Monday, July 25, 2011

Thoughts of Then vs Now

One question I get asked quite frequently is "would you live in the past if you could?"
I consider that a very good question. It's easy to just say, "Oh! Absolutely! I would have loved to live back then!" That's because we can romanticize the past through tales in books or through movies - take the best of the 19th century and tell of that joyous part of life that makes the 19th century look so wonderful. By reading social history books, we can tell how long it took to travel from here to there by horse and carriage, how folks worked together as a family to grow the crops so they had plenty to eat come harvest time, made by hand whatever furniture needed to make life more comfortable, had no worries about paying the electric or cable bill...
We can also hear about the not so good part of Victorian living - sickness, rough daily occupations and working conditions, going to the dentist, infant mortality rates, pollution...
And, when the reenactment, period book, or historical movie is over we can 're-enter' the 21st century: cooling off in an air-conditioned car or house, maybe go for a dip in a pool, drive through a local Burger King, throw on a Beatles cd, and relax.
When one compares the past to the present, my guess would be that the greater majority of common folk would choose the present time in which to live.
I used to feel that way as well - and, I still do to a certain extent. I do enjoy the wonders of the computer, my recorded music, and my movies. But, the more 'time' moves on - and the more society changes in a way I don't agree - the less comfortable I feel living in this day and age, and the greater my wish to be able to travel through time to my favorite era, that, of course, being the mid-19th century, becomes.
Even with all of its roughness, I feel the Victorians had 'cornered the market' on dealing with life. They put their lives on the line daily - they accepted everything that came their way - good and bad - and gave glory to God no matter what.
I'm not always like that. I try to be, but my mindset is of the 21st...well, OK, the 20th century, and we of this era in human history have become the stressful nation - a nation of want and need of material goods, not acceptance for what we already have; a society of Doubting Thomases instead of a nation of faith; a nation of blatant in-your-face screw-you-if-you-don't-like-it attitudes instead of respecting our neighbor and fellow man for a belief in tradition.
This is also the age of entitlement!
In the 19th century - heck, even throughout most of the 20th century - people knew the difference between right and wrong. Today, folks instead will state, "what's wrong for one person might be right for another." They will claim there are no absolutes when it comes to such a "gray" area. That everything is pretty much 'right.'
They will also blame whatever and whoever they can for their own wrong doings.
Disciplining your child for being bad was not considered a crime - yes, it's true, contrary to the revisionist historians (who love to place today's societal ills upon our 19th century counterparts), kids back then were more disciplined and respectful. They knew the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. They knew the importance of having and practicing religious faith in their daily lives; the importance of family; the need for hard work in order to survive. Most did not feel they were entitled to anything, especially the government. They persevered through thick and thin, and most survived.
There is a scene from the movie "Cold Mountain" that really makes me think, on another level, about the differences from our lives today to our ancestor's lives 150 years ago. I've seen the movie probably nearly a dozen times and each showing of this particular part I get the exact same feeling of helplessness. For some odd reason it is my absolute favorite scene from "Cold Mountain" and it is where Ada Monroe is in her house playing the piano while her minister father is out in their yard working on his sermon for the following Sunday. As Ada is playing music she notices that it has begun to rain - hard. She calls for her father to come in but, as she looks to find why he is not answering, she sees that he had slumped over while sitting in his chair, dead. I assume his heart had given out. The rain shower becomes a down pour as Ada runs in a panic to him, calling his name, to no avail.
Why is this dreary scene my favorite? I believe it's because it shows a distinct part of 19th century life that so many of us in the 21st century cannot comprehend: total helplessness. If we see someone who needs immediate attention, we have the ability to whip out our cell phones and call an ambulance or the police and, within a matter of minutes, help has arrived.
Not so during the Civil War era. What could Ada do? No phones or electronic communication of any sort. She couldn't drag her father into the house - I'm sure she wouldn't be strong enough to do that, especially on wet grass. So she had to leave her father - a man she loved and admired dearly - out in the soaking rain. (The movie doesn't show this but I am sure, if something like this had actually happened, it was what she would have had to do).
Can you imagine what went through Ada's mind - that total helpless feeling?
This scene was just so real to me, and it brings the hardships and survival skills of the era to life under no uncertain terms.
Hmmm...I guess my original answer to would I go back if I could go back in time was wrong - I am going to have to say "no, I would not."
Because, being a child of our modern times, I could never measure up to those wonderful survivors of the 19th century.
I couldn't hold a candle to them.
God Bless Them, and God Help Us.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Charlton Park Event - Where the Past Comes Alive

