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Noted Willa Cather and American literature scholar Marilee Lindemann (University of Maryland) made this observation about the new daguerreotype: "Imagine a literary history in which images like these of Dickinson and Anthon are a central and not a marginal part—i.e., a history in which the author is not understood as a solo performer but as a writer whose performances depend on deep, sustained collaboration and a range of intimacies, a history in which a woman writer inspired by a female muse or working with a female collaborator (or in-house editor) is a mere fact."

What do others think? What might that literary history look like? What difference does it make when the visage of a cultural icon changes so radically?

The argument for Emily Dickinson is compelling, but I am not convinced that the other woman is Kate Turner.

The identification of Kate Turner is based upon the comparison of facial moles on the young woman in the daguerreotype with photographs of Turner. Perhaps these other photographs could be displayed on this website to aid an informed discussion? I think it would be useful to compare eye colour in these photographs. The young woman in the daguerreotype has distinctively light eyes whereas the photographs (in the Sewell biography and of Kate as a sixty-year-old) show her to have dark eyes. The 1861-63 image of Kate on this website’s “transition” video also suggests dark eyes. All three images of Kate Turner reveal a relatively low hairline compared to the high forehead of the woman in the daguerreotype.

The identification of Kate Turner led to the dating of the daguerreotype. Turner first met Dickinson in 1859 and, therefore, the image has been dated 1859. This dating immediately poses the question: why not an ambrotype which was more popular and affordable by this time? Another question arises: why is Emily wearing an early 1850’s fan-front dress? Her possible indifference to fashion does not explain why her friend’s hairstyle is also early 1850’s.

If Kate Turner is not the friend in the image, and if we re-date this image to correspond with the sitters’ fashions and the heydey of daguerreotype photography, then the anachronisms disappear. And a whole new landscape opens up for scholars.

Mary Maillard
Documentary Editor
Vancouver, B.C. Canada

The physical evidence that it’s Kate Turner is very strong. Besides the matching moles, it’s her dress. She wears black. It is about 2.5 years since her first husband died (May 1857), so she should be out of mourning. But Kate chose to wear black all the rest of her life. It’s also stated, by one who knew her, that Kate “allowed herself” only a white collared blouse underneath, after mourning. You see Kate wearing that here. There is also another photo of Kate Turner recently discovered at the NY State Historical Society. It shows Kate in the same style dress (late 1850’s, photo by W.G. Smith), and the face is the same. Along with the moles, eye’s, nose and mouth.

As to the eye color? The one photo of Kate with dark “looking” eyes is because of the “lighting and shading” in the photo. Eye surgeon Dr. Susan Pepin examined that photo and said there is no way you can tell the color of her eyes from that photo. She said you can’t tell the color of a person’s eyes, in a room - as light & shadow changes come into play. Look toward a wall with a window, the eyes are light. Look to a wall with no window, they’re dark. Dr. Susan Pepin has worked on thousands of eyes. You may also wish to view photos of another close Emily friend, Mrs. Elizabeth Holland. They are documented family shots. But one of Mrs. Holland - in middle age, show very dark eyes. But an older Mrs. Holland – shows totally the opposite - the palest of eyes. Same woman. Same eyes. Documented. It is the shadow, lighting, pose and closeness of the camera….. that makes things look different - but superficially so.

Dating the daguerreotype? It has to be after 1859, you’re correct. It is late for a daguerreotype. But the photographer is believed to be J.C. Spooner of Springfield. He advertised in the 1859 Springfield Business Directory, that he “Still executes Daguerreotypes when desired” – even though ambrotypes were more popular by then. But, an ambrotype cannot hold a candle to a daguerreotype - for clarity, depth, beauty, and contrast. So it doesn’t surprise me that Emily chose a daguerreotype - if she saw a similar ambro in the studio. J.C. Spooner also purchased Otis Cooley’s whole studio, in 1855. And many believe that Cooley photographed Emily in 1847 (I do). So there is a Cooley/Spooner connection. Cooley also daguerreotyped Emily’s sister, Lavinia, in the early 1850’s…. so, that’s more of a Dickinson family connection.

