Keeping Kids Still While Being Photographed Back In Time! How Did They Make The Child Sit Still??; Take A Good Look At The Enclosed PDF Picture!

Hi Everyone!

Reader's Digest May 2013 Mystery Picture; How Is The Infant Being Kept Still For The Photograph?

Reader’s Digest May 2013 Mystery Picture; How Is The Infant Being Kept Still For The Photograph?

Here is a little fun item provided to me by Don G. who regularly attends our monthly genealogy programs at our library.

Photos are an important part of anyone doing genealogical research.  Current digital photos are nice.  Old time Kodak photos are nicer still.  But it is real nice when we encounter in our possession photos that were made in a studio that date back to the pre-1900s.

Families took photos of themselves back then just as we do today, except they often did not have the equipment to take pictures as we do today with our cell phones.  They often needed to go to a photography studio for a sit-down picture that took time to take and required being still.

Tough job to do when you have squirming toddlers!

Don G. let me know that there was a “workaround” back in those days that was employed by mothers to help assist their children be still during these photography session requiring absolute stillness to make the photo a success.

Here is the image given to be by Don G. that he obtained from a recent Reader’s Digest issue from May 2013.

Spoiler alert coming after the link to the picture!  So just go to the picture, don’t read the text after the link,  and see if you can tell what is going on in the picture to help the child be still while the picture is being taken.  Also, try not to read the text that accompanies the picture so you can really try hard to figure it out.  That can be hard to do since the “secret” of the picture is explained in text right there in front of you!

Here is a link to the PDF picture that is larger in size and clearer than what you see at the beginning of this post:

Small Child In Picture Circa 1880s Sitting Still For Picture.  How Was The Child Kept Still?

OK, if you went past the link and just kept reading my post, the secret is going to be let out of the bag and it is called a “spoiler”.

I was amazed to find out from Don G. that the mother is actually covered by the “sheet” in the picture and the child appears to be sitting in the lap of the mother.  So, I guess with Mom so close by, the child was more cooperative during the photo session to produce a blur-free image!

I had never heard of that technique and I thank Don G. for bringing it up and sharing the image with me.

I had seen images from the past when a neck brace was used standing behind people in pictures on which they could rest their head to get perfect stillness.  You often see the base of the support on the floor by their shoes if they were standing for the picture.

But I had never been aware of mothers being covered up masquerading as covered furniture and included in pictures of their children!

If it works then do it that way!

The ingenuity of our ancestors to make something work with the technology they had available to them at the time is just priceless.

Enjoy the picture.

Now, you need to take a look at any old pictures you may have in your possession going back to the pre-1900s that included children or infants or toddlers.  Maybe you have a “masquerading” mother in the picture that you never even noticed.

Have fun!

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

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