Woman wearing a shield brooch in the Netherlands

When I saw this carte-de-visite for sale on eBay in England, I assumed the sitter must have been a member of the Salvation Army (Leger des Heils in Dutch).  The shape of her brooch resembles some of the shield pins worn by members of that organization, but the lettering doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen so far online.  It could be a different language, or it could be something else entirely:

Woman with shield brooch in the Netherlands 4

The carte-de-visite portrait was made at one of the studios of Heiman Benjamin Sanders (1835-1901), who lived in Groningen, Netherlands.

Woman with shield brooch in the Netherlands 3

Woman with shield brooch in the Netherlands 2



33 thoughts on “Woman wearing a shield brooch in the Netherlands

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  1. This is a most interesting postcard. The date is before 1901.

    The woman is either in part European and in part some other ethnicity or she is wholly some other ethnicity. Given the time frame, is it possibe that this woman is from the Indonesian archipelago, then in the hands of the Dutch, and that she was not a free agent?

    She looks uncomfortable.

    The brooch may be merely decorative, chosen by her or by an employer. One wonders what significance this shape could possiby have had for those living outside the areas where this is clearly a shape related to shields and to chivalry.

    As to the writing on the shield, it could be an acronym. However, it appeared Cyrillic to me when I first saw it and what that would mean beyond the decorative for a Dutch person I cannot imagine.

    Just goes to show how difficult it is to decipher the devices an desires of our species and that, sometimes, images do not speak louder than explanatory words! Sarah

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Interesting points, Sarah! I suspect you are right that she came originally from Indonesia. Regarding her independence, she looks calm and comfortable to me, not like a person in a situation beyond her control. However, I don’t have any special insight here, and I’m always curious to hear how others interpret a photo (interact with?).

      A few explanatory words on the back would make such a difference! I’m very lax about making notes on the backs of printed photos. I constantly tell myself to do it, but rarely do. They’re the cobbler’s children with no shoes. Brad

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m very lax about writing on the backs of photos as well because I tell myself that of course I will remember who these people are, where they were, and the occasion of the photo. How could I not?

        Liked by 2 people

  2. She’s lovely! I’m afraid I don’t have any clues as to the brooch. I do find cdvs absolutely charming though. They remind me of the fun of grade school and getting your envelope of pictures. The way the smallest ones were for exchanging with your friends! I know hers wasn’t a school portrait. But, I still wonder who might have been lucky enough to receive one and smiled for it. 😊🌷

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I have no suggestions to offer but I LOVE reading everyone’s guesses. How do you come across all of these photo’s? If I find one, can I send it to you? There are tons and tons of antique stores where I live and I’ve looked through dozens of boxes filled with these types of pictures that I’ve wanted to know more about.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You live in an antiquer’s paradise! It took me days to go through the shops in just two towns–Cornish and Bridgton. I can spend hours in one shop if they have boxes of photos! To be honest, though, I “find” most of my photos on eBay. Shipping is generally inexpensive, even internationally, because most photos fit in standard envelopes. The selection on eBay is vast and constantly changing. I have to be very picky, or I’d go broke in a heartbeat.

      It’s nice to hear that you look at old photos in shops when you run across them. The more interest there is, the more likely shop owners will be to make room for them, instead of leaving them in a damp basement or throwing them in a dumpster. That still happens far too often.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I love looking at them. My favorite I have is a small photo of women named “dot” digging clams. I have no idea where or the year. But I love it. Cornish is super close to me. I live in Standish. Did you know that? I suggested to OldMainer that he and I get coffee sometime, would you want to joint us?!?


      2. I knew you were somewhere near Sebago Lake. Thank you for the invitation! Unfortunately I live about five hours west of there. My parents used to rent a cabin on a pond near Hiram (Barker Pond). The Maine woods are wonderful in the summer. I’ve never been there in the winter, but it must be pretty then, with the sun filtering through the pines onto the snow.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Both the woman and the brooch are quite interesting. I found the Salvation Army shields online, and while the shape is the same, the details of the piece itself are somewhat different. Her ethnicity is a puzzle, too. I didn’t think of Indonesia, but of the Dutch Caribbean islands, where mixed-race people were (and are) common.

    She looks to me as though she feels out of place. I can’t help wondering if she might have been employed by a family in the islands, and then brought back to the Netherlands.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I looked at a number of older shields as well. Either the shape was different, or it was the same but the lettering was on a diagonal, rather than horizontal.

      I hadn’t thought that she might have come from the islands. Interesting idea! Either way, it seems likely that she crossed an ocean or two before sitting for this portrait. That’s something you would know a thing or two about!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. What a lovely photo! I have no suggestions to offer about the brooch, but I noticed (of course!) the German name printed at the bottom of the card. Apparently they were in the photo printing/mounting business. So would the photographer have sent the plate to them, they produced a bunch of CDVs from it and sent it all back? It appears that they printed photographs for photographers from all over Europe. If so they must have had templates for the backs of the cards for each customer. I had never thought about this, I had always imagined that each photographer would produce their own prints, but clearly it isn’t so.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My understanding is that most CDVs, at least until the end of the 19th century, were albumen prints, which required a special type of very thin paper, along with chemicals and inks for developing and printing. After printing, the thin paper was glued to the cardboard mount, which had been pre-printed with the photographer’s logos (trade card). The special paper was made in only a few places, primarily in Germany. In this case, I’m guessing Trapp & Münch made both the mount and the albumen paper, but Sanders printed the photo onto the paper. If I’m wrong about any of this, I hope someone will say so in the comments.

      A bit later, German manufacturers were pioneers in the Real Photo Postcard industry as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How interesting, I didn’t know any of this! I’m finding myself more and more intrigued by these production processes, part of the history of photography I hadn’t really thought about. It gives me immense pleasure to learn about this, so thanks!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. That’s very nice to hear! I haven’t made a concerted effort to understand all the details of the different historical processes, but I hope to become more knowledgeable eventually.

        By the way, I plan to share a photo from Germany in the next few weeks, so stay tuned. 😉


      1. I can definitely read “Jesus is”. I thought the next word could be “near”, but “mine” fits better.

        To see the letters, remember that the writing is light against a dark field. The word “is”, on the left of the bottom row, is the easiest to see.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. She looks a little distant, as though she has something else on her mind than having her photo taken. To me her mouth and nose look African or West Indian, the rest of her face looks somewhat Indian (Asian). Mixed-ethnicity, certainly. The shield brooch or badge is at a slight angle and part is hidden under her collar. I tried to read it – to me it looked like Hebrew characters or – as another commenter said – cyrillic, but I see one of your later commenters has deciphered it. I didn’t think at first that she looked like she was part of the Sally Army (what we colloquially call them here in the UK) but looking again, she might be. Though that said, they have and had a uniform and this dress she’s wearing isn’t that. Maybe instead of the S.A. it was something similar, or perhaps she was just dressed for church?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I wondered about the uniforms and how much they varied or changed over time. I have a cabinet card of two Sally Army girls wearing a uniform that included a bonnet (1870s?). I like your theory that this woman may have been a member of a different religious organization. Perhaps one based in the Netherlands, and that was why she came there? Or as you say, maybe she just liked the pin. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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