The Heritage Camera Collection more than doubled in size this past January thanks to the generous donation of approximately 500 cameras and pieces of camera equipment from Wilfrid Laurier University. The collection improves the holdings in European and Japanese manufacturers, and provides a greater selection for research in early camera designs.
Special Collections staff recently stumbled upon this gorgeous photograph of a lady relaxing in a hammock during a late 1890s summer and wanted to share. Knowing how warm our Ontario summers can be, we can’t help but feel thankful for our own more comfortable options for summer attire.
This unidentified amateur snapshot showing a woman relaxing outdoors illustrates how helpful it can be to have changes in clothing trends to consider when attributing a date to an image. In this case, the large puffed sleeves are a clue to the date of this photograph. According to the historical fashion online resources provided by the Vintage Fashion Guild:
“[In 1890-1900] with the decline of the bustle, sleeves began to grow and the 1830s hourglass revival was well underway. Sleeves ballooned to proportions never seen before or indeed since – reaching their height in 1895-96.”
The size and shape of the photograph itself can also help narrow down a time period for an image. In this case the somewhat rectangular shape of the print rules out the very early circular images produced by the No. 1 Kodaks, and the popular Brownie models produced in the 1890s tended to make square pictures that were a bit smaller. Our best guess is that the 10.3 x 12.9 cm picture might have been produced by the No. 4 Bullet Special Camera, produced between 1898-1900 and thereby giving us our “circa 1898” attribution.
Welcome to the first in a series of blogs highlighting interesting and unique objects we come across in the Toronto Metropolitan University Archives & Special Collections. There’s a lot of amazing objects in our stacks, and here are just a few….
AMERICAN BURLESQUE PHOTOGRAPHS IN SPECIAL COLLECTIONS.
The Lorne Shields Historical Photograph Collection was donated to Special Collections in 2007 and includes many albums, professional portraits and amateur snaps as well as an interesting series of Cigarette Cards and Cabinet Cards featuring popular American Burlesque performers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In America, Burlesque began as a bawdy form of theatrical entertainment, popular from the 1870s to the 1920s, that borrowed from the British Music Hall format of combining comic skits and musical performances, but evolved into a risqué variety show focusing on dirty jokes and (most familiar) sexy women. As it was considered unseemly at the time for “decent” women to perform in the theatre, even the most serious of female thespians could find a home performing in the suggestive, and often ill-reputed Burlesque shows where the performers were mainly female and the audience was mainly working class.
These actresses could gain quite a following from the general public however, and their comings and goings (and divorces and affairs) were often reported in the daily papers. Seeing the potential gain, Cigarette cards and collectible photographs featuring the women in seductive poses (is that an exposed ankle? Gasp!) were produced by enterprising photographers.
Following are some of the stars of the bygone days of Burlesque found in the Lorne Shields Historical Photograph Collection. To see more, check out the Special Collections Flickr account (see right) or visit us on the Library’s 4th floor.
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For more information on Burlesque and the American theatre, check out these book resources in the Library:
“No legs, no jokes, no chance” : a history of the American musical theater / Sheldon Patinkin. http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b1817103~S0
A chronology of American musical theater / Richard C. Norton. http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b1695595~S0
The American musical : history and development / Peter H. Riddle. http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b1672071~S0