It can be difficult to attend the same old events every year and do the same old thing, can it not? Sometimes it seems that only the surroundings change while the tents and the campers remain the same. That's why reenactments need to step up a few what we do at Charlton Park.
Because of the way the open-air museum is situated - and because the good folks that run the park trust the reenactors - many of us that participate here take living history a major leap forward...a leap into the past. Every year I post a blog about this amazing event and how we practice our living history skills there. In fact, my posting from last year became an article in Citizens' Companion.
This year at Charlton we took Civil War reenacting up quite a few notches. Please allow me to illustrate:
We - my wife and I with three of our four offspring as well as our domestic named Carrie - arrived at the park and went straight away to the 1858 Sixberry House (top photo - house on the left).

As a postmaster in the reenacting community, I brought my desk, mail holder and sign, as well as ink, blotter, pens, and other accessories along and set them up in what was the original owner's office (the owner was a lawyer).

My wife brought her spinning wheel and set that up in the front parlor. And since we could not sit upon the antique furniture (except the kitchen chairs) we brought our own chairs along. Our cousin, Mrs. Kerstens, joined us in one of her few family visits, for she is still in second stage mourning and does not venture out much except to get a bit a fresh air. It's good that we live close by.

We made the house our home.
As non-reenacting visitors toured the place we spoke to them about our lives during the Civil War, attempting (and succeeding) a first person presence.
When our reenacting friends came by, a few of them knocked upon the door and Carrie, of course, answered it as we had asked her to do.

That gave off quite a bit of realism right there! And we did have many visitors! Most were women and they stopped over to enjoy the coolness of the house in comparison to the 90 degree heat of their campsite. You see, the house is...ahem...air conditioned! Yes, it's true! I find it funny that my actual modern home has no air, but a period home that I reenact in is very pleasantly cool!

Anyhow, it was a civilian dream come true, not unlike reenacting at Waterloo Farm. I must admit that at the Sixberry House we were actually able to do something that Waterloo doesn't allow: we could eat our dinner and supper at the kitchen table! Now, I have to say that staying in a period home all the day long is fantastic, but to include eating in a period kitchen with just my family and domestic made it all the more like a time travel experience. You see, by suppertime all of the structures inside Charlton Park were closed to the public so we were able to eat with all the tranquility of an 1860's family.
It was as close enough to being there as one could be; pouring our drinking water from a pitcher on the counter, eating macaroni and cheese (yes, it was around then!) cooked over an open fire (not in the kitchen stove, mind you, but at a campsite), all farb hidden.
And just us there.
I am getting goosebumps writing this!

To me, this was reenacting at it's finest!
But, there's more...
I'd like to tell you about another part of this reenactment that I don't very often write about: the battle.
For this year's scenario we portrayed the town of Winchester, Virginia, a first for me to be a southerner. Even my son, Rob, was a Confederate soldier for the first time - they needed some Federals to don gray otherwise it would have been overwhelmingly blue.
What puts the battle scene in Charlton Park over and above most battles at other events is that C.P. includes the community buildings and the civilians in the scenario. This year they had the Yankees invade our southern town of Winchester, and they stole furniture from the houses and put them in a pile in the middle of the town square.

There were chairs and trunks and other items. The women of the village wouldn't stand for that and fought the soldiers to get the items back, some running up, grabbing their chair, and scurrying back to their "home." A couple of the ladies even had their husband's pistols to ward off the yanks!
While all of the excitement of town was occurring, school was in session, and around a dozen and a half of our youth were in the schoolhouse learning their lessons on slate boards.

The young lady portraying the teacher, Miss Mrozek, is a teacher in her modern life so becoming a teacher of the 19th century came natural for her. Of course, the boys had to sit on one side of the room while the girls were on the other. She did give them lessons and had them hold up their hands or their slates to give the answer.

At one point, Miss Mrozek received a warning that a battle was about to commence right in town. After eyeballing the situation closely and seeing that the children could be in danger from stray bullets or worse if kept inside the building, she instead shoo'd them out of the schoolhouse, telling them to, "Run, children! Run to your parents quickly, and do not dawdle!" Away they went a-running and screaming in fear of the yankee aggressors.

