19th Century Post-Mortem Photographs Included in Recent Donation to Department of History

Vol. 6, No. 5 

Popular during the Victorian era, post-mortem photographs provided family members with an opportunity to capture a lasting likeness of their deceased loved ones. In this particular case, a young child passed before his parents could arrange a formal studio portrait. The boy is peacefully posed on a fur blanket on the front porch of the family’s home in Yuba City, California, holding a rose in his left hand with another laid beside him. 

The appearance of the child may seem peculiar given his clothing and hairstyle. Breeching remained a common practice through the late 19th century. As infants, boys often wore dresses that covered their legs down to their feet which made ambling difficult. Once they began walking, these knee-length dresses allowed the child to walk while facilitating easy toilet training. After toilet training was complete, the boy went through the “breeching” process at which point he was dressed in trousers for the first time.More