We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

This carte-de-visite photo has no information on it about who took it or where. I found it in Massachusetts, but assume it must have originated in Europe.  In the 1860s and 1870s, European photographers began employing young people from their communities to dress in national costumes and pose against studio backdrops designed to represent local cultures.  Prints of these photos would then be sold at the studio, along with other types of “genre scenes.”  Women were hired as models more often than men, and they almost always remained anonymous.

I’ve had this photo for several years.  A few days ago I was listening to Auld Lang Syne, and the photo popped into my head.  Could the scene have been meant to represent two women celebrating the New Year?  The tartan costume of the young lady on the right could be meant to suggest the classic Scottish song.  The costume of the young lady on the left seems somewhat less distinctive and more universal.  Another clue may be that the two women are holding hands.  According to the entry for Auld Lang Syne in Encyclopedia Britannica, it’s customary for celebrants at a Scottish Hogmanay (New Year’s celebration) to sing the song while standing in a circle and holding hands.  I wonder if that’s still true.

We'll take a cup of kindness yet 2

We'll take a cup of kindness yet 3

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Happy New Year!

We'll take a cup of kindness yet 4


38 thoughts on “We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

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      1. Since the hypothesis is that the two women are making a New Year’s toast and knowing that one clear liquid alcoholic beverage used over the holidays is Kirschwasser, that is my suggestion. I know it’s not from Scotland or the British Isles but it certainly is a festive aperitif although a bit too sweet for my taste buds on a regular basis. Vodka and Gin are also clear but it’s hard to imagine these two femme’s chugging them down straight from the bottle. Stewart

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I wonder whether the costumes were authentic, or maybe part off the photographers props. I believe that photographers had certain options to offer their clients. Interesting rural background. Fascinating! Happy New Year! Look forward to your future posts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve heard from other readers in the UK that studios there had costumes that sitters could borrow. Though I don’t know for certain, my impression is that that practice was more of a 20th-century phenomenon. As private camera ownership became more common, studios had to find new ways to get people in the door. Oddly enough, I don’t think it was ever common practice here in the States.

      Another possibility is that these ladies wore their own costumes to the studio before heading to a fancy-dress party.

      By the way, your New Year post was the most unusual one I’ve ever seen, and very entertaining. Your daughter was a good sport!


  2. I have a British friend who still holds to the ‘first footing’ tradition, and when I was reading about the history of Hogmanay, I found that it’s still part of the culture and actively celebrated. You may well have found this page, but it’s quite interesting, with a number of details that were new to me. Now I’m wondering if my Swedish grandmother’s insistence on having the house in order before the New Year might not be an ‘old country’ custom that’s linked to Hogmanay because of the Viking incursions.

    In any event, the young ladies are delightful. From the clarity of the liquid in the bottle, I’m betting on Akvavit!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a great article, Linda! I knew nothing about Hogmanay or its associated traditions. I’m surprised they weren’t brought to this country by Scottish immigrants. Or if they were, they haven’t been widely preserved. After all, many Americans and Canadians take pride in their Scottish heritage. Do you observe your Swedish grandmother’s tradition of cleaning house before the New Year?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great picture! I’m amused by the way the pose is so joyful and engaged, yet the women’s faces seem to be staring vaguely off into some off-camera distance, not looking at each other or the drink. I suppose they were cheating out a bit so we could see more of their faces. Happy New Year!

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  4. Happy New Year to you and yours Brad

    They were having some fun in the studio that day ! Of course you are right to link this with the poem.

    The costume looks fanciful to me, although the tartan skirt is the correct length for Scottish highland dance, where the judges need to see what the lower legs are doing.

    The other costume is puzzling, although I found a similar duo on this carte :


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, that’s a great find, Michael! I’m surprised it’s American. Now I wonder if my carte was made here as well. Scotland has always been romanticized in this country (which helps to explain the popularity of a show like Outlander.)

      My photo is mounted on a thick type of card, which I tend to associate with the late 1870s or 1880s. It could have been printed in the 1890s, but by then I think it would have been printed as a cabinet card rather than a CDV. The mount has been slightly trimmed.


  5. This is a delightful photo. It almost makes you wish you were there with them, celebrating in Style!

    Speaking of celebrating, I’m very late to the party, but best wishes to you and your loved ones in 2023. May this be a year of opportunity, laughter, and warm memories.

    Liked by 1 person

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