It was a quite a sight to see - very realistic for all that witnessed it, including the audience sitting upon the hill. History came alive before their eyes.

The battle itself at Charlton Park is top notch. The buildings and the surroundings are used in ways rarely seen elsewhere. One truly gets the idea of what it was like in a battle town.

Friends, it's this sort of reenacting that gives a living historian the feeling of - and the opportunity to - step into the past. It's also this type of living history that allows the visitors to peep through a portal into a period that hasn't existed in a hundred and fifty years.
This is why Charlton Park - (and even Waterloo Farms) - consistently ranks at the top yearly. I am on a high for days after. That doesn't happen for me at most other events.
As reenactors/living historians, isn't that what it's supposed to be like?

Many thanks to Sally and Sheri and all the good folks that worked so hard to make this event come to pass. And a special thanks to Sally for her part in allowing us the use of the Sixberry House. This event is great, but it can be better. How? By having more reenactors attend. No matter where you may live, it's worth the trip to take part in this time-travel experience!


Sunday, July 10, 2011

19th Century Mourning Practices (revised)

A widow in mourning
At times during living history events I get the distinct opportunity of taking part in what I'm sure would be considered a very unusual scenario in modern society:  19th century mourning. Specifically, Civil War era mourning.  At times during our living history events,  a number of us in the living history world make the attempt to put together a very authentic and eerily realistic presentation.
Please allow me to explain a bit about a part of life in the 1860's that we here in the 21st century rarely speak of:  death.
First off,  as you probably know,  death happened quite frequently for younger people during the  "pre-electrical times" - it was much more commonplace at a younger age than today;  the infant mortality rate was extremely high,   death during childbirth was the number one cause of a woman's death,  and then there were the   "everyday"  causes:  consumption   (TB),  influenza,  cancer,  pneumonia,  etc.,  and even something as seemingly insignificant as a minor cut,  if it became infected,  could cause death.
But let's get rid of this misnomer that  "the average lifespan of humans in 1860 was 45 years old,"  or  " 1900 the average lifespan was 50 years old,"  or whatever other fallacy the e-mails or statisticians say.  I mean,  it sounds like if you were 39 in the 1860's you had one foot in the grave,  for Pete's sake!
Well,  let's clear this mess up once and for all:
A widow in the graveyard
In general,  folks in the 18th and 19th centuries lived nearly as long as we do today.  Yes,  it's true.  If the statisticians would take the time to read journals of the period,  or census records of long ago they would find a good majority of adults living to a ripe old age.
As a genealogist I have found that all of my 1st,  2nd,  and even 3rd great grandparents lived well into their 60's,  70's,  and 80's.  Even my direct line dating back beyond the 3rd greats tended to have a long lifespan...well,  at least of those I could find.  And,  yes,  I have a couple that did die rather young - in their 40's and 50's - they were women and they died during childbirth.
So why is this false average lifespan information being passed around as fact?  Because,  technically,  it is  true - the average life span in 1860 actually was  around 45 years of age.  The average  lifespan.  Now,  take into account that,  up until the mid 20th century,   the infant mortality rate was pretty high.  Er...I mean, very  high.  As I stated,  death was extremely common,  unfortunately,  for infants before their first birthday.  So common,  in fact,  that many parents would not even name the child until it reached 1 or 2 years of age.  My great great grandmother,  Linnie Robertshaw,  practiced this custom in the later part of the 19th century.
So,  with all things considered,  death was  more common,  but it was due to disease,  childbirth,  and infant mortality rather than old age as is the misconception being spread.
Because of this,  death in the 19th century was much more an accepted part of life.  Of course,  the religious faith played a major role in allaying that fear,  for folks were openly religious - far more than anyone alive today has ever witnessed - and that was their comfort,  for they believed strongly in an afterlife.
(In my opinion,  I feel part of our thought process here in the 21st century actually harms our acceptance of death's occurrences.  We feel we've come so far in medical technology that death should almost be an exception rather than the rule,  haven't we?)
Anyhow,  with that in mind,  let's look at the era of the American Civil War:
as you probably know,  during the Civil War death touched nearly everyone,  whether it was an immediate family member,  an extended relation,  or one who lived in their community.  For the soldiers fighting,  death was not only caused from the wounds of battle,  but from disease.  In fact,  from the over 620,000 soldiers that died during the four year conflict,  more died from disease than from bullets.
And,  as stated toward the beginning of this posting,  death was ever-present as well for those on the home front.
Mourning wreaths
So,  with death ever-present,  how did folks deal with it during the mid-Victorian period in American history?  Here is a  (very)  basic mourning overview:
(from  "Rachel Weeping:  Mourning in 19th Century America"  by Karen Rae Mehaffey):  'Americans responded to death as a constant companion, and even embraced it with resignation and ritual.  Americans...were intimately acquainted with death.  Victorians embraced mourning as a sub-culture.  It impacted how people dressed,  how they behaved in society,  and even how they decorated their homes.' 
'Women were responsible for mourning in the family,  and carried the responsibility of preparing mourning garments and making sure everyone was dressed properly.'
In preparation for the visitation and funeral services,  the home of the deceased would have an outward appearance to show the community that there was a death in the family.  Draping the front door and/or door knob in a black crepe with ribbons  (or in white if it was the death of a child)  was the most common practice.
Inside the home mourning took on an appearance that many here in the 21st century would consider morbid,  for virtually anything reflective  (or shiny in many cases)  would be covered,  such as mirrors and glass of any kind,  including picture frame glass.  Crepe could also be draped over fireplace mantels,  windows,  shelves,  and other household items,  especially in the bedroom of the deceased.
A parlor set up for mourning
Clocks would be stopped at the time of death and would not be restarted until the burial was over.  Ribbon or flower-covered black wreaths were hung on doors,  windows,  and mantels.  Window curtains and shades were also drawn and shutters closed.
According to Bernadette Loeffel-Atkins:  "The home was to remain quiet and calm,  there was to be no confusion or loud talking while the body remained in the house.  The departed loved one would be placed on viewing in the family parlor of the home."
As for death announcements and funeral invitations  (yes,  you heard me - people were invited  to the funeral!),  or even for personal letters from the mourners,  stationary would be white with a black border;  "the wider the border, the deeper the mourning of the writer."  These announcements and invitations were hand delivered to the family and friends of the deceased.
The widow's deceased
husband comforts her
Mourning pertaining to women was in three stages: deep mourning,  second mourning,  and half mourning.
Mourning a spouse generally would last one to 2 ½ years
For a parent:  6 months to a year
For children over 10 yrs old:  6 months to a year
For children under 10 yrs:  3 to 6 months
Infants:  6 weeks and up
For siblings:  6 to 8 months
For aunts and uncles:  3 to 6 months
For cousins:  6 weeks to 3 months
For aunts or uncles related by marriage:  6 weeks to 3 months
Grandparents:  6 months
For more distant relatives and friends:  3 weeks and up
(Mourning for parents,  children,  grandparents,  in-laws,  and relatives such as cousins and uncles or aunts vary.  One would need to read a book to learn about all of the differing types and lengths of the mourning process and customs.  This posting is just an overview for the loss of a spouse).

