Dr. Laberge, Montreal, QC, 1886
Wm. Notman & Son
1886, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
15 x 10 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keys to History:
This portrait depicts Dr. Louis Laberge, then director of the Montreal health bureau.
During the second half of the 19th century, the mortality rate in Montreal, and particularly that of children, was cause for worry. Some doctors, who posited a connection between mortality rates and hygiene problems, fought to have public health services set up.
In the end, the municipal code established in the province of Quebec in 1870 left it up to the municipalities to set up health bureaus and appoint public health officers. While not all municipalities took such measures, Montreal did set up a health bureau on December 21, 1876. This "bureau" was entrusted with the tasks of maintaining sanitary conditions in the streets and in private and public buildings, inspecting food and disinfecting contaminated areas. But the health bureau couldn't solve every problem, as we learn from testimony that Dr. Laberge gave to the Commission on Capital and Labour in 1988: "Unfortunately, hygienic training is altogether wanting among our working classes; there is a kind of contempt, due to ignorance of the laws, more than any thing else, and nothing is observed from the aspect of the law. This is naturally one of the chief causes of our mortality. The great remedy would certainly be education."
This photograph is a "classic bust portrait," which comprises photographs taken from the chest up and showing the subject face-on, in profile or in a three-quarter view.
This photograph was taken in the studio of William Notman & Son in Montreal.
With respect to the infant mortality rate in Montreal, in 1888 Dr. Laberge told the Royal Commission on Capital and Labour that " Experts are making researches into the causes of this mortality, but there is no doubt that the defective state of the dwellings should be reckoned for a percentage."
In 1886, the name and address of Dr. Laberge, "doctor and surgeon," appeared in Lovell's Montreal Directory, which came out in that year. His address was given as 951, rue Sainte-Catherine in Montreal.