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.
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.
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.
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!