The 1860s Men’s Fashion and Style Through Carte de Visite Portraits

The American Civil War (1861-1865) had a profound impact on portraiture. Photographs and paintings from this period often featured military men, depicting them in their uniforms with regalia and medals. These portraits served not just as personal mementos but also as powerful symbols of patriotism and sacrifice. The stoic expressions and formal poses reflected the seriousness and gravity of the times. They provide insights into the fashion, hairstyles, and cultural norms of the time. Moreover, they offer a glimpse into the personal lives and social statuses of the men depicted, from soldiers and politicians to businessmen and artists.

This era also witnessed significant advancements in photographic technology, making portrait photography more accessible and popular. The introduction of the carte de visite, a small photograph mounted on a card, revolutionized portrait photography. It allowed for easier and more affordable distribution of one’s image, leading to a surge in portrait photography among the middle and upper classes.

Artistically, this era saw a blend of realism and romanticism in portraiture. Artists often strived for realistic representation while also imbuing their subjects with a sense of nobility and idealism. This duality is evident in the subtle yet expressive facial features, the detailed rendering of clothing and accessories, and the often somber, introspective mood of the portraits.

#1 A bearded man stands before the camera operator wearing the embroidered accouterments that signal his membership in the Masons

#2 A clean-shaven young man wearing a white collarless shirt, vest, striped checked pants and coat sits with a stick and top hat

#4 A gentleman sits sideways on a chair, gazing off camera with hand to cheek in what appears to be a contemplative, thoughtful frame of mind

#5 A Maine gentleman strikes a casual pose with frock coat, top hat and cane

#6 A man gazes away from the camera, forming his thoughts before putting pencil or pen to his journal

#7 A man sits at a desk and writes in a small volume similar in size and thickness to a journal. His top hat rests on top of the cabinet mounted to the desktop

#8 A man sits in a chair next to what may be his prize sheep

#9 A man sits in a wheel chair that features a flywheel with hand-crank that turns a belt and powers the large back wheels

#10 A man sporting a waterproofed cap sits in a chair, one leg over the other. His shoes show evidence of heavy wear

#11 A man with a thick head of hair sits with a puppy and a pipe

#12 A New York Tribune journalist after his escape from a confederate POW camp

#13 A pair of Keystone State hunters armed with double-barrel shotguns pose with their black Labrador Retriever

#14 A thin young man, likely in his late teens or early twenties, stands with forearms resting atop the muzzle of his firearm and his dog

#16 A young man poses in his fraternal sash with his initials embroidered on one side and a flower in the center

#17 A young man sits on a blanket upon the floor of the photographer’s studio, his left leg raised and hands pulling the leather straps that fasten an ice skate to his ankle-high boot

#18 A young man wearing a cap sits on a stool, looking down at another young man seated on a cushion and returning his gaze

#19 A young man with a ribbon pinned to the lapel of his vest sits in a chair and holds a book

#20 An elderly man sits in a chair with his right arm resting on a cloth-covered table on which is seated a dog. The dog is asleep, head resting on paws

#21 Back view of a balding man with hands placed on his hips

#24 Five men partake of a meal. The presence of bowls and a creamer suggests breakfast

#25 Four gentlemen with pipes clenched in their teeth sit with playing cards and a bottle of gin

#27 Four young man, all with smiles or hints of smiles upon their faces, relax in chairs and a bench artfully arranged in the photographer’s studio

#28 Gents in top hats with canes, gloves and books stand for their group portrait

#29 Man is dressed in a long robe made of a buffalo hide and a fur collar

#33 The felt slouch hat, pleated vest and pants, silk tie and tailored frock indicated that this cigar-smoking gent with the light mustache and sideburns is a fashionable Dude of the first order

#34 These gents sporting straw hats enjoy cigars inside a photo studio along Canal Street in New Orleans

#35 Three men pose for their likeness, two with cigars and one perhaps too young to have picked up the habit

#37 Two gentlemen sporting beaver skin hats strike jaunty poses as they sit on a studio balcony prop

#38 Two gents pose with a wet plate camera equipped with a Petzval lens, a carte de visite album and a stereoviewer

#39 Two well-dressed men pose in front of a painted background featuring an open window

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Written by Michael Rodriguez

Michael Rodriguez is a content creator and historian who specializes in creating viral listicles and other engaging content about historical photos and events. He has a passion for history in a fun and accessible way, curating interesting and informative lists that showcase the lesser-known stories and significance behind famous historical events and figures.

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