The Civil War preacher 
and the widow
Deep mourning was the first stage of mourning for a woman,  and it immediately followed the death of a husband,  wife,  or child.  Mourning clothes were expected to be plain with little or no adornment.  A woman while in deep mourning would wear all black clothing and jewelry,  including, while out in public,  gloves and a black veil over her face.  Hats were not to be worn for mourning;   bonnets covered in crape would replace them.  She would not speak with anyone but her family or closest friends.  She would not attend parties or gatherings and would basically seclude herself from the public in general.  She would stay in this deep mourning for at least a year and a day,  and sometimes longer,  and there are instances where some women would never leave this stage.
Second stage mourning followed deep mourning and lasted around 9 to 12 months.  Full mourning collars and cuffs were replaced by white,  veils were taken off,  crape was discarded,  and jewelry of a wider variety was worn.  By this second year the woman could add lace.  The veil was of black crape,  and very long,  but by the second year it could be shortened.

Two different stages of mourning

Now we enter half mourning:  this was the last stage of a woman's mourning ritual.  It was during these last 6 months that the widow could include the addition of lilac,  lavender,  violet,  mauve,  and gray.  She was no longer limited to just black with a touch of white.  She would use black and white ornaments for evening wear,  bonnets were white,  lavender silk or straw.
Dresses with bold prints were also acceptable fashion.

