This unusual object is a celluloid photographic medallion which was made in the United States between ca. 1900 and 1930. It is about 16cms in diameter and is marked “Columbia Medallion Studios, Chicago”.
The image itself (according to a hand-written scrap attached to the back) is of “Uncle Lar Kavanagh of Leighlinbridge, County Carlow”. The original photograph was probably sent over to an emigrant in America and has been enlarged and encased using a process which was extremely popular in the United States but which doesn’t appear to have been so common in Ireland. The George Eastman House Museum has an extensive range of these celluloid buttons and provide an explanation of how they were made – the process is similar to making a regular button badge. The following links show the machines used to make them and also a salesman’s case containing sample borders and designs.
The lush greenery surrounding the cottage creates a hazy image which would doubtless of conjured up thoughts of home for the emigrant who received it. According to the 1901 census there were quite a few Kavanaghs in Leighlinbridge. It can be difficult to date these objects as older photographs were often made into medallions long after they were taken and some were tinted and enhanced before they were encased.