I’m quite excited because I think I’ve just solved another one of my mysteries! It was a mystery that bugged me, again, for quite some time – but I’d forgotten all about it, because I thought it wouldn’t really ever get solved.
However! All may now be clear…
A few years ago, we went to Woodhorn Colliery Museum in Ashington, Northumberland to visit an exhibition called ‘Retronaut’ . It was comprised of old photos, and it really had some of the most engaging pictures I’ve ever seen. Instead of it being full of dour old Victorians staring woodenly at the camera (yes, I know they had to that due to exposures etc!), it had some brilliant ‘Victorian Selfies’. I’ve put a couple of my favourites in this blog post, and they are from the Woodhorn Archives. I’ve also added some links here so you can see some articles about it and see more of the pictures.
One of the photos is of a girl, and it could, quite literally, have been taken yesterday – she might have been dressed up for some reason, but she’s quite possibly messing with her mobile phone while she’s sitting on a park bench. However, when you realise the photo was taken in July 1896, it puts another slant on it, don’t you think? She might easily be one of my heroines from one of my books – and funnily enough this exhibition was around the time I wrote Some Veil Did Fall, so I do think a bit of the inspiration for Jon’s photography studio in Whitby may have come from here.
There was also this little boy, who is absolutely adorable – he reminds me of Richmal Crompton’s “Just William”, and there was also a very cute picture of, I like to think, his ‘noble hound.’ That’s him there, on the coaster I bought from the exhibition.
But this one, this group of girls, was the mystery one. We asked around at the museum who they were, and nobody seemed to know. Now, about five years later, I spotted the same picture in a Facebook group I’m part of called “Early Photography and Film”. The person who posted it suggested they were a group of girls from Linden Hall Boarding School in Lilitz, Pennsylvania, 1912.
Our copy of the picture (as we bought a copy from the museum) also has the word “Inferno” handwritten on the bottom of it, along with the 1912 date. We wondered if it was a group of girls doing a play or something and it was a kind of publicity shot. But the person who posted in the group simply said it was a group of girls from this school getting ready for bed. Again, I’m always struck by how modern they look, especially the one middle right with her hair loose and the dark robe on. I have contacted the museum and passed the info on to them, just in case – but I think what all these pictures prove is that people don’t really change, no matter what era they are from.
Oh, and if you do want to see a lovely collection of laughing Victorians and silly snapshots, try this link here. It’s amazing!