Telling Them apart…little boy? little girl?

I love old photographs. Especially ones of children. CDVs or carte de vistas, are a wonderful way to take a peek back in time. CDVs are a form of photography from the time of the Civil War and thereabouts. Photography was just coming into its own and was becoming readily available to everyone. During the war especially, it was important to get family pictures done. You were never sure you were going to your brother, husband, son again and this might be the only photo you have of them. Fathers, husbands and sweethearts would have carried a loved one’s picture into battle or dreamed over it in camp.

One thing I have noticed is that a lot of sellers of pictures, or CDVs, are not able to tell apart photos of little boys and little girls. For example, my husband and I were looking through a collection of photos, when the seller remarked that it was odd that she had very few photos of little boys. They were all little girls. I looked at the photos and went down the page “Girl, girl, boy, boy, boy, girl, boy, girl, girl, boy, etc.” The seller was puzzled, “how could you tell that?” So I gave her the crash course in how to tell them apart.

And now I’ll give you a little crash course too.

Unknown little boy

unknown little boy 2

OMG! Don’t you just love these two! I fell in love with them on the Who Were they blog. I’m even thinking of trying to do them in china doll representation. But that’s another day!

Now look at them 2 girls? 2 boys? 1 of each?

Did you say 1 of each? Actually they are brothers..2 boys!

How to tell.. Let’s look at the first little guy. He’s a little older and looks a little more “boyish.” The first thing we need to remember is that little boys of the 1860’s wore dresses at least until they were potty trained, often even longer depending on parents wishes. So don’t be fooled by a dress. Often a boy’s dress would be less frilly, maybe a little more military styling. This dress has a lot of braidwork on it to give a uniform look. Of course those are some lacy drawers he’s wearing.

The other clue that gives away that he’s a boy is his hair. Little boy’s hair is parted on the side, little girl’s in the center.

Now for the other little boy. Wow does he look like a girl, but he’s not! Again, don’t let the dress fool you. Chances are he probably is around potty training age. (Did you notice that his dress is made of the same fabric as his brother’s shirt? Love that!)

The hair..well what can you say, believe it or not that is a very common dressed up little boy hairdo. It’s not unusual to see younger boys in ringlets. And the Dairy Queen Dipsy Doo. It is not unusual to see that hairdo even on grown men. I have not found any explanation for the look, but I’ve seen a lot of CDVs with it in on both boys and men.

So when trying to determine the sex of the child in the picture, you can look at clothes (which granted are not always easy to tell apart) but hair do’s will almost always give it away. Another thing to look at, would be to look for clues in the surroundings. Often children were posed with toys. So if the child is holding a doll, you are guaranteed to be 99.999999% sure it’s a girl. Likewise it there is a boat or drum in the photo, it’s probably a boy.

So I hope that helps you a little in trying to figure out a CDV you’re looking at. Have a great day! Be kind to each other!


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