A lot of professional and amateur photographers liked to show their work and take portraits at the annual local fairs. In the 1900s the amateur photography exhibits became larger and more non-local people entered them, sometimes winning the majority of prizes. The portrait picture above taken at the Ottawa Exhibition is of the Lumsden family from Arnprior and was sent to me by Larry Clark. The family in some variation or another attended the Ottawa fair each year until John’s death in 1952.
Sitting for a photo, especially at the Ottawa Exhibition must have been a nuisance. Good luck getting the kids to sit still for a family photo let alone convincing mum and dad to stare into space for 15 minutes. So, the rules were: No talking, no sneezing and just to be safe, no smiling. For most people, having photographs taken was not a common activity, as they might only have their pictures taken a few times in their lives. The etiquette and beauty standards of the time also called for a small, tightly controlled mouth and they believed smiles were only worn by peasants, children and drunks.
The Central Canada Exhibition Association was formed in 1888 and began holding an agriculture exhibition at Lansdowne Park. (named that in 1890) When it opened that year you only had two ways to get there, other than by walking– taking a horse-drawn bus or a jolly paddle up the Rideau Canal. Before that travelling shows and events like The Great Dominion Exhibition would hold exhibitions there– but this was the first one that Ottawa convened. Of course there were the complainers that stated that the exhibition was too far from the city, which in the later years of the EX, well, there were complaints it was too close.
So what would have the Lumsden family experienced in 1899 at the Ottawa Exhibition?
September 20, 1899 — The Ottawa Exhibition
Despite the untimely downpour of rain that came on just before the evening performance started the exhibition that day was well attended. There was over 5,837 people taking seats in the stand and the total attendance for the day and evening was 15,294–the largest yet. The grandstand performance was witnessed by 2,061 people. The same day last year the attendance, with ideal weather, attendance was over 14,000. The directors are not losing heart, however, and knowing that they have a fair that warrants Queen’s weather, they are resting their hopes on the early reappearance of Old Sol. (the sun)
The special attractions in the afternoon were carried out with the snap and success that have characterized them so far. In all there are sixteen specialties, any of which would prove a show in itself The log-rolling contests proved Intensely Interesting. For ten minutes Leekie and O’Donnell kept their balance on the rapidly revolving log that seemed like a thing of life.
Finally Leekie who has proved himself before the ablest of the four contestants, dislodged O’Donnell amid great cheers. Roach and Fournier then tried conclusions. Roach proving himself the master in this trial. In the trials Leekle succeeded in dismounting Roach, thus making firmer his hold on first money.
In the sword contests, another intensely interesting feature of the program. Staff Sgt. Morgans and Randolph, the Rough Rider champion, crossed weapons, the bouts ending in favour of Morgan. Randolph, it may be said is hampered by the rules, to which he is a stranger.
The balloon ascension added another to Miss Leroy’s list of successes. The ascent was made about 4.30 and the balloon attained an altitude of 3,000 feet when the artist cast free her parachute. She landed about a mile from the grounds near Rideauvllle, and escaped unhurt. The musical ride by the Royal Canadian Dragoons although given in the rain was very effective and prettily executed. All the mid air artists performed and Mr. Arthur P. Buckner gave his exhibition of trick bicycle riding. All these features were loudly, applauded, and the artists voted amongst the cleverest that have yet performed before an Ottawa audience.
The Family That Visited the Fair every year.
August 25th 1951