Perhaps one of the most intriguing finds was a photograph with the inscription, "Sue Alsop, Old Aunt, a lovely Christian woman". Immediate speculation is that this is a photograph of the matron of the Alsop Farm of the May 19, 1864 battle fame. Susan M. Alsop was only twenty-one in December 1860 when her husband James Addison Alsop died from the effects of a carriage accident. Susan and her six month old son, John, continued to live on their Spotsylvania farm, witnessing the horrors of battle virtually on the threshold. Susan lived out her days there until she passed in 1915. This copy of the photograph may in fact have been made as a memorial keepsake for family members in 1915 as it is an enlargement of the 1860s period original, mounted on a "cabinet card stock", typically done after the turn of the century for such purposes.
The image of "Sue Alsop", enhanced and restored from a
scan of the original by John F. Cummings.
The inscription on the back is shown below.
The interesting features of the photograph are the trappings of mourning etiquette that the woman is wearing, which taken by themselves are supportive of this being the "Widow Alsop". She is wearing a photo broach of her deceased husband, pinned to her collar, a tradition of Victorian era mourning practices. Considering that the collar is white, this indicates that the photograph would have been made after the end of "Full Mourning", which was to last for a year and one day. In full mourning the widow was required to wear all black for the entire period. After entering second stage mourning, a widow could add some color to her clothing, usual a white collar and cuffs. This being second stage mourning would indicate that it was taken no earlier than late December of 1861. Considering the distance to photographers in Fredericksburg from her Spotsylvania home, it is even likely that the photograph was made in early 1862 with the arrival of weather conditions more hospitable to travel on country roads.
It should be noted that the hairstyle this woman is wearing is typically that of the 1850s era, a style consisting of padded wings over the ears. If this is indeed THE Susan Alsop, widow of James Addison Alsop, one has to consider that she is wearing a hairstyle that would have been out of vogue by the early 1860s. This does not mean that she could not have opted to continue this style, but typically a young woman as she was then, approaching 23, would have been more inclined to keep up with fashion of the day.
Further scrutiny will be required of this and the hundreds of other images found in the Alrich attic. We are fortunate that they have survived to provide a window into the county's past.
The south western exposure of the Alrich home,
(Dabney house during the Civil War), and the lone attic window.
Photographed June 5, 2010 by John F. Cummings.