THREE YOUNG CHILDREN POSE FOR THE COLUMBIA VIEW AND BUTTON COMPANY (MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE OR PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA

Three young children pose together for a cabinet card portrait by the Columbia View & Button Company of Memphis, Tennessee and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This photograph precipitates a number of questions. Was this photograph taken outdoors, or is this an in-studio portrait? Was this image produced in Memphis, or, in Pittsburgh? Finally, why is the photographic studio called a “View & Button Company”? Lets attempt to answer the previous questions. It is not clear if this is an indoor, or outdoor photograph; nor is it apparent in which of the studios, the image was produced. However, one source reports that the Pittsburgh studio existed between circa 1893 and 1900. This cabinet card is marked on its front as being photographed in 1901. Does the 1901 date preclude the possibility that the image comes from the Pittsburgh studio? The answer is a resounding no. The date on the card  was preprinted and the source is not certain the Pittsburgh studio definitely closed in the exact year 1900. The third question concerns the reason the name of the studio includes the terms “View & Button” . The likely  answer is  that the studio originally produced stereoviews and photograph buttons. The buttons were generally portraits and varied in size. They could be worn or displayed on a piece of furniture or shelf. Large photographic buttons were most popular between 1900 and 1930. The smaller pinback buttons were popular beginning the 1890’s. There is some other information that may prove to be important in learning more about the image. On the reverse of the cabinet card, there are two names written. These names likely identify two of the subjects in the photograph. The two subjects names are Mary  Baker and Guy Baker. Searching census data with a common name like”Baker” was an exercise in frustration, in regard to identifying these probable siblings. After viewing this cabinet card, one notes that the three children in this photograph are not fashionably nor expensively dressed. They are different from most of the children seen in cabinet cards. The majority of children tend to wear their sunday best, which is generally much nicer than these children’s wardrobe. One surmises that these children are from a poor family.