Posted 9 years ago
In addition to early wood & brass cameras, I seek out trade cards advertising well known photographers. Here are three 1881 cards issued for the famous Brooklyn photographer G. Frank E. Pearsall. (I’ve previously posted his camera (one of three known) here on CW.)
So what is it about pre-1900 photographic trade cards that seem peculiar? They typically have illustrations of happy looking cherubs, dogs, kids, and cats advertising galleries and portraits; although upbeat and colorful, they do not directly illustrate photography. Yet they are often quite cute.
Now take a look at these three trade cards illustrated with caricatures of somber looking street performers; a church bell ringer (sexton), organ grinder & monkey, and accordion player. The rather odd looking drawings first catches your attention before reading the pithy comments. This seems different even for a famous photographer such as Frank Pearsall.
Each card advertises Pearsall’s “New Tadema Panels.” A Tadema Panel is a specific style of photograph invented and sold by Frank Pearsall and is defined as having “one figure or more, seated in a richly decorated apartment, and mounted on a heavy gilt panel 7½ x 13½ inches.” As background, the Pearsall brothers (Frank and Alva) had competing Brooklyn photo-studios and galleries. Frank more than likely invented the Tadema Panel in response to some of Alva’s unique photography offerings.
If given any of these trade cards with solemn caricatures (not at all happy by any means), I’m unsure if I’d go to Frank’s studio. Or maybe early 1880s tongue-in-cheek humor was somewhat different and these made sense. Feel free to comment.