Dear Helaine and Joe:
I have a picture that my mother showed me and I can't find out anything about it. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Dear B. H.:
This letter is information-light. We could not offer any kind of help if the subject line of the email had not read "M. B. Parkinson picture." This single nugget will allow us to provide some information, but it would have helped to have known the size, the condition and the publication date that probably came along with the M. B. Parkinson name.
Morris Burke Parkinson (1847-1926) was a photographer who is perhaps best known for his images of a 4-year-old girl named Josephine Anderson, who was the daughter of one of Parkinson's friends. The female friend was a single mother who needed to work, and Parkinson often served as her babysitter.
Parkinson immortalized little Josephine in the photographs "Cupid Awake" and "Cupid Asleep," which were copyrighted in the late 1890s. The Taber-Prang Art Company of Springfield, Mass., distributed the prints, and they became so popular they are almost a cliche. These are easily found today and have been widely reproduced.
These two ubiquitous images – both of Josephine holding arrows, one while awake and one while asleep – are just two of several other Parkinson "cupid" images, which include "Cupid At Rest," "Cupid Interested," "Cupid Waiting" and "Cupid Watching." These were sold in inexpensive frames in mass market stores such as Sears and in five-and-dime stores.
Parkinson did many other photographs as well, many of which featured a young child sometimes paired with an adult, such as in the image in today's question. There were such images as "Old Folks at Home," which depicted an old granny in a cap having tea with Josephine, or "Have Some," which portrayed a woman milking a cow and shooting a stream of milk into a child's mouth.
Parkinson was born near Buffalo, N.Y., but as an infant he and his family moved by wagon to Oshkosh, Wis., where he grew up. As an adult photographer, Parkinson is associated with Boston, but it is often noted that he also worked in New York.
Other than children, Parkinson is noted for his images of young women, who are sometimes just posing but may be engaged in some sort of activity. We could not find the title of the photogravure (mass-produced photographic print) owned by B. H., but the value depends largely on its size and condition.
If it is a larger size, and if the condition is as excellent as it appears to be in the photos supplied by B. H., the piece should be worth in the $175 to $300 range for insurance purposes. Unfortunately, many of Parkinson's pieces were framed with wooden backs and have been severely damaged by acid produced by the aging wood. Smaller damaged examples generally sell for less than $50.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an item you'd like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email them at email@example.com. If you'd like your question to be considered for their column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.