c. late 1800s: Smiling Victorians II

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Goggles aficionado. Retronaut’s founder and curator.

32 Responses

  1. Katie

    These are beautiful! Something about the smiles make the photos so real and accessible. You can so easily imagine them in modern clothes, so similar to the people of today!

    • Alex

      HAHA I thought you were suggesting that Ed Nrton was a time traveling cross dresser. Now THAT is a movie I’d see.

  2. Estelle

    Lovely to see another one of these, the original was one of my very favourites from this site.

  3. Phil

    Looking at the fashions, e.g. the shirt waist worn by a few of the subjects, seems that quite a few – if not most of these images – are post 1901, and actually, really should be labelled Edwardian, not Victorian. Or am I wrong?

    • P'Gell

      Sadly, most Americans don’t know English history and thus call anything between the American Civil War and 1920 “Victorian.”

    • Katya

      finally! someone actually knows their stuff. ALL of these are edwardian.

      no 1, victorians didn’t smile in photos. i’m not sure why oher than maybe they all thought it was a serious thing they were doing. of course… you try sitting perfectly still for 30 minutes to get ONE picture.

      no 2, none of the clothes are victorian.

      no. 3 and most important… kodak cameras allowing people to take photos on vacations with them didn’t come out until 1905 or 07, somewhere around there. not POITIVE on the exact year but i AM positive it wasn’t victorian times.

  4. Jonathan

    These are great photos, but there is something very striking about the first one. That girl seems like she wouldn’t look out of place in today’s world.

    • Xar IX of Xussia

      Yeah, looks to me like it’s not really from that era. I’m probably wrong, though.

  5. Ray Martin

    Once again, these are wonderful; a real glimpse into the past – or a glimpse into the real past :)

  6. Sandi

    Phil, you are right! The Flickr group “The Smiling Victorian” specifies that they accept pictures from the Edwardian period, too, which is why pictures (like the fifth one, of my great-great grandmother in May of 1902) appear.

  7. Canaduck

    These photos are so incredible–like everyone says, once they’re smiling, they look just like people today. This site is amazing.

  8. Mukel Kat

    Yes, I was thinking that these pictures reminded me of one taken of my grandmother in 1914 or so… she would be 102 today. Same boots and hair. The changes see saw in her lifetime are mind-boggling–I am almost scared to think of the changes I might see if I am lucky and live as long as she did!

  9. Mac

    It’s good to see that people of the Victorian era were actually able to smile. The only true Victorian I ever had extended contact with was my gran Katherine Macomber, and I swear she never ONCE smiled in my presence.

  10. Tierra

    awww their teeth arent that bad. thats the only reason ive heard for why they never smile

  11. Tarquin F Smythe QJM

    No wonder they are laughing. Most of them were off their heads on barbiturates that they bought over the counter at the cemist for 2d a throw!!

  12. Peter Davies

    The first photo in the bunch is absolutely incredible. Hauntingly beautiful expression. The eyes are hypnotising, drawing your gaze into the picture,not wanting to look away.

  13. Wayne

    “their teeth arent that bad. thats the only reason ive heard for why they never smile”

    While that certainly could be true, a much more likely reason is the film. I don’t know what speed films they had available to them then but “slow” film required special accommodation. After the American Civil War but before the turn of the century photography continued to use stands to help people remain motionless for the 30 seconds or so required to properly expose the film. This pose doesn’t lend itself to smiling.

    This resulted in a lack of action pictures from this period. You generally don’t see people running, or riding by on a horse. The result of movement produces blurred images or even a ghostly picture with everything stationary appearing just fine but anything in motion not appearing.

    Well, that’s my two bits anyway.

  14. Stella

    It would be super cool to get som background info on these photos. For example in a comment above 14 October Sandi tells us that’s her grandmother in one of the pics. Why not put some info about who, why and when under the photos?

  15. Jeannine

    As a professional photographer & somebody who restores antique photos of all types, the first looks very much like it is simply an edited version of a modern photo. The depth of field, clarity of focus, and the lighting (or lack there of really) seem very out of place for a camera system that required a high amount of light and exposure time for something even half as clear. The girl would have to hold her breath to be that clear at that close a range, even the tiny shifts of regular breathing would have caused blurring.

  16. Nicola

    Lovely photos, although the first one doesn’t look old at all, not convinced by that one.

  17. Amy

    I love these. This is my copy:


    I bought the girl holding the doll as a cabinet card, and wonder how many more “original” images of her were sold..maybe as a scam from a dealer, which is possible.
    Or if my posted image was just “borrowed” from the internet. If that’s the case, I’m not fretting, as she is not my family member and I didn’t pay much for the image.
    But I would prefer that people ask for permission if images are noted as personal..passed down in the family.
    Cheers. Nice collection, Amy

  18. Maggie

    By 1900 there was not only some fairly fast film, but also flash powder that could provide very clear images with quick exposures.

    The Victorians (although these people are mostly Edwardian) usually didn’t smile because they thought having their picture taken was a very rare and solemn event. Most had their pics taken once or twice in their lifetimes and it was expensive and a serious occasion.

  19. Mons

    Nice photos, but not all of them strictly Victorian. Pic 8 for instance has the date printed at the top, 1912.

  20. Joe

    The first one makes me want to have a time machine!
    ….The last one, I believe, is Nyssa from Traken; sadly her home was destroyed by former U.K. Prime Minister Harold Saxon…

  21. Michel Massicotte

    Photoshop can make any authentic photo appear fraudulent. One must be acquainted with the techniques of photography, fashion throughout world history, and the lifestyles from each period in order to distinguish a real photo from something made to appear from a certain period.
    For example,
    In photo 14, the people seem to be acting out of character. Are they members of a theatre group enjoying a moment on a stage?
    In photo 15, the young woman with the “Hypnotic eyes” seems too healthy for someone living through the great depression as is suggested by the information from the page at link to Flikr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/piedmont_fossil/5244819931/in/pool-513477@N22/


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