Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
Era photos can tell us a lot of what our society was going through at the time. It can be useful when dating orphaned photographs, like this ferociously garbed small boy. Rifle, sash and Zouave pants? Bet a lot of money this is from early in the war, 1861, maybe 1862. Time to play the war his father marched off to join.
Handwritten notation on this 1861 photograph states " Taken at New Haven ". Pretty obviously not a ' real ' soldier, this child's uniform is a meticulous reflection of patriotic fervor- note the peter pan collar. Some mother just couldn't resist. Still, it seems clear there was a comfort zone surrounding weapons and kids. Eerie to us, serious play for our ancestors.
Remember Ralph's mother? Don't ask Ralph who? Ralph whose mother insisted a BB gun would " shoot his eye out ". She does every December as soon as cable stations begin airing " A Christmas Story ". Guns 'n kids. There are a lot of un-nostalgic, not at all cute horror stories involving the what-happens when children are let loose with one of those things and the thread's intent sure isn't over the current debate.
From a pre-war alphabet and beginner spelling book, " The Dixie Primer ". There's no ' G is for Gun ' or ' R is for Rifle '. This is just the image used to represent the entire book. Baffling 160 years later.
I do remember Dad coming home with a long box, unwrapping it on the kitchen table and calling we girls. Think I was 8? It was a very light weight .22 rifle. Dad's take was well, he wanted girls and got them. If he had girls, he said, it'd be wise to teach them to shoot. That's a true story. Mom's protest went unheeded and was a little hollow anyway. We still have her father's gift to her as a little girl one year- it's an ornate version of the .22 Dad brought home. Still, no play, all " pay attention, this isn't a toy ". It's funny, we weren't allowed toy weapons, just a serious take on real ones.
Is that a secession rosette on his chest? There's some serious imagery. If so, you could place this child around 1860-1861
Not just guns, children and weapons of war have been around for awhile. Westerns were pretty big noise as recently as a few decades ago, silly sagas of ' Injuns ' and cowboys were repeated on endless playgrounds although the tin soldiers of their ancestors are now collector items. You can still buy little green warriors, those plastic dime store tanks and a few sheriff badges although I haven't seen them lately.
Sword and soldier tell us this child is probably a boy, his mother still clinging to the then-popular dress and curls we insisted was just fine for small boys.
It's just different, realizations come slowly, ' times ' change with terrific reason. We're different, our society is unrecognizable from our ancestors', children are certainly different and expectations for them vastly different. Heck, " Children should be seen and not heard ", a parent's mantra when I was a kid has been replaced with placing children on the best chair in the room. Little unsure it's been a good idea although not the point of the thread.
I ' think ' he's holding a toy sabre?
And another, a soldier's toy tent, kepi and cannon displayed in this child's play scene. It's an unusual pose, too. Guessing he's a little later in the war, toy companies having had time to come out with some of these.
I'm dating this earnest little man as early because he's another Zouave, someone's hand-made little rifle clutched in his hands. There are quite a few more- you come across these on Ebay frequently and wonder how anyone allowed these orphaned images to get away from family collections. They're archaic in that it's now unthinkable you'd use guns and other weapons as photographic props, much less toys. It's just where we were- beneath all the ' cute ', awfully chilling.