For specific periods of time,  depending on their community mores,  a widow would not leave her home and did not receive any visitors.   After a respectable time,  she would then send out black edged cards advising friends and family that her time of heavy mourning had passed and she could now receive visitors.  Parties,  weddings,  and other social affairs were hands off to those in at least the first two stages of mourning,  and many times in the half mourning as well.
In general it took about two and a half years for a woman to complete the mourning process over her deceased husband.  With each stage she slowly became part of society again.  Once the three stages of mourning were complete,  the widow could now store her mourning clothing and begin wearing her normal everyday wear and join into society functions completely.

The preacher and a friend -
note the black crepe armband
For a man,  mourning was quite different.  Men were needed to take care of the family and the business,  therefore he was needed to return to his occupation as soon as the deceased was buried.
A male's mourning garb was his best  (dark)  suit with a weeper  (made of crape)  wrapped around the hatband of his hat.  Although there are some differences of opinions,   most agree that men also wore a black armband.  A man might wear a black cockade on his lapel as well.
Once a widower's wife was buried,  chances are he may look for a new wife soon after - especially if he had young children at home or if she died giving birth to a living child.  Here's the kicker:  if he re-married shortly after his deceased wife was buried,  his new wife might then mourn for the first wife,  wearing all of the mourning clothing and going through the stages as described above!

Now, how about those who attended funerals and were not part of the immediate family?
Well,  according to Heather Sheen,  from the site Creative Cockades,  "it is a common misconception today that people attending funerals in the 1860s wore the full black attire of widows and widowers.  On the contrary,  full mourning attire was reserved for the family of the deceased only.  It was considered improper and even rude for non-family members to wear full mourning. 
Mourning attire had a specific purpose in the 1860s:  To publicly create a  "shield"  for the family during their time of deep grief.  The mourning family was not required to make public appearances of any kind - the widows were even relieved from having to go out to do regular shopping.  Heavy veils for women protected them from prying eyes who might see their pale faces and tears.  A grieving family was given space and time to heal without the stress of dealing with the public.
Thus it made no sense for non-family to wear mourning attire even in sympathy.  So what did a person do to show public honor for the decease
The answer is they wore mourning badges! 
Visiting our deceased president
Mourning cockades and badges were appropriate for men and women of all ages.  They could be worn simply to the funeral, or worn for several months thereafter.  Photos and drawings show mourning badges of many designs being worn by a grieving public. 
This engraving is a good example. Note that the mourners passing Lincoln's body include all ages from young people to old.  The gentlemen all are wearing some type of armband, while the ladies show cockades on their left sleeves."
~To purchase authentic mourning cockades and badges, please click on the Creative Cockades link above)~

 During our mourning presentation in Waterloo,  we not only showed what mourning was like in the home,  but we also held a funeral,  with a pall bearers,  a procession to a graveyard,  and a preacher reciting the 23rd Psalm - accurate except for the lack of a real body in the coffin and a burial.
This was a very realistic immersion of a funeral
(A side note:  at the Charlton Park mourning presentation we actually used a volunteer as a  "corpse"  atop a slab in the parlor!)

Mourning a dear friend.
We do our best to be as authentic as we can.  We've had modern visitors tell us that we make them feel as if they've stepped through a portal to the past.

