A Victorian Heatwave

During August and part of September 1906, Britain experienced a heatwave which drove a large number of the population to the beaches on the coastal resorts. These photographs were taken by Edward Linley Sambourne who — in addition to being the chief cartoonist for Punch — was also a keen amateur photographer. It seems that most of the subjects of these and some other of Sambourne’s photographs were unaware they were being photographed, as he used a concealed camera for non-studio images. This means we get to see Victorians looking a lot less formal than we’d get in a ‘posed’ situation — though the filming-without-consent aspect is slightly unsettling.

These images are from The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Library Time Machine blog, which has lots of beautiful photographs  — including this one of two Parisian women in mourning dress:

– isn’t that photograph totally wonderful? The outfits are amazing — probably the best I’ve ever seen of mourning garb being worn in an everyday situation (most photographs of people in mourning attire are very posed and formal).

But the blog is not just worth checking out for the images — there is a great amount of really fascinating information on there. I’ve spent ages on it and will go back time and time again. I wish more libraries had blogs like this one — I find most library sites to be fairly off-putting — it is almost as if they’re trying to prevent people accessing the information.I really believe that informal photographs like these ones help promote an interest in history and lessen the whole the-past-is-another-country feeling.

Also see this page of the Time Machine blog for some of Sambourne’s street photography.


Smiling Victorian Children

I’m obsessed with Smiling Victorians just now and have in fact just left my other blog after posting a photograph of a group of smiling Victorians at a picnic. But I couldn’t leave you guys out, so here’s some happy Victorian children, playing on the beach:

It’s so refreshing to see this — most images I’ve seen of children taken during the Victorian era show them to be miserable and unsmiling.

Victorian Era Hairstyles

This photograph of a woman from the Victorian era is the first one I’ve come across were is sitter has a short hairstyle. I know the ‘Victorian era’ covers roughly a 100 year time span and that there were a wide variety of hairstyles within that time but I think it was very unusual for a woman to have short hair then.

There was a trend during that time to have shorter hair at the front, with most of the hair was pulled back in a bun — but this woman seems to have a genuinely short hairstyle. Many woman had their hair so severely damaged by hot curling irons that it either broke off or it was so damaged it had to be cut — so perhaps that is what happened here.

Also, I’ve read that some working class women in Victorian times kept their hair short but her outfit looks quite expensive so I don’t think  she looks poor — though you never can tell (she may have been a talented seamstress, who made her own clothes). Her top looks mostly lovely — but not so much the cuffs.

The woman’s name was Lina Bird, the photographer Alvan S Harper and the source here.

1900 Moving Sidewalk

Two lovely photochromes from the Exposition Universelle — a world fair which took place in Paris from April to November 1900. The first one is  related to the opening ceremony, I think:

And this one is of the moving sidewalk, which was in use during the exhibition:

But — even better — here’s an amazing piece of film on the moving sidewalk in action — I really love this:

Historical Hottie: Bad Boy Thief

A 1902 mugshot of a good looking bad boy who was arrested at North Shields Police Station in England. I was in two minds whether to put him in the Historical Hottie or the Mugshot category (a grave decision indeed) but — look at that cheeky face — the epitome of Dead Cute, so he deserves to join the other beauties of yesteryear. I need to leave moral judgements out of the equation when choosing Historical Hotties — and perhaps the little darling only stole to feed his family or was motivated by some other noble desire. And he’s called James — my very favourite male name — I’ve never met a James I did not like. So, having navigated through this stringent qualifying procedure — almost scientific in its rigor — this charmer is in:

Source: Tyne and Wear collection

Victorian Picnic

A photograph of a Victorian picnic from 1893.

I really love this old photograph for a number of reasons — number one being the informality of it. It’s not often we see the Victorians at play  — photographs are usually very formal affairs and we rarely see Victorians in a relaxed situation (though admittedly the little picnic group here are not exactly engulfed in smiles). The women in the middle of the image is almost certainly there as a chaperon and looks to be in widow’s weeds. Notice the fingerless gloves the girls are wearing and the bystander looking from afar at the group being photographed. I like the way the standing man is leaning nonchalantly against the tree and the fact that behind him is a lovely avenue of trees.

What I also like about the photograph is that — because the men are young — they are not encumbered by those ghastly whiskers favoured by most Victorian men. So these men don’t look so very different to a man in the street you could see today — this somehow helps to close the gap between the past and the present, for me anyway. In fact, I guess I love just about everything about this old photograph — most of all that we can get to see one moment of time in the lives of a group of strangers on that summer’s day so long ago. Seriously, that’s magical to me.


Historical Hotties: Robert Cornelius

Excuse me if you’ve seen this image before — and I’m sure this man is a number one candidate for Historical Hotties posts — but where my blogs go, so does this image of Mr Cornelius. I’m sure you’ll understand why.

Robert Cornelius took this self-portrait of in 1839 and it is thought to be one of the first ever photographs of a human (some sources suggest that this was not merely one of the first human photographs — but the very first).

Strange Victorian Photograph

I wasn’t entirely sure if this was a photograph or a painting when I first saw it but I’m pretty sure now that it is a photograph, taken sometime in the Victorian era. The woman looks totally out of it — I don’t think she’s dead (eyes widen open) but it’s as if she’s on some sort of … medication (not uncommon in Victorian days).

Colour photography was in its infancy in Victorian times but it did exist then  — perhaps the woman was just bored senseless waiting for the exposure time to be over.

I’ve misplaced the source of this image — will put it here when I locate it.