II-123117 | Dr. Robert Wilson as "Samuel de Champlain," costumed for Chateau de Ramezay Ball, Montreal, QC, 1898

Dr. Robert Wilson as "Samuel de Champlain," costumed for Chateau de Ramezay Ball, Montreal, QC, 1898
Wm. Notman & Son
1898, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
17 x 12 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  male (26812) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

Dr. Wilson went as "Samuel de Champlain, 1633." Though he had rented his costume from Beullac, he was described as "one of the finest characters at the 1898 Chateau de Ramezay ball. His costume was not only historically perfect down to the smallest detail, he was the living presentment of the first Governor General of Canada."

Like Dr. Wilson, those who chose characters particularly well-suited to their personalities received glowing compliments, surpassing some of the others, who must have researched for weeks, but whose characters were ill-chosen. Fancy dress was not really a disguise; it was meant to enhance one's true identity-not transform or obscure it by any means. One of the authorities on fancy dress stated that "people at Fancy Balls often render themselves absolutely ridiculous by assuming characters in every way opposed to their own personality." Evidently Dr. Wilson was at the opposite extreme.

Montreal Star, 19 January 1898.

Ardern Holt, Gentlemen's Fancy Dress: How to Choose It, 2nd ed. (London: Wyman and Sons, 1882), p. 3.

  • What

    Dr. Wilson's costume was of rich dark red velvet with gold satin puffs on the sleeves and a mantle of dark purple velvet.

  • Where

    Dr. Wilson posed in front of the Notman studio backdrop used for so many of the portraits taken after this event.

  • When

    The day before the ball, the costumier Beullac gave a reporter a sneak preview of the garments he was renting. Dr. Wilson's was on the list.

  • Who

    Dr. Robert Wilson was a physician specializing in radiotherapy and electrotherapy.