Caught Our Eyes: Sisters Who Weave

On September 26, 1859, sisters Lucretia Electa and Louisa Ellen Crossett stood before photographer Alfred Hall to have their portrait taken together in Lawrence, Massachusetts. I like to think of them as mill workers participating in the expanding American Industrial Revolution.

[Sisters Lucretia Electa and Louisa Ellen Crossett in identical skirts, blouses, and jewelry with weaving shuttles]

Sisters Lucretia Electa and Louisa Ellen Crossett in Identical Skirts, Blouses, and Jewelry with Weaving Shuttles, by Alfred Hall, September 26, 1859.
//hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppss.00082

The sisters, dressed in identical aprons, blouses, and simple jewelry, are both holding weaving shuttles, while Lucretia also wears a pair of scissors at her waist. This type of portrait, typical of the period, is known as an “occupational portrait”— the sitter dons the costume and tools of trade in posing for the photographer.

This lovely ambrotype is part of the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, which focuses on Union and Confederate soldiers and sailors. The Crossett sisters help set the stage by revealing some of the character and interests of the people who would be affected by the war. Take a close look at some of the other gripping portraits in the collection and you will walk away having put a human face to America’s most devastating conflict . . . and you even may look eye-to-eye with a long-lost relative.

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