The Weird and Wacky in Early 20th Century Photography

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Before Kodak created the snapshot camera, amateurs and hobbyists entertained themselves by photographing their everyday lives. Pet photography is not a new phenomenon, for example, though you probably see fewer portraits of chickens and pigs nowadays.

Photographs taken in private spheres, such as those of family or social circles, can also reveal the humor of both photo subject and taker. Someone thumbing their nose at conventional behavior was a fairly common scene in photos never meant for public viewing, such as that of the well-dressed lady taking a big swig from a liquor bottle.

Amusing photographs are rarely sought out and found, but rather stumbled upon by researchers consulting the other photographic records in an archival fonds. Aside from whatever information they might convey, these photos have significance in demonstrating that just as now, life in the past had its quirky moments.

Portrait of two pigs. Location unknown, 1903. Photographer: John Cornwall Trotter.

Lord Dundonald’s servants posing with their pets. Ottawa, Ontario, March 1904. Photographer: William James Topley.

“Bathing beauties”. Muskoka Lakes, Ontario, ca. 1909. Photographer: Frank W. Micklethwaite.

“I Finally got Him”. Toronto, Ontario, 1910. Photographer: Canada Post Card Co.

“Taking our Geese to market”. Toronto, Ontario, 1910. Photographer: Canada Post Card Co.

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