The Two Mrs. Alexander Chaplains: Elmira Kemp

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When a number of cartes de visite from the very old Chaplain family of Trappe, Talbot County, Maryland came up for auction recently, I was fortunate to acquire some of them. One that got away: A portrait of Alexander A. Chaplain (1835-1918), a graduate of Dickinson Collge, teacher and Talbot County’s Superintendent of Schools for many years.

I did, however, manage to acquire a carte portrait of one of his two wives.

Chaplain was married twice: first, to his Trappe neighbor Elmira, or Elma, Kemp (1837-186), and second, to a Dorchester County lady, Emily Thomas (1838-1904).

Elma was the daughter of Trappe physician Samuel Troth Kemp and Elizabeth Hardcastle Kemp. Elma and Alexander had a daughter, Maude.

Elma’s sister Evalina Kemp married Alexander Chaplain’s brother, physician James Stevens Chaplain (1827-1908).

Elma may be buried in the private Kemp cemetery in Trappe. Alexander is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery, Easton.

The carte de visite portrait above was taken in Philadelphia, by Edward P. Hipple, Arch Street. Mr. Hipple advertised the advantage of a “skylight on ground floor,” meaning ladies would not have to climb several staircases to reach the studio.

If the full sleeve, dropped at the shoulders, and the wide skirt, weren’t enough to do so, the simple setting, steadying chair and plain advertising mark all place this carte in the early 1860s.