Hair styles of the 1840s for the everyday woman were influenced by
royalty, who in turn traded influences with European styles of the
time. The Royals would establish the styles which would then descend
through the nobility beneath them, then to the wealthy members of society
who could afford to instill the new styles. They were then paraded
at concerts and parties as a demonstration that one was in touch with
what was happening in the important areas of society. As a carry-over
from the early 1800s, it was Queen Victoria's ascension to the throne
in the latter 1830s and her influence on the rest of society that
established the trends and styles. Ringlets and puffs were common with
women continuing to part their hair down the center. This was maintained
for both adults and children, so when you see photographs of children who
look like girls, check the part. If it is in the center, it was a girl,
and if parted on the side, it was a boy dressed like a girl. As the
1840s proceeded, the topknots were reduced in size and moved toward the
back of the head. There were many variations of the ringlets and coils
with the ears usually hidden by puffs.
Hair Styles of the 1840s can best be shown by what existed in the early photographs. Rather than present a history of photography here, it is better just to show the hair styles worn by women during the period. Note that the photographs on these pages are not strictly authoritative. They come from sources that are unreliable as the original owner has often made a guess as to the date. As time goes by, a new identification method will be required. The best source is a photograph that clearly has a date on the back of the photograph written in the handwriting of the time.
For the time being, these photographs should be considered educated guesses. Many hairstyles did cover extended periods of time, so they are within the correct period to match the photographs. But as the earliest photographs were taken about 1837, those that survive from the 1840s, should be considered rare. This is therefore the rudiments of a beginning collection, and will be revised as time and circumstances permit. 15hqql.
Mary Todd Lincoln
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