Experts have seen the clothing styles. Emily is wearing very early 1850’s style, YES. Kate is wearing late 1850’s style dress. Kate’s hairstyle is not early 1850’s. It is possible to wear an early 1850’s dress - in 1859. But it is impossible to wear an 1859 style dress - in the early 1850s - because it wasn’t invented yet (unless you are a time traveler). In the early 1850’s Emily wrote to a friend that she was “old fashioned” in her dress. So much so, that she feared it would “Embarrass them”. In the Spring of 1854, Emily went to Washington, and her parents bought her “new” dresses for the visit. Emily did not like them. She wrote she thought they make her look like a “Peacock”. So she liked older styles. Emily was always quirky with her dress. How else can you explain that from the mid 1860’s on, she mostly wore a white dress? So trying to down the date of this image – by a single dress of Emily’s, is a tricky proposition..….because….. Emily didn’t care for the latest fashion, or the date of it – or whether it was in…or out. And, she basically came right out and said so. Emily wore what she liked.

I’m going to try and have DEA post the photos of a middle aged Mrs. Holland and an old Mrs. Holland - with eyes that clearly do not match. Emily wrote to Mrs. Holland for several decades. She addressed her often as ‘Sister”. A book has been written on their correspondence. If the photo’s come up - look closely at how the photographs are “lighted” and “posed.” It IS the same woman - for a fact. But the eyes do not match, because of the lighting. It’s the same with Kate’s photos. But they are Kate.

Thank you. This is very informative and you make a good point about the effect of lighting. It would be terrific if we could see the New York State Historical Society photograph and also hear from experts about the hairlines in the various photographs.

I had a hard time seeing the friend’s outfit as a dress. It looks to me like a jacket and skirt. I searched for jacket styles like hers but I couldn’t find anything except this La Mode image from 1848.
It seems quite similar – especially the trimming – which is a shade lighter than the garment. Maybe a fashion historian could comment?

You can't find a similar outfit, as you search for of Kate - a "skirt" and jacket. Skirts didn't exist as fasion! Kate wears a typlical late 1850's dress style. What she has is a short overcoat......over her dress. It was common and stylish thing of the day. It also indicates that the the month of the photo would be a colder one, sometime Fall or Winter. She would swelter if she wore that in warmer months....and there'd be no reason to wear it then. Kate visted Amherst first in the early "Winter" 1859. Author Rebecca Patterson (expert on Kate) believes Kate returned to Amherst in late "Fall" 1859.

Don'y worry about the eyes. The dress is correct for the late 1850's, and not anywhere near the early 1850's....and Kate's hair is right on fo the period.

If the daguerreotype does depict Emily with Kate Anthon, it gives added interest to this passage from Johnson's letter 222 (I currently have access only to the paperback version of the Selected Letters): "You do not yet 'dislimn,' Kate, Distinctly sweet your face stands in its phantom niche--I touch your hand--my cheek your cheek--I stroke your vanished hair, Why did you enter, sister, since you must depart?" Phantom niche would be a fine phrase for the elusive image of a daguerreotype inside its case, visible only from just the right angle, and the gesture of touching and stroking could actually be much more tactile, yet even more elusive, vanishing at the same time.

It is worth posting, a passport application dated Sept. 26, 1864 (with witnesses Joseph B. Nones, Notary Public, and Edward Clark) for Mrs. Catherine M. Turner, born 12 March 1831 in Cooperstown, gives a "Description of Mrs. Catherine M. Turner:
Age, 33
Stature 5 Feet 3 Inches
Forehead, Medium height
Eyes, Hazel (dark)
Nose, Ordinary size
Mouth, Small
Chin, Round
Hair, Black
Complexion, Florid
Face, Oval"

You had pointed me to this passport application, Kelly, and thanks for adding it here. Besides the fact that different lightings create different enough impressions that the same person can appear to have very dark or significantly lighter eyes, the fact that Kate Scott's eyes are described as hazel is important. Anyone with hazel eyes knows that her eyes can look very different in color depending on what color clothes she wears (I happen to be one of those hazel-eyed people myself).
--Martha Nell Smith

You will note that I have moved all of the comments about Facial Comparisons to a new discussion board here:
To the best of my knowledge, EVERY comment has been migrated with the contributor and the proper date and time stamp.
I also started a discussion about the image of Kate Anthon based on Kelly's comment above. That discussion is here:
If you see any issues with the data migration from the discussion, feel free to email me at JulieREnszer at gmail dot com. I will be happy to address any issues.

Thanks to Julie for setting up the new discussion boards where those who want to post pseudoynmously can do so separate from the rest of the conversations.
And. . .soon we'll be mounting Ravished Slates, Marta Werner's exhibition about the "Lord letters." Stay tuned, folks, and here's to a wonderful 2013 for all.
In Possibility,
Martha Nell Smith

Thanks for this information. Nice post.

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