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Fabric salesman with wares
Daguerreotype, 1/4 plate
Larry Gottheim, Be-hold, Inc
Courtesy of Larry Gottheim - Be-Hold, 27 June 2018, Lot: 1
The salesman poses with his wares on shelves behind him. A number of bolts of cloth are arranged in front. His hands rest on a horizontal bar over which he can hang samples to be chosen and cut. Examples of these styles can be seen in most daguerreotype collections.
The scene is what a woman patron would see as she approached the counter. This is a rare daguerreotype that is addressed to women.
A shop like this has connections to all aspects of the personal, social and political history of the period. Women of the middle classes would be coaxed to follow the European fashions available through many publications including the leading American one, Godey's Ladies Book (1830 - 1870.) It not only had a color fashion plate in each issue, but also patterns to be followed to make these in the home. Cotton, still picked by slaves in the daguerreian era, not only provided the basis for export around the word, but also cheaper version of fine fashions as sold in this shop. The mills that were central to the economy of New England produced these fabrics. The sewing machine allowed those who could afford it ($75 for a Singer Machine in 1860) to make stylish dresses at home. Howe's invention was in 1846, Singer's in 1851. Flaubert's great novel "Madame Bovary" (1856) shows the havoc wrought on the woman's life as she acquiesces to the wares of a salesman who came to her home. In a shop such as this women would be coaxed to spend more than they could afford to affect the styles of women of a higher class.