Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840–1900

Maureen A. Taylor is known as The Photo Detective. She is an internationally recognized expert on the intersection of those three passions: history, photography and genealogy. She has written multiple books on the subject of capturing and protecting photographs. Taylor has also written books and articles on the subject of dating old photographs. Here are some of her books we have already reviewed on this site:

Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840–1900, by Taylor,  is just another is a great line of useful books for the family historian. According to Taylor, your ancestor’s hair, “whether straight or curled, clean-shaven or fringed, oiled or bewigged,” can tell you a lot about that person. By reading the clues of clothing and hairstyles in photographs, you can learn:

  • when the photo was taken
  • how old individuals were at the time
  • how wealthy they were
  • even, about their personalities

Short or long, curled or coiffed, topknots, buns, braids, sideburn, and burnsides will all tell stories about the subjects of a photograph. Taylor walks the reader through the 19th century, decade by decade, from 1840 on, with photographic examples and descriptions for hairstyles; along with, additional information which can be used in comparing the photographs to your own collection.

The book is also filled with notable quotes from each time period, providing further insight into the fashions of the day. Take these two examples:

“From London to Paris we are given to understand that ladies have taken to a new way of dressing their hair by not dressing it at all. That is to say, instead of the puffing, ‘banging’ and tousling it has had for years, it is now parted plainly, combed smoothly and confined by a single coil.” The Daily Critic (Washington, D. C.), July 24, 1878.

“The mustache may truly be called nature’s respirator.” The Health Reformer, 1870.


Table of Contents


Fast Facts

1840–Early 1850s







Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840–1900 is available from Family Root Publishing; Item #: MT51, Price: $19.55.

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