II-105680 | Prof. Henry T. Bovey's children, Montreal, QC, 1894

Prof. Henry T. Bovey's children, Montreal, QC, 1894
Wm. Notman & Son
1894, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
12.7 x 17.8 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  family (800) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Photographer William Notman re-created in his studio the childhood universe of these four youngsters, the sons and daughters of Professor Bovey. From 1927 to 1948, Bovey was the head of McGill University's Department of Extramural Relations, which offered, among other things, evening courses for the general public.

Seated around miniature dishes, the children are imitating teatime, a ritual engaged in by many upper class Anglo-Canadians during this period. As the scene shows, toys often replicated the adult world, teaching children the values and duties they would have to assume in their future roles as mothers and fathers. Numerous children, generally from well-to-do families, were photographed in William Notman's studio.

Keys to History

The leisure activities for children were designed to promote their personal growth. Childhood as a separate age category emerged during the 19th century. Previously considered primitive beings to be trained through contact with adults, children were now seen as innocent creatures to be protected. In upper-class families, nursery tea was a time of leisure but also an occasion for teaching good manners. At home and outdoors, children were kept away from potential dangers, allowed to play only in safe, select places like the family garden, or under the watchful eye of a nanny in the park.

Margaret Conrad and Alvin Finkel, History of the Canadian Peoples: Beginnings to 1867 (Toronto: Pearson Education Canada Inc., 2002), pp. 351-355

Margaret W. Westley, Remembrance of Grandeur: The Anglo-Protestant Elite of Montreal 1900-1950 (Montreal: Libre Expression, 1990).

  • What

    Nursery tea parties emulated the adult ritual, another way of inculcating good manners in the children of the elite.

  • Where

    Children took tea in the nursery, far from the real or imagined dangers of the outside world.

  • When

    In the Victorian era, children -- the future leaders of society -- were dressed to reflect their family's wealth and status.

  • Who

    These little ladies and their gentleman were evidently pleased to pose for the camera at teatime.