A 19th Century Baltimore Boxer

This cabinet card was produced by photographer Mrs. Dora Jose Russell, wife of photographer William C. Russell, between 1894 and 1901.

William C. Russell (1843-1900) was born near Chadd’s Ferry, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. According to his obituary, Russell was well known as a landscape photographer, who, “while in the Baltimore and Ohio service . . . took many thousands of photographs of interesting scenery along the road.”

Several years before his death, Russell retired from the railroad and opened a studio at 5 North Charles Street. Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers lists two addresses for his studio: 151 W. Fayette (1886) and 106 N. Charles (1887).

Kelbaugh’s directory may be incomplete.

Wilson’s Photographic Magazine for January  1890 briefly notes that Russell and Charles Quartley had dissolved their partnership and that Russell continued busines at 5 North Charles.

Both the Baltimore Sun article and Kelbaugh’s directory are in agreement on the fact that Russell sold his studio after only a few years, and that his wife, Dora, “soon afterward opened a gallery at 109 West Lexington street.”

Kelbaugh dates Mrs. Russell’s studio at this location to 1894-1901, and this is the period during which this cabinet card photograph was taken. She is listed as Mrs. William C. Russell, photographer at 109 W. Lexington, in Polk’s Baltimore directory for 1893-1894.

As for the figure itself, the gentleman’s pose is a conventional one for boxers’ portraits. What seems odd is his outfit. He is apparently wearing an improvised pair of “shorts” made from a folded length of fabric, perhaps pinned at the back.

In short, a diaper.

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