Not-so-hidden mother & baby—ca. 1865 full plate tintype

Full plate "hidden mother" tintype, probably from around 1865 judging from the gingham print and the fullness of the mother's dress and sleeves. Not sure if the little towhead is a boy or a girl, as the fluff of hair and the dress don't give us much to go on for gender in that era.


Theories abound on images like this, and there is speculation that photographers' assistants, not mothers, hide under the drapery and hold the small, squirming children. Be that as it may (and maybe because I've got a little one just this age), I'd still like to think it's the mum underneath—a little tired, a little disheveled and happy to duck the photographer's exacting gaze, but always, always there as an "invisible" but ever-present part of her child.

  • Rebecca Bugge (DameBoudicca) PRO 3y

    How original!
    A great find!
  • gormer 3y

    Thank you! The antique store dealer says she never even noticed—and this defies belief, as she apparently had the tintype sitting on the same shelf next to her register for years—there was anything other than a wriggly baby in the picture!
  • Crafty Dogma PRO 3y

    Nice one! The full size makes it extra special too.
  • Winnebagosbaby831 3y

    You're lucky to get this one ! Very cool !
  • Beverly PRO 3y

    A very nice example. I have pointed out the hidden mother to several dealers at the monthly antique market. On the one hand I may be driving up the price but on the other hand some of the dealers are looking out for them and bringing them to the show now that they know what to look for.
  • _kitten 3y

    I think it's more likely the mother than a photographer's assistant as I would assume few assistants would be female.
  • Beverly PRO 3y

    _kitten You are incorrect in that assumption. Many photographers had a lady assistant who helped the women and children get ready to be photographed. There is speculation by some historians that one of their jobs was to hold the children.
  • Holly Osborn 2y

    Your early photography posts are wonderful! I've enjoyed looking through them. I'm a doctoral candidate writing a chapter on representations of mothers in literature, economics, and media during the nineteenth century. I'm interested in using this image in my dissertation chapter as an aesthetic example of my research claims. Please let me know if you would be willing to allow permission for this image to be used (with appropriate citation of your ownership, of course).

  • gormer 2y

    Holly Osborn, sure thing. Message me and let me know what school, name of project, etc. (just so I can keep it straight...others have picked up this one for dissertations too), and I would love to be of help.
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Taken circa 1865
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