1/6th Plate, Half Cased, Tintype
Unknown Photographer
Western United States
c. 1870

Of uncertain origin, the designation "Little Mary" was often applied to youngsters who were assigned to assist chuckwagon cooks during long cattle drives - performing the more
mundane tasks like fetching water and peeling potatoes. In the 1972 film
The Culpepper Cattle Company a young man named Ben Mockridge who dreams of becoming a gunslinging
cowboy begs hard bitten cattleman Frank Culpepper to go along on a c. 1866 cattle drive. Culpepper finally relents and tells Ben to report to the drives cook. The following dialog helps
put the term "Little Mary" into context:

Ben Mockridge:
"How come they keep calling me 'Little Mary'?"

Cook: "That's your name, kid. What's the matter? Don't you like it?"

Ben Mockridge: "No, I don't. It's a girl's name."

Cook: "Well, that's what they call the cook's helper... Little Mary. Christ, I wish you was a girl."

Was this boy a working member of a cattle drive? It is impossible to say but he certainly was dressed for the part. From the turned back brim of his hat, to his knotted neckerchief, to
his vest and all the way down to his boots he was - and still is - 100% Wild West.  
Below: After acquiring a cased or half cased mid 19th Century image such as this tintype, I always remove the image from the case and separate it
from the enclosing brass/keeper and cover glass. After upwards of 150 years a surprising amount of dirt and dust can find its way in between the
various elements and removing it greatly improves the apparent quality of the image. This process also allows the scanning of the entire image plate,
revealing a surprising amount of detail long hidden by the decorative brass mat.