My Recent Buy: Carte de Visite of Woman Wearing German Tracht

“My Recent Buy” will be a regular feature in The Insider. What did you buy recently that brings a smile to your face? Share the object and your story with our readers. Send the story of your buy and two to four images to insider@worthpoint.com. Your recent buy might appear in a future issue.  

A carte de visite of a young German woman dressed in a folk costume.

The proverb “the best things in life are free” traces its origin to a song of the same name from in 1927 Broadway Show “Good News.”   The song’s chorus begins “The moon belongs to everyone.  The best things in life are free….”  More than a dozen artists including Dinah Shore, The Ink Spots, Mario Lanza, and Les Paul & Mary Ford recorded the song.

“Free” has a somewhat different meaning to collectors.  Free is good, a bonus, and a miracle, especially when “free” is something that excites the collectors and sends him/her on a journey of discovery that he/she would not take otherwise.  My most recent buy was free.

Benjamin Martell, a dealer who lives in Kent, Ohio and enjoys buying box lots at auctions, emailed me photographs of the front and back of a carte de visite of a young German woman dressed in a folk costume.  He indicated he was “totally confused as to what ethnicity or fashion statement is represented by her clothes and hair.”  He was hoping I could identify the costume.

The woman’s hat consisted of a cloth bow extending out from the top of her head with a long tassel on each end.  The back of the photograph noted the carte de visite was taken by C. Hirsmüller, Emmendingen, Baden.  Emmendingen, a town in Baden-Wüttemburg, is the capital city of the Emmendingen district of Germany.  There also was a glass plate negative number “6968.”  The text beneath it translates roughly as “Subsequent orders can only be made if this number is specified.”

The back of the photograph noted the carte de visite was taken by C. Hirsmüller, Emmendingen, Baden.

Having visited dozens of German folk museums during my trips to Germany, I was aware of the wide variety of German regional folk dress (tracht) for men and women.  Many regions had a different dress for workdays, festivals, Sundays, and weddings.

The young lady in the carte de visite is wearing Markgräfler Tracht, detailed information for which can be found on (1) Wikipedia or (2) www.markgraefler.de. A distinctive head cover for the Emmendingen region was first documented in the late seventeenth century.  The “winged” cap arrived on the scene in the 1820s.  As the nineteenth century progressed, the wings grew larger and tassels started to appear on the ends.  By 1890, the Markgräfler “horn” cap that featured long bows and long fringes was fully developed.  The tradition prevailed until the early 1930s.  The folk costume was worn by the rural population for fest days, holidays, and Sundays.  Today, costume clubs in the area have revived the tradition.

I shared this information with Ben and asked if I could buy the carte de visite.  He replied: “Don’t worry about paying me for the CDV….You have been an invaluable source of information about antiques and collectibles for me since I became seriously interest in them about six years ago….”  I have a simple policy when this happens – accept the gift, thank the giver, and be grateful.

I emailed Ben noting that the “next step is to identify the photographer and see if his plate archives have been preserved.  Wouldn’t that be nice.”  I am not certain if it was my parents or someone else who preached: “good things happen to nice guys.”  There are those who might disagree about my niceness; but, in this instance, a very nice thing happened.

I did a Google search to see if there was a museum or historical society in Emmendingen.  I was overjoyed when I discovered that the Museum in Margrafenschloss contains five rooms devoted to the archives of the Hirmüller photographic studio (1861-1933).  I immediately sent an email to the museum asking if they could provide more information about the subject in the photograph.  Two days later I received an email from Hans-Jörg Jenne, a member of the Emmendingen city council, informing me he had received my email and hoped to have an answer within a few days.

The next morning, I received an email with information that was far beyond what I had hoped.   Thusnelda Dischinger, born Thusnelda Bruckbach on March 9, 1898 in Emmendingen, is the woman in the picture.  The picture was taken on May 30, 1922.  At the time of the picture, Thusnelda was the wife of Ernst Dishinger, born on August 16, 1902, in Kehl, located on the Rhine River near Strasbourg.  Ernst Dishinger arrived in Emmendingen on May 2, 1919, and lived with the family of Thusnelda.   Thusnelda and Ernst moved from Emmendingen to Freiburg on January 29, 1933.  For Herr Jenne, the story ends here.

But, the story does not end.  What happened to the Dishingers after they moved to Freiburg?  How did the carte de visite of Thusnelda wind up in America?  There are Dischingers buried in Ohio, Indiana, Texas, and other Midwest states.  Are they related to Ernst and Thusnelda? Where did Ernst and Thusnelda die?

This 1859 photo of Napoleon III by Disderi made the Carte de Visite type of photograph famous.

A great object never stops raising questions for its owner.  When one question is answered, others arise.  The carte de visite, was patented in 1854 by André Alophine Eugène Disderi in 1854 in Paris.  It was supplanted by the cabinet card format in the early 1870s. Why was Hirmüller still using the format in 1922?

In Spring of 2018, I plan to visit Emmendingen and Freiberg to see what additional information I can find.   I am not going to rest until I know how the card made it way to America.

My most recent buy was a “free” black and white studio image of a young woman in folk dress standing with her right arm resting on a chair behind which was a painted Roman Corinthian columns backdrop.  The image is mounted on a 2 1/2” by 4” card.

This “free” purchase, which already has taken me on a memorabilia journey, promises further exciting new adventures.  I am thinking of buying one of the horn hats for my wife Linda while I am in Germany.  Will she be surprised!


Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site.  You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.  “Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

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