A weeping widow
It's scenarios like this that help to bring history to life  (so to speak!).  This is also why I reenact - this is my passion.  Bringing the past too life as accurately and authentically as we can is our high.
Those of us who participated in the mourning presentation at the Sixberry House in Charlton Park.  This photograph was taken with a tintype camera made in the 1880s.
As a side note I'd like to add a bit of social commentary to this posting:
During our scenario in Waterloo, I had more than one patron comment on how the respect that,  at one time,  was shown to those in mourning as well as to the deceased is long gone,  that people would rather  "party"  in our modern day and age instead of mourn,  and the deceased is soon forgotten.
In many ways they are right.
Oh,  yes,  we have the three day funeral and all that,  but it is quite different today.  I mean,  I do believe that a party for the dearly departed is not such a bad thing.  But,  there should be more time and more ritual for the mourning process.  In fact,  I believe a time for actual mourning is  needed,  contrary to popular contemporary belief.
The empty chair...
A very good example of this is when my wife lost her mother back in 2008.  A couple weeks after my mother-in-law's death,  we had a memorial service.  In this gathering we had many friends and family,  some who traveled quite a distance,  giving their happy remembrances of my wife's mom.  My wife then read a beautiful eulogy which brought nearly every visitor to tears,  and our eldest son strummed the guitar and sang  "Poor Wayfaring Stranger"  in a special tribute.  To complete the service there was a nice setting of food.
But even though this memorial was supposed to bring closure,  I could see that it didn't,  at least not for my wife.  She continuously cried herself to sleep and had bouts with depression for months - even more than a year - afterward,  but she still couldn't mourn outside of our home  it seemed.  My wife had not truly been able to mourn - to grieve - as she would've liked.  She had been told that  "life goes on,"  and to  "get over it."  Society just does not allow for open mourning without strongly suggesting sending the mourner to a psychiatrist,  who will invariably put them on some anti-depressant.
However,  shortly after Christmas of that year of 2008 - just a couple months after her mother's death - we participated in our reenacting unit's Christmas party.  It was a period dress Christmas get-together as is usual for us.  But,  this year I noticed that,  instead of wearing her nice flower-print brown day dress,  she instead wore her lavender day dress with a mourning brooch I bought for her earlier that year.
Not necessarily period correct,  but it was a last minute idea on her part.
Some there at the party noticed.
And they asked her...
She told me afterward how wonderful it made her feel that people not only were aware of her state but also gave her their condolences.
It helped her in her grieving and mourning.
I actually saw her smile...
And that lead me to finally fully understand the mourning practices of the 19th century:  it gave one - including men,  albeit a much shorter length and less rules - the opportunity to mourn,  and to let others know how they are feeling.  It gave the mourner the right to cry  *whenever*  and have others understand.  It gave the mourner the right to be angry  *whenever*  and have others understand.  It gave the mourner the right to be moody and have others understand.
It gave the widow the right to grieve  whenever she needed to.
And,  that's what we cannot do in this modern day and age.  We need to mourn  and to know it's OK to mourn without anyone saying stupid things such as,  "It's been a couple months,  you should be over it by now!"  and then having some doctor wanting to shove pills down our throats to help us  "get over it."  I don't necessarily mean we should go back to the mourning practices of our 19th century ancestors,  but to give us the opportunity to actually mourn - - and not for three days;  not for a week or a month. But for however long it takes.
Our ancestors were much smarter than today's society gives them credit for.


I do not completely understand my interest in the mourning procedures of the 19th century,  but I have found that I'm not alone in this infatuation.  There are many folks - especially in the reenacting world - who also have a strong interest in this as well. 
Besides the information from the books and pamphlets listed below,  I would also like to give many thanks to Sandy Root  for all of her knowledge about not only the mourning practices of the 1860's,  but her knowledge of 19th century social history in general.
Oh,  and I cannot forget the mourning knowledge of my very good friend,  Kim Parr.  Kim,  along with her good friend Stephanie, began the mourning presentation at the Adams House at Greenfield Village back in the 1990's.
The hearse shed (with hearse) at Greenfield Village - for more info on this building click HERE

Besides the information from Kim, Sandy, and Tonya, here are the three main books I used for this post:

"Rachel Weeping II: Mourning in 19th Century America" by Karen Rae Mehaffey

"The After-Life" by Karen Rae Mehaffey

"Widow's Weeds and Weeping Veils" by Bernadette Loeffel-Atkins

~   ~   ~

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Reenactors in Tintypes

Today I thought I would present to you Reenactors in Tintypes. I got the idea partly from another blog that I follow - Eastlake Victorian.
Anyhow, a couple of years ago I asked numerous reenactor/living historian friends of mine to please e-mail to me any actual tintypes or daguerreotypes of themselves in period clothing. Not Photoshop reproductions. Not just sepia photos from Paint Shop Pro. But, actual photographs taken with a real period camera.
And they did!!
What I present here on this 4th of July weekend is what I have received. I hope you enjoy them.


(above) Mourners after a burial

(above) My dear wife

(above) Me!

(above) my family - taken by R.J. Gibson in Gettysburg

I hope you enjoyed them.
You know, along the same lines, I collect original 78 rpm records from the 1930's through the early 1950's and, although I have most of the songs digitally remastered on compact disc, they sound so much more...authentic? Original? Hmmm...well, they just sound right on a 1940's phonograph that I have.
I look at these photographs in the same way. Even though they're not original to the mid-19th century, the equipment used was, and that makes all the difference in the world!