From time to time, a Filson staff member will share some of his or her favorite things about the society’s collections. Today, Robin Wallace, Associate Curator of Special Collections, writes about one of her favorite images from The Filson's photograph collection.
Miss Rings and Miss Reticules
The Daguerreotype is one of the earliest and most striking photographic processes; the Filson Historical Society’s photograph collection contains over fifty Daguerreotypes. While several persons of note are featured within our collection, such as Amos Kendall (a member of Andrew Jackson's cabinet and Postmaster General in 1835), there are also many Daguerreotypes of persons of a less exalted nature. These images offer an interesting look into the lives of our ancestors, providing information about social standing, costume and family relationships.
An inscription on the back of a daguerreotype of Eliza Woolfolk Johnson Johnston (wife of Col. Josiah Stoddard Johnston: Civil War officer, politician and author of A Memorial History of Louisville), and her younger sister Martha Johnson, demonstrates the wit and charm so often concealed behind the stiff posture and solemn faces of early photographic subjects: “Miss Rings and Miss Reticules/ The latter the common puppet & source of ridicule for the family- particularly for J. Stoddard Johnston- July 3rd 1862.”
Perhaps "Miss Rings" and "Miss Reticules" (a reticule is a woman's draw-string bag or purse, popular in the nineteenth century) are names that refer to the Johnson family women's love of shopping!