MOUNT VERNON -- Once a month, we feature a pair of vintage cabinet card photographs taken in Knox County which do not have names identifying the people in the pictures.
They were all taken by photographers who had studios in Mount Vernon. Cabinet cards were a popular format for sharing photos in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
This month we return to unidentified photos from the Star & Crescent Art Gallery, 102 W Gambier Street. This unknown photographer has cards with this address, as well as a downtown address.
It isn't known when exactly the gallery moved, but it doesn't show up in many records, so it apparently wasn't in business for a long period of time. Its most likely window of activity is the late 1890s.
The first photograph is a fairly standard one of a woman with intricately-styled hair. The second one focuses on a female child with straight long hair.
One can see that she has nice metal buckles on her shoes, and is wearing a ring on her left hand, suggesting that she's a child from a comfortably well-off family.
But there is something odd about her other hand, which would be her right hand — on the left side of the photo as we look at it. It is partially wrapped around the scroll of the ornate wicker chair posed with her in the picture.
But aren't the finger positions a bit odd? And aren't the first two fingers of the hand too large? I wonder if what we're seeing is actually a mother's hand, thrust through a backdrop to hold the hand of a scared child.
After all, it was an imposing piece of machinery this little girl would have been facing, a big futuristic technology with a blinding flash pan about to go off in front of her face. It would make sense that a shrewd photographer would have a few tricks up his or her sleeve in order to pull off tricky sessions with restless children. Or perhaps I'm just imagining the scale is off.
We have already discussed the head braces that photographers of this era used to capture adequate focus with their relatively primative cameras. Is it the tip of one of these braces we see sticking out behind the girl's head on top, or is that just a hair barrette of some sort?