Wilkins’ CDV: “Drunk in Every Town”

Normally I only buy a vintage portrait if the person in the photograph is identified and if the person is famous or infamous. But every once in awhile something else makes a portrait interesting to me. In this case, it was the handwritten caption on the back of the photograph that made it impossible to pass up this image.

Will Chalmers, c. 1881

” ____ Chalmers. Drew pen & ink horse pictures. Drunk in every town between here and Detroit.”

This photograph is a carte de viste, abbreviated CDV. They were printed on thin paper and mounted on thick card stock. What made them a CDV was their size, consistently 2.5 inches by 4 inches. They were sent to friends and relatives and CDV photograph albums were a common household fixture in the late 1800s.

The photographer is identified on the back of the image as G. T. Wilkins, located on College Avenue, in Fort Collins. Wilkins was one of the busiest photographers in the city, from when he opened his business in 1880 until he sold it in 1899.

After a little research in the Colorado Historic Newspapers, I believe this is a portrait of Will Chalmers, a Fort Collins resident who married a Lander, Wyoming woman and moved to Lander in 1882.