I-6095.1 | Missie McKeogh, dead child, Montreal, QC, 1863

Missie McKeogh, dead child, Montreal, QC, 1863
William Notman (1826-1891)
1863, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
8 x 5 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  informal (1120) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

The custom of photographing the deceased, both adults and children, developed at the same time as photography. It provided a final souvenir of the loved one and permitted families to keep a posthumous image, sometimes almost lifelike.

The mortality rate, especially among children, was very high during the second half of the 19th century. Drinking water and unpasteurized milk, which were often contaminated, were a threat to health and the cause of many illnesses. Among children, the most deadly diseases then were typhoid, tuberculosis, diphtheria, measles, rubella, scarlet fever, whooping cough, cholera, diarrhea, dysentery and jaundice. The working classes were most affected by infant mortality, but it also wreaked havoc in the wealthier classes.

  • What

    Posthumous photographs often showed children as if they were sleeping, dressed in their nightclothes and laid out in a suitable décor.

  • Where

    This picture was taken in Montreal, in 1863, by the famous photographer William Notman (1826-1891).

  • When

    All the ads for photographers promoted posthumous photography services. This art form even became very lucrative.

  • Who

    It is impossible to identify with certainty the family of this young lady.