Included in one of the many print collections in the Library of Congress are a plethora of images of 19th century women by Currier and Ives, all formatted similarly. The ones included here are only a sampling of those that were apparently offered to buyers in the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s.
These images offer a view of what at the time was considered idealized beauty. Like the Darktown Comics that I featured a few posts ago, I can't help but wonder, who was the target market for these? Did young bachelor men buy them for their business places and apartments? Did they show up in the shops of wagon builders and blacksmiths much like calendar girls show up in mechanic shops today? Did soldiers in the Mexican War and stationed at military posts across the United States keep these as soldiers in World War II kept pinups of Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth?
Again, like the Darktown Comics, I can't imagine married women wanting these displayed in their respectable middle class homes. Although certainly not offensive by our modern standards, I think that some of them may have been pushing the limits of conservative Victorian tastes - at least those displayed in public venues. But then again, of course, I could be totally wrong. Perhaps I am wrongly applying our present understandings to unrelated historical images.
What do you think?
Images courtesy of the Library of Congress.