Who Do You Think You Are?

Who is the baby in this picture?


QCould you help me date this photo of my great grandmothe­r with a baby? Her eldest daughter was born in 1893, but in the 1891 census she had two boys – one aged four years, the other four months. These boys died – could this be one of them?

Janice (Penny) Munden

AThis profession­al card-mounted studio portrait appears to be a carte de visite

(CDV) print, a format fashionabl­e in Britain from 1860, remaining popular until the 1890s. The date of this portrait can be narrowed down to the late 1800s or the


The slight puff at the shoulders of your great grandmothe­r’s sleeves could imply a date of c1890 or slightly later.


High late-Victorian necklines were usually ornamented with a brooch. The circular brooches of the 1880s were gradually superseded by narrow bar brooches during the early 1890s.


The baby, sitting up but supported carefully behind his back, may well have been photograph­ed around the time of his first birthday – an important occasion worthy of a special portrait.


Contrastin­g velvet and woollen (or mixed cloth) materials, including whole garments, were especially fashionabl­e throughout the 1880s and early 1890s.


The shaggy, fur-like rug or throw on which the baby sits was a studio prop first introduced around the beginning of the 1880s, providing a helpful clue for dating the photograph. early 1900s from the mount style. The photograph itself provides an even more precise timeframe of c1888–1892.

Your great grandmothe­r is fashionabl­y dressed in a tight-fitting buttoned bodice with narrow sleeves and contrastin­g skirt displaying a divided front arrangemen­t and fullness around the hips – a formal daytime costume characteri­stic of the turn of the 1880s/1890s. Her baby, aged about one year, wears the typical short-sleeved, full-skirted, white baby frock favoured for infants at the crawling or toddling stage. He/she could be of either sex as tiny girls and boys were dressed alike; however, the 1888–1892 date here firmly rules out your great grandmothe­r’s eldest daughter, instead confirming your suspicion that this baby is one of the two boys born in 1887 and late 1890, who sadly died in infancy. Jayne Shrimpton

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