The photograph is mounted on a card 4 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches. This is a standard size for a type of photograph known as a Cabinet Card. These were first introduced in 1866 and were quite popular into the beginning of the twentieth century. Photographers could order the cards preprinted with their name and address on either the front or the back.
Bonell chose to advertise on the front of the card. By consulting Carl Mautz’s Biographies of Western Photographers (Carl Mautz Publishing, 1997) it can be determined that Bonell (Bonnell) was active in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin in the period 1875-1890. Other ways to discover the dates of operation of the photography studio is by searching city directories of the area and contacting the local historical societies. Historical societies often maintain lists of photographers that worked in their area.
The third clue helps narrow down the fifteen-year period that the photographer was in business. The details in a woman’s dress or her accessories can help pinpoint a small span of dates. The tight sleeves and high puffed shoulder seam are examples of a sleeve style that was in fashion very briefly circa 1890. By 1893, sleeves are fuller on the upper arm. Her skirt is draped at the waist to expose the very bottom of an underskirt beneath a scalloped edge in the style of the late 1880’s. Her hair has a center part with short frizzed bangs and a bun at the nape of her neck. A few stray hairs are visible at the neckline.
Her husband’s clothing also dates from the same period. He is wearing a basic black sack suit with a buttoned vest, white shirt, and a silk tie. All of his clothing would have been purchased ready-made.
It appears from the intimacy of the pose that this young couple is posing for either an engagement photograph or more likely a wedding portrait. If the owner has anyone in her family tree who got married circa 1890, she has a possible identification.