card sized photos). The photos in the antique stores really tug at my heart, and are usually the first thing I pick up. I have a hard time understanding how relatives can part with photos. XOXO - Tanya