James W. Queen (Philadelphia), Publisher or Retailer:

"The Darkey's Vanity"

Tinted Albumen Stereograph circa 1860

 

Despite the offensive language of the title, the humor in this photograph seems gentle and well-intentioned-- unlike many later stereo views in the "comic" genre. Vanity is, after all, not a characteristic peculiar to any particular ethnic group. Additionally, the woman in the picture is smiling as she gestures to the man, as if to let us know that this is all good-natured fun. While the enormous bow-tie may seem particularly outlandish to our eyes, it was very fashionable in the late 1850s -- there are even photographs of Abraham Lincoln wearing a similar tie. The style of the coat suggests a uniform, perhaps indicating the man is a coach driver or a musician in a band.

James W. Queen was a Philadelphia optician who sold stereoscopes for viewing double-panel images such as this one in 3-D. Queen also sold stereo views and other photographs. His label on the back of this image is evidence that he was the retailer or distributor of this image, but does not indicate that he was the photographer.

 

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