Hello, sailor!

Today’s post is pretty light-hearted and silly, but hopefully you’ll enjoy nonetheless.

When I saw this post from the Derangement and Description blog today, it made me chuckle. Apparently, the blog’s author Rebecca was one of the winners of the SAA haiku contest with her haiku (and visual aid) about a handsome man in a daguerreotype photo she found.

I was reminded of the site My Daguerreotype Boyfriend, which a friend of mine shared with me a few months ago. The purpose of the site is summed up in its subtitle : “Where Early Photography Meets Extreme Hotness.” Basically, it’s a place to share digital representations of really old photos depicting attractive men. (Despite the site’s name, it actually appears to be quite optional whether the original photo is an actual daguerreotype.)

Anyway, I was reminded of a photo I came across recently in the Thresher-McCann Collection (MS-036) at the Dayton Metro Library:

Unidentified Civil War Sailor

Unidentified Civil War Sailor

I have no idea who this young man is, except to say that I believe he was in the Navy during the Civil War, based on the insignia (an anchor) on his hat. (If anyone can give me a better description of his rank, etc., I’d be glad to hear it. I am far from an expert on Civil War uniforms.)

The only identifying marks on the photo are to indicate the photographer : J. P. Ball, 30 W. 4th St. With a little investigating, I was able to discover that James Presley Ball was an early African American photographer in Cincinnati. (The Cincinnati Historical Society Library has a large collection of his photographs and even has an online database of J. P. Ball photos; however, this photo was not among them.)

Is it just me, or is it rare to come across a really old photo (say, 19th century) that depicts someone you actually find attractive? I suppose that is probably because we have different ideas today about what physically attracts us. For instance, the men in most of the old photos I’ve seen are usually — well, old, for one thing (maybe because photos were probably expensive and people didn’t spend money on them until they were already old and successful?) — and I think something about the hair styles — not to mention the beards; oh, they loved their beards! — back then just…well, they’re definitely not what you’d see on, say, People Magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive.

Perhaps this young man just wasn’t old enough to grow a good beard yet, which could explain why he lacks one. He reminds me a bit of a young Josh Hartnett. ‘Course, that’s a different war (Pearl Harbor movie). And oh wait, we’re not talking about a movie here; this is an actual Civil War soldier. Any way you slice it, he was born over 150 years ago and may very well have died about 150 years ago also. I really don’t know! (Oh, how I wish I knew his name…)

And, guys, don’t worry, I’ve got a photo to show you, too. It’s also from the Thresher-McCann Collection. When I saw this stunning (and also unidentified) girl, I knew I’d just have to share:

Unidentified Girl

Unidentified Girl

 She reminds me of a cross between Scarlett Johannson and Kristen Stewart. What do you think? I think it’s something about her eyes. And her skin. And her eyebrows. And her expression. There’s just something about her. Maybe it’s her hair. And although her clothes are plaid and plain, she looks like she’d be just as at home in a sequin gown. I can’t even picture this woman in a period-appropriate “fancy dress” — my imagination takes her straight to a red carpet.

Well, anyway, there really wasn’t much of a scholarly point to this post (if any at all), but I just wanted to share some interesting photos that I found.

The material discussed here is from the Thresher-McCann Collection (MS-036), which can be found at the Dayton Metro Library, Main Library, Local History Room, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402. For more information on the collection, contact the library, or feel free to leave a comment on this blog.


5 responses to “Hello, sailor!

  1. I totally agree with the Scarlett Johannson assessment.

  2. I’m glad you liked the haiku! It was absolutely inspired by My Daguerreotype Boyfriend and the general phenomenon of hot dudes in old photos. But the haiku came before the photo I found. Derangers requested a comic version to print out and hang up in their offices, and with the help of Flickr Commons, I was happy to oblige. 🙂

  3. My great-aunt Pearl was born in 1884 and died in 1961, when I was in high school. She was always just my great-aunt, a nice old lady — but then, just a couple of years ago, while sorting through a recently discovered box of old family photos, I came across a studio portrait of her from 1901 when she was 17 years old. My first reaction was “Wow!” Very striking face of a “modern” sort, a teasing sort of smile, big picture hat and puffed sleeves, and altogether looking very pleased with herself. I’m sure she never lacked for admirers. 🙂

  4. The photo of the unidentified soldier has been featured, among others, on the Society of Ohio Archvists’ “Archives Month 2011” (Oct. 2011) poster : http://ohsweb.ohiohistory.org/soa/images/e/e9/ArchivesMonth2011poster.pdf.

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