MP-1977.76.138 | Boys ready for bed, Westmount, QC, 1906

Boys ready for bed, Westmount, QC, 1906
Alfred Walter Roper
1906, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
10 x 12 cm
Gift of Mr. Vennor Roper
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  child (1308) , informal (1120) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

Children were not only the focus of attention of many scientists at the turn of the 20th century, but also one of the favourite subjects of family photography. In the early years of the century, photography experienced a boom with the introduction of easy-to-use, portable cameras.

Significant events as well as daily activities were recorded for posterity using cameras such as the Brownie and the Folding Pocket camera sold by Kodak, of Rochester, New York. From the first cameras designed for amateur photographers to the introduction of 35 mm film between the wars, of Polaroids in 1947 and of digital camera technology at the end of the century, photography traced the changes in childhood step by step through the 1900s.

  • What

    The boom in amateur photography, of which this picture is an example, was made possible by American inventor George Eastman (1854-1932), who developed an easy-to-use camera in 1888. All that camera buffs had to do was press the button to take the picture and then send the camera to Eastman Kodak to have the film developed.

  • Where

    In the first half of the 20th century, it was common for children to share a bedroom and even a bed with their siblings, as appears to be the case with the boys in this picture. The economic prosperity that followed the Second World War allowed many families to move into larger homes where each child could have his or her own bedroom.

  • When

    In 1971, following a number of tragic accidents, strict regulations governing fabrics and design of sleepwear, like the nightclothes worn by these two children, were brought in to address the issue of the flammability of children's pyjamas and nightgowns.

  • Who

    Childhood was an inspiring subject for amateur photographers, who liked to take pictures on special occasions such as First Communion or Christmastime, or capture scenes of daily life, as is the case here.