Pictures of You in Carleton Place — Life Before Selfies

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Finley and Maria McEwen and family by Willis of Carleton Place, ON – Cabinet Card

There were a few professional photographers in Carleton Place, but the most popular one to go to was George Willis. Ebenezer Duff, born 1845 in Beckwith Township, was also a photographer who worked with George Willis and later in Ottawa. Ebenezer was the  son of William Duff and Margaret Henderson who emigrated from the village of Bankfoot, Parish of Auchtergaven,Perthshire, Scotland. Duff was last known to be in Beckwith in 1871. George Willis loved taking pictures of children. Word on the street was that he would tell small children as he was taking the photo to “watch for the bird”. What no “Cheese”?

No one can say for sure who coined the phrase “say cheese” for use in getting people to smile, nor can we say with 100% certainty why that particular phrase was chosen as the smile spreader. The leading theory, however, as to the “why” of “say cheese” is that the “ch” sound causes one to position the teeth just so, and the long “ee” sound parts their lips, forming something close to a smile.

Why didn’t they smile in those old photographs? The most common reason cited for people not smiling in photographs in the Victorian era is blamed on dental hygiene. The most common cure for sick teeth during this time was to pull them out. There were no caps or other fixes to make chipped or broken teeth more aesthetically pleasing. So perhaps the reason tightly controlled mouths were considered more beautiful than beaming smiles in the Victorian era was in part due to dental hygiene.

Keep in mind too that daguerreotypes were expensive. The rich were more likely to be photographed than the poor, and even then, most families were only photographed on special occasions, perhaps only even once in a lifetime. The majority of these photographs were taken in a professional photography studio. There was nothing casual about photos taken then and the etiquette for formal occasions at that time was to act “prim and proper”. What was socially acceptable in photography during the Victorian era mirrored the beauty and etiquette standards of the times.  You wouldn’t want to pay all that money and have the one time you’re photographed in your lifetime showing you smiling like a drunkard!

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The above picture has been identified as Joseph Jacobs and Ann Jane McCarter, of Carleton Place.

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Sam by Willis of Carleton Place, ON 2 – Cabinet Card

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Adeline Poole 

Picture taken at C. C. Hilton, Carleton Place, Ont